Colonial history in Canada has evolved from a very bias country condemning First Nation peoples to be inferior to Europeans to what Canada is now, a country recovering from past mistakes and recognizing the mistakes the whole country has made to all indigenous people.
Throughout the years Canadians have become more educated about the lack of difference between aboriginal peoples and other ethnicities, Canadians have learned that the problems aboriginal peoples face are mainly caused by a chain effect originating from European racism.
The education and knowledge of this information that is spread nationwide provide for a chance to fix past mistakes and bring a new generation of relationships between all Canadian ethnicities.
When Canada was first settled by the French, they were forced to make relationships with the First Nation Peoples because of the lack of knowledge the Europeans had about the landscape, geography, and of weather.
In 1497 John Cabot discovers Newfoundland and records that the people living there (aboriginal) looked like they were suited for labor, that they were taller (would make good slaves), and that they were savage, but before leaving he establishes the fur trade, which is the limit of European and aboriginal relationship. Jacques Chartier sails through St. Lawrence and founds Montreal in 1534.
When Samuel de Champlain “first sails to new France in 1603” (Lacoursiere) Champlain relied mainly on Native knowledge thus creating a stronger bond between the Hurons and the colonies, thus becoming enemy with the Iroquois. The mutual curiosity of both nation’s lifestyles is what eventually brought them together. Over the passing of time, the relationships between the two nations evolved to a European-dominated Country where First Nations are assimilated into European ways of life.
The Aboriginal peoples were not the only ones mistreated by the Canadian/ European government, but all non-white immigrants were treated with little or no respect.
When Chinese men came overseas to find work and create a new life for themselves along with their family, the men were seen as tools “ he has no common interest with us, and while he gives us his labor and is paid for it, and is valuable, the same as a threshing machine or any agricultural implement which we may borrow from the United States on hire and return it to the owner (…) a Chinaman gives us his labor and gets his money (…) he does not invest it here, but takes it with him and returns to China.” (John A. Macdonald, speech 1885)
An example of the mistreating of First Nation Peoples is residential schools. The schools were founded before the confederation and were initially run by the government but then were handed over to the Catholic churches.
“Native Children were forcibly put into schools where the standard forms of assimilation included: forbidden to speak their Native language, forbidden to practice cultural ceremonies and condemnation of cultural beliefs.” (Mrs. Janzen, Notes). By 1920 it was made mandatory for all Aboriginal children to go to residential schools, which was amended by the Indian Act.
The residential schools are home to many atrocities that are the original cause for many Aboriginal problems that are still present now. In the article “Feds used native kids as guinea pigs” by Paul and Weber, it is explained how the Canadian government saw Aboriginal children be so inferior that they funded scientific experiments on them without regarding the consequences that may arise from the result of the many experiments.
“Researchers suggested those problems -“so long regarded as inherent or hereditary traits in the Indian race”- were in fact the results of malnutrition. Instead of recommending an increase in support, the researchers decided that isolated, dependent, hungry people would be ideal people for tests on the effects of different diets.” (Paul and Weber, Feds used native kids as guinea pigs).
The impact of residential school’s impacts are infinite, but the main issues and consequences of residential schools is the loss of culture in multiple generations and the loss of family structure through the loss of love and security children would have had the chance to experience if they would have been raised in their homes.
The Canadian government has realized their mistakes and are now trying to fix them. The search for reconciliation for the harm that was caused by attending residential schools is a tremendous effort on both parties of the event.
The government who, in 2008, formally apologized for the residential schools “That era caused so much pain for so many people that no apology will ever be enough for all who were affected” (Kinew, The residential school apology) although the apology from Stephen Harper helped the affected people heal, it did not fix things.
“The Government has yet to turn over all relevant documents to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.” (Kinew, The residential school apology). The first Nations must work together as a community to help residential school survivors find peace with the atrocities that occurred in residential schools.
The governments all around Canada a recognizing the benefits that come from the recognition of Aboriginal cultures, which is why Canada now has an Aboriginal day that is broadcasted live on APTN (Aboriginal peoples television network).
Winnipeg celebrates the ManitoAhbee festival that performs religious dances and talks about how to make a change for aboriginal peoples’ future. The creation of APTN shows how people are willing to change, Canadians are doing what they can, little at a time to fix and make everyone equals.
The future for First Nations Peoples looks to be better than it was in the past if people keep protesting and calling attention to issues. Derek Nepinak, who in 2011 became the Grand Chief of Manitoba is a leader for change in Aboriginal issues.
“What matters, he says, are the treaties that defined the traditional territories of their Native signatories and dictated the compensation to be paid for their use. Mr. Nepinak says Canada has to live up to those deals.” (Galloway, Manitoba Chief Fights to Uphold Treaties)
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