Forgotten Era In Canadian History: Aboriginal Genocide And Its Impact Today

The cultural genocide of the Aboriginal community was the darkest period in Canadian history. The government instituted boarding schools between the 1870s and 1990s with the intent to assimilate Aboriginals into the Canadian “White” culture. The government forcibly removed children from their families and confined them to live in boarding schools across the country, where they endured unspeakable horrors. Many of the children, recall being physically and sexually assaulted. In these schools, they were stripped of their culture and identity and forced to adopt Canadian customs, language and religion. In addition, Aboriginal children received lower quality education, when compared with non-Aboriginal children across Canada.

Despite the horrendous treatment, Aboriginals today have miraculously held onto their culture and language. However, there are many social and psychological issues that persist in Aboriginal communities today that stem from their treatment in these residential schools. The social, psychological and economic problems have been transferred from one generation to the next. Their treatment throughout Canadian history has caused the Aboriginal population to be isolated and disadvantaged compared to the non-Aboriginal population. Indigenous Canadians live in chronic poverty and this is why they are more prone to social problems such as alcohol and substance abuse.  In addition, Aboriginal women are four times more likely to be murdered in Canada than non-Aboriginal women. Many of these Aboriginal women are killed or assaulted by men in their families or communities, indicating that this is a sociological issue that requires a national inquiry.  Further, life on reserves is far from adequate. The United Nations has called the conditions of Indigenous communities a crisis. Indigenous housing on reserves is unsafe and despicable. Also, suicide rates amongst Indigenous youth are five times higher than the rest of the Canadian population. While Canada is internationally recognized for adhering to and encouraging human rights and developmental standards, the Aboriginal population lives in third world conditions. Aboriginal people are such an integral part of Canadian history and the treatment they face today is deplorable and immediately needs to be solved.

The number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women has increased over the past few years in Canada. Or maybe the media has made more of an effort to focus on the numerous tragedies occurring in Indigenous communities nation-wide. Amnesty International has even named this a human rights crisis. Aboriginal women are four times more likely to be attacked, murdered or deemed missing than non-Native Canadian women. In addition, Aboriginals only represent about four percent of the Canadian population but make up sixteen percent of all homicides, according The Guardian. How is it possible then that such an important group in Canadian history and identity can be so grossly mistreated and abandoned? This is a question that the nation, most importantly Indigenous communities are struggling to answer.

The Assembly of First Nations, an organization that represents the three major Aboriginal groups, has called for action on what it calls a national crisis. Many have called for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women over the past decade. However, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has denied the request, citing that these are simply crimes and not sociological issues and therefore do not need to be investigated. Harper seems to ignore the fact that Aboriginal women are over represented in female homicide tragedies. Women are often killed by men in their own families or communities, which points to the root problem of domestic violence. An inquiry is needed to understand and solve this pressing issue. It is truly a crisis when young girls are murdered simply because they are vulnerable, or the opportunity arises for criminals to attack. These girls and women deserve the dignity and respect that all Canadian women have. An inquiry into the issue would ensure that Aboriginal women will be protected and crimes like these cease to occur again.

The Indigenous communities have a higher poverty rate than non-Aboriginals. The living conditions on reservations highlight this fact. The government has cut back spending on reserve housing, instead choosing to focus on improving social programs. This decision has impacted many residents, who continue to live in dilapidated homes. Over-crowding, lack of clean, running water and broken walls and windows are just some of the problems that Aboriginal communities face on reserves. The Canadian government should ensure that all groups live in stable and decent homes, not in third world conditions. However, Canada has made efforts to improve conditions since the United Nations report in 2004. Canada was the first country to extend constitutional rights to Indigenous peoples. Expanding the Truth and Reconciliation Committee will help the government and Aboriginals reach the root cause of the social and economic problems that plague the communities today. The residential school system is where these problems stem and an inquiry will allow the government to properly address the issue and possible solutions. Because the Aboriginal population is such an important part of Canadian history and identity, it is crucial that we help them regain their place in Canada once again.