More from RELS 348: Empire, Colonialism, and Religion

Barbara Amiel’s story “The Decent Fix for Aboriginal Rights”, Maclean’s, February 1st, 2013, discusses the need for justice among the Aboriginal peoples of Canada. Amiel states, “aboriginal peoples of Canada deserve justice – and in their lifetime. We’ve had nearly 300 years of wrangling over land title and Aboriginal rights. Only the federal government can end this, not the courts.” This article outlines a dire need for negotiations between Canadian leaders and the Aboriginal peoples of Canada as well as a sense of closure from the aftermath of colonialism. For example lump sum payments that put an end to all land claims, or payments over time in cash and services, or a mix of both, including royalties on mineral and energy resources.

I agree with the fact that there needs to be some sort of change put in motion, however I am not sure how one would calculate and justify a total of the amount expected to repair nearly three centuries of unfulfilled treaty agreements, broken promises, as well as spiritual, physical and emotional abuse and neglect all stemming from colonialism. Throughout history, massacring native populations seemed the preferred solution and Canadian hands are not clean. Amiel goes as far as to say:

“…we preferred to let our natives starve or die of European diseases. We offered land and script in return for peace, homesteading, help against the French and the United States. We created reservations to preserve the hunting-and-gathering society. We also removed children from their families and put them in schools where they were forced to speak a language that was not their own and were probably abused in large numbers. We defined who was and was not an Indian and structured payments based on our definitions. We made laws concerning if and where Indians could drink. We did all sorts of things that if done to us we’d be outraged.”

Amiel’s description above provides us with insight into the actions that were done to a large group of individuals that stood in the way of a major colonial power. The British thought they were creating order and stability, but instead set that nation on a path of strategic racism and socio-political unrest with each successive generation while simultaneously continuing to use a large sum of money to make up for it. It is time the federal government takes initiative to raise awareness, increase funding for on reserve education, healthcare, counseling services and employment opportunities. It is time to repair the relationship and help strengthen the ties between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities. It is time the government realized that in their attempts to assimilate and acculturate the First Nations peoples of Canada, they forced them into generations of pain, trauma and sorrow and it is time they put forth the effort necessary to help the First Nations communities heal, thrive and achieve success in all aspects of their lives so that they may finally be an accepted part of Canada.

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