June 10, 2016

The Indian Act was meant to destroy First Nations culture, not preserve it

Bryan KapitzaRebel Blogger

The federal Liberals promised a new relationship with first nations peoples and attempted to demonstrate that commitment with historic investments of $8.2 billion. The sad reality is that more money is not the solution. First nations will not move beyond the status of second class citizens or achieve equality until the mechanism that diminishes them is removed, i.e., until the Indian Act is replaced with just measures. 

Let there be no mistake. The Indian Act is legislation that is meant to destroy a culture. It is legislation that was imposed upon groups of people without their consultation. Its paternalistic origins can be traced to pre-confederation attitudes and statutes, namely the Gradual Civilization Act and the Gradual Enfranchisement Act, that sought to transform primitive savages into civilized British men.

The shortcomings of the Indian Act were recognized early on, and amendments have, from time to time, been passed to address some of the egregious aspects of the Act. Indians were given the right to vote in 1960. (Canadian women won that right in 1918.) The right of Indian women to retain their treaty status following their marriage to non-Indians was not recognized until 1985.

An attempt was made by the elder Trudeau to tear up the Indian Act when the White Paper was presented to parliament in 1969. The first nations communities, however, soundly rejected it. Why? Because it sought to free the federal government of it treaty obligations.

The political reality in Canada is that the crown has entered into treaties with other (first) nations, to provide and pay for such things as health services, education, and allow for the traditional use of the land. The White Paper sought to circumvent those responsibilities by transferring them to the provinces. Essentially, the elder Trudeau sought to assimilate Indians into Anglo/Franco culture.

The election of the younger Trudeau, despite the media hoopla, does not promise an era of reform for our First Nations. The Indian Act remains firmly in place. While it remains, the government remains the arbitrator of who is an Indian is and who is not.

In eyes of the Government of Canada, the first nations are unqualified to decide who an Indian is and who is not. Reserves continue to held by Her Majesty for the use and benefit of the respective bands for which they were set apart. Once again, the first nations are viewed as being incapable of managing their own affairs, and are not allowed to hold title to the land.. Any improvement to the land, the building of a school or health centre, or the start of a farming operation, or the provision of clean water and sanitation services, falls to crown and requires the approval of the Minister.

This level of paternalistic oversight is responsible for the decrepit conditions on many reserves. Ottawa is not known for its speed of decision making, and it is certainly not the place to make a decision on where to put a sewer line for a reserve in Manitoba.

Is this Liberal government more in-touch with or more concerned about first nations issues? No it is not. It simply panders to left wing guilt and assuages it by spending more money. The Prime Minister’s lack of interest is further made evident by his appointment of Carolyn Bennett as Minister, the member of parliament from Toronto-St. Paul, a riding with a negligible First Nations population, and that of two non-aboriginal professional civil servants as deputy ministers. None of these bureaucrats can bring any First Nations perspective to the table. What they can do is perpetuate a non-functioning government department. Regrettably, the issues that have plagued our First Nations since before Confederation will continue.

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commented 2016-06-11 21:25:59 -0400
«The Indian Act was meant to destroy First Nations culture, not preserve it»

Unfortunately, it failed. The (LITERAL) stone-age culture for “First Nations” is more engrained than ever and the captives of this broken ideology are more dependent than ever. The entire reservation concept needs to be thrown away and be replaced with first-world municipal governance, accountability, and property ownership.
commented 2016-06-11 16:39:24 -0400
oops. However I do take exception to one of the points you made.
You wrote, “This level of paternalistic oversight is responsible for the decrepit conditions on many reserves. Ottawa is not known for its speed of decision making, and it is certainly not the place to make a decision on where to put a sewer line for a reserve in Manitoba.”

While I’m sure getting through the bureaucracy to get anything done can often prove tedious for First Nations Chiefs, I don’t believe for a minute that the blame for conditions on some reserves lies with government tardiness.
You said throwing more money at it isn’t the solution, and I couldn’t agree more. Some personal responsibility would go a long way, and the only way for that to happen is to get rid of the Indian Act, as you have pointed out.
The Indian Act by virtue of it’s existence is what has made room for abuses of power within the communities themselves. Therein lies the source of most of the misery on reserves.
The Chief’s need to look in the mirror. There are more than a few who are addicted to the revenue stream and don’t want it to stop. They just don’t want to have the government oversight. They can’t have it both ways.
commented 2016-06-11 16:21:51 -0400
Good article. However I
commented 2016-06-10 15:24:31 -0400
Bill Smith your only partially correct. When the Europeans – Spanish, French, English – landed it was inevitable that the first thing requested of “them” by the Aboriginals was assistance in fighting “their” enemies. Poor old Champlain did so on behalf of the Hurons against the Iroquois and New France spent the next three hundred years regretting it. Never could a successful or stable Aboriginal – Aboriginal alliance be worked out so the French and English governments ended up using the alternative, at the great peril of the civilians, to their advantage. As it turned out the never ending historical and cultural hatred prevalent in the new world could never be controlled to the benefit of anyone, and in particular First Nations. Perhaps in the 21’s century it is time to end, and forget, the historical designation of our citizens and all live as one.
commented 2016-06-10 12:46:10 -0400
It’s so true… Historically, since Europeans have landed on these shores, they have recruited FN’s to fight their battles. The French, British, Dutch and Americans all did it… and often FN’s fought each other in the interest of their colonial ally… example: King Philip’s War 1675-78, (modern-day Quebec), fought between English colonists and their allies the Iroquois Confederacy versus French colonists and their allies the Wabanaki Confederacy. This is nothing new and in-fact continues until today. Liberals and NDP exploit white guilt and continue to use FN’s to fight their battles… A cog in the grander political stratagem
commented 2016-06-10 12:14:54 -0400

The insiders make millions in kickbacks and the locals starve to death and beat their children.

Just more librano double speak – media party promotes the fraud and the masses believe the bullshit.

Stupid fucking Canadians is the real problem in Canada.
commented 2016-06-10 11:53:25 -0400
I have always believed this. Thank you for writing this, perhaps others, and especially indigenous folk will finally understand. Or not.