Canadian Indian Act Essay
734 Words3 Pages
The first Canadian Indian Act was issued in 1876. Though it has been revised
numerous times, this hundred and thirty year old legislation has been left virtually
unchanged. Established in order to ensure the assimilation of Native Americans in
Canada, the Indian Act instead had achieved the total opposite. It has made this
distinction more and has given immense power to the government, letting them control
all who reside on the reserves. It was then that the distinction between Status Indians and
Non-Status Indians was made. The Canadian government quickly displayed their control
by forbidding the sale of any land within the reserve unless it was turned over to the
Another major part of the act was the…show more content…
As we fast forward to the present, we see that this act may have diversified effects on
Native American people. Take for example a small northern reserve. We have people
who live in poorly constructed homes that are not even built to withstand the cold. They
cannot even afford running water, which makes laundry and bathing a difficult task. All
of this is happening because they are not self sufficient. These people do not have the
knowledge needed to properly run the reserve. These Native Americans have no choice
but to depend on a government that cannot fulfill the their needs. Besides not receiving
enough funds from the government, they are expected to pay ridiculously high prices to
satisfy their basic needs such as food from convenient stores. Though they intend to one
day own their own stores, they are practically denied the opportunity to communicate
with those in charge.
On the positive side, they have learned English, their children do attend school.
However, the level of education is not sufficient. To be able to assimilate into an
environment, they would have to work harder yet they are continuously slowed down by
the government. This is simply one example of a people living in atrocious conditions.
There are Natives living a better life.
Since Canada was created in 1867, the federal government has been in charge of aboriginal affairs. The Indian Act, which was enacted in 1876 and has since been amended, allows the government to control most aspects of aboriginal life: Indian status, land, resources, wills, education, band administration and so on.
Inuit and Métis are not governed by this law.
In its previous versions, the Indian Act clearly aimed to assimilate First Nations. People who earned a university degree would automatically lose their Indian status, as would status women who married non-status men. Some traditional practices were prohibited.
Between 1879 and 1996, tens of thousands of First Nations children attended residential schools designed to make them forget their language and culture, where many suffered abuse. On behalf of Canadians, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a formal apology in 2008 to Canada's Aboriginal Peoples for this policy that sought to "kill the Indian in the child."
Some provisions of the Indian Act, however, were designed to protect the native population.
"The government, and formerly the Crown, had a fiduciary obligation to protect aboriginal interests and the lands reserved for their use during the process of colonization," explains anthropologist Pierre Trudel, an expert on aboriginal issues.
Two sides to relationship
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo has called on the federal government to repeal the Indian Act. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)
Many aboriginal people have an ambivalent relationship with the Indian Act. They denounce its paternalism, but are at the same time reluctant to give up its protections, such as tax exemptions in the reserves.
Some aboriginal communities have chosen to throw off the yoke of this law by signing treaties to form their own governments and manage their own affairs.
Others have signed onto the First Nations Land Management Act, enacted by Ottawa in 1999, while remaining subject to the Indian Act. They have thus acquired certain powers in the management of reserve lands, resources and the environment.
At the 2010 annual meeting of the Assembly of First Nations, National Chief Shawn Atleo called on Ottawa to repeal the Indian Act within five years. He proposed replacing the law with a new arrangement that would allow all parties to move forward on land claims and resource sharing.