4 Ways the Canadian Government Perpetuates Colonialism
By: Rebekah Eunaah Craig
The Canadian government does not consider what is in the best interest of Indigenous peoples in what is currently Canada. It has been made clear with the actions taken in the federal government; it has been made clear when the Prime Minister makes a claim to improve the lives of the continually oppressed natives of this country then gives an apology with hope of reconciliation instead of taking real action. So, briefly, here are a few ways in which the government perpetuates colonialism in this country.
The Indian Act still exists and actively infringes upon the basic rights of Indigenous peoples.
Passed by the federal government in 1876, the Indian Act is a set of laws made to have control over Indigenous peoples in Canada; filled with assimilation policies meant to eliminate Indigenous culture and tear apart their social and political unicity. Safety and protection, education, land rights, identification, affordable housing, and even rights as basic as access to clean water are mostly disregarded for many Indigenous people in Canada. The education system is poorly designed and significantly underfunded for students living on reserves; by 2011 45% of students were not able to graduate high school and the percentage continued to rise to nearly 60%.
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) remains an epidemic decades-long affecting First Nation communities across this country as a result of institutionalized racism stemming from this Indian Act that was created over 150 years ago. Indigenous peoples represent only 4.3%, assuming approximately half are women, who would then make up 2.15% of the population in Canada, make up for 11% of missing women nationally. They have not been protected by the government and they still are not to this day.
Reserves were created to remove Indigenous peoples from their traditional homes and be placed in European style homes by the government to enforce assimilation and given European names in an effort to remove their Indigeneity. Overcrowding in homes on reserves is not uncommon and many communities still do not have safe drinking water. Imagine you go to your bathroom sink to wash your hands and the water comes out brown. You walk to your kitchen to grab a glass of water but you can’t drink it yet, you have to boil it first. It would be so inconvenient and such a hassle for you, right? Well, this is a reality for an overwhelming amount of people in this supposedly advanced country in 2020.
2. The government of Canada keeps Indigenous communities in constant crisis in order to have unfettered access to their resources.
This may be considered a “provocative” statement but it holds truth nonetheless. Canada’s history is one of a capitalist development, naturally being exploitive and coercive to function. If Indigenous communities have poor housing, lack of protection, poor healthcare and education, or no safe drinking water, they are forced to remain dependent on the government who gives minimal funding at best. So, inevitably, in this capitalist society, those who have, have, and those who don’t have, don’t have, keeping the Indigenous peoples poor and allowing the government to capitalize on their poverty; it's a sick cycle they're caught in and the government knows it yet they make the conscious decision to continue.
3. Destroying Native Land
Pipelines. Here are some quick facts in case you might not know why this is such an issue. Pipelines actively destroy boreal forests, which are the most efficient land-based carbon capture systems. The substance that flows through the pipeline, diluted bitumen, is a mixture of volatile flammable neurotoxins and carcinogens which are not only energy intense and extremely toxic, but require immense amounts of water to produce; plus, they create substantial CO2 emissions. The effects and the construction of pipelines pollute the surrounding air, land, water, which can be life-threatening to the people who live near it, which are Indigenous peoples. Furthermore, pipelines have a tendency to leak, which infuses toxic fumes into the surrounding homes which can very possibly force evacuation. So, with all this being said, pipelines are disastrous for the Indigenous people who live near them, and it is destructive to the environment, to the land which is of great importance to Indigenous peoples. With each project the government makes on native land, the more they maintain the colonial agenda. Even with all the protests, debates and petitions against pipelines, the Canadian government continues to fail to see beyond money and power.
Enfranchisement is the process for terminating a person’s Indian status and conferring Canadian citizenship; it became legally obligatory with the Indian Act in 1876 and remained until 1961. Overtime Indigenous people have been enfranchised for serving in the armed forces, having university education, leaving their reserve for too long, and for indigenous women who marry non-Indigenous men or if they are abandoned in some form by their Indigenous husband; this would also enfranchise the Indigenous women's children. This idea of removing Indian status from Indigenous peoples and replacing them with Canadian citizenships is practically screaming colonialism.
Canada is not a post-colonial state because colonialism has not ended, it is happening each day with the actions the government takes to continually oppress Indigenous peoples in what is currently Canada. What is most important now is that every non-Indigenous person takes the time to educate themselves on the actual world we live in; Canada, as it stands currently, is not the perfect country, nor is this a country free from discrimination.
*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.
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