November 02, 2010

Genocide, Canadian-style

A history of missteps

By Brett Popplewell1876:  Parliament passes the Indian Act. A report that year explains the act’s purpose: “The aborigines are to be kept in a condition of tutelage and treated as wards or children of the State. Every effort should be made to aid the Red man in lifting himself out of his condition of tutelage and dependence, and that is clearly our wisdom and our duty ... to prepare him for a higher civilization.”

1920:  Duncan Campbell Scott, deputy superintendent of the Indian department from 1913 to 1932, proposes amendments to the Indian Act. “I want to get rid of the Indian problem,” he says. “Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic....”

1925-1951:  The government forbids Indians from forming their own political groups. It also bans powwows, sweat lodges and sun dances. The ban is not lifted until 1951.

1940s:  Inspired by what it has read about Canada’s Indian Act and its legal classification of “status Indians,” the South African government examines Canada’s Indian reserve system and later models elements of apartheid after the Canadian system.

1946-1948:  In order to sign on to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Ottawa lifts bans on traditions such as potlatchs and powwows, as is the prohibition on alcohol on reserves.

1960:  Indians are given voting rights.

1969:  Pierre Trudeau sets his agenda for a just society. His minister of Indian Affairs, Jean Chrétien, drafts the “White Paper.” Its purpose is to make everyone equal under the law by abolishing Indian status, Indian reserves, Indian treaties, the Indian Department and the Indian Act. Indian chiefs across the country respond with “The Red Paper.” The status quo is maintained. Indian status is protected.
Comment:  I don't know much about the specifics of Canada's Native history, so this is interesting. I particularly like the fact that Canada's reserve system was the model for South Africa's apartheid. And the fact that Indians weren't deemed good enough to vote until 1960. Canadian women got the vote in 1919.

All the negative acts here qualify as genocidal acts under the UN's definition of genocide. And this doesn't even go into the whole boarding-school tragedy, which was big in Canada.

This info makes previous postings on the subject--e.g., Europeans Taught Natives "Discipline, Order"? and No History of Canadian Colonialism?!--seem ironic. Canadians tried to obliterate Native cultures, but people are still defending them?!

1 comment:

Michael David Lockhart said...

I'm not sure who would try to justify Canadian policy on First Nations people, but if I met one, I'd be tempted to punch them in the nose. The residential school system was one of the most horrific incidents in history, and its genesis predates the start of this timeline by 36 years or so.

I wrote a bit about it here:

If you find someone that defends Canada's policies and actions, tell him this Canadian thinks they're kinda blind. And send 'em my way. Please.