Aboriginal / Canada Essay, Research Paper
Since the Europeans landed on Canadian soil a few centuries ago, there has been conflict between the Aboriginal people of Canada and the Canadian political system. To this day the First Nations people feel that they have been marginalized. This is because they have not been able to maintain significant status in the Canadian political and economic system. The government has been paternal, and has supported the Aboriginals, rather than encouraging independence. As a result, many of them live on a minimum source of income, and often in impoverished comditions. The government was relied on, and provided them with basic needs. As a result, the Native people failed to seize opportunity when it was present because they did not have the proper tools to do so. The First Nations people are also faced with the concern that by integrating themselves in the Canadian society, they will no longer be a distance culture. The First Nations people can maintain their unique and distinct entity as a race within the Canadian cultural, political, social and economic infrastructure.
The fundamental tool of a progressive and advanced society is education. Unfortunately, the greatest discrepancy in Native advancement is the lack of quality education. It is obvious that there is a problem with the Canadian education system education for First Nations people living on reserves. In 1985 the Aboriginal Rights Coalition of British Colombia did a study on the educational welfare of the Aboriginal Rights Coalition of British Colombia. The results were shocking, 35.6% of on reserve Indians over 15 years of age have less than a grade 9 education, and only 20% of Native children complete grade 12, compared to 75% of the British Colombians who finish grade 12. Figures from 1989 show that only 3/10 on reserve Indians are employed. Of the few who are employed, 26% work in the Primary sector, which includes logging, fishing, and trapping. Figures also show that their average annual income is $9800, compared to the average annual income of $18 700 for the rest of British Colombia. The proportion of Native children taken into welfare authorities is five times the national average. The study also shows that of the Aboriginal Canadians, who live on reserves, 39% are less than 15 years of age. Now would be an ideal time for improvement because their population is young. However, if the system remains the same it may be assumed that the Natives will remain unemployed, or continue to hold jobs in the primary sector. Therefore, whether the reason for these great disparities is lack of funding, materials, or the application of a system that does not adhere to Native culture ? the figures illustrate that the education system is not improving much of the Native community. If there ar no improvements, the statistics will not change.
The Canadian government is somewhat responsible for these disturbing statistics. ?Education on reserves had less formal education [in comparison to off reserve education].? (ARC, BC, pg.8) This in turn makes regular attendance difficult. The Aboriginal Rights Coalition of BC also states ?Many of these schools were run well, though many were not. Children suffered from physical, emotional and even sexual abuse.? (ARC, BC pg.9) No firm evidence is provided to back up this statement, though it is not unlikely. It is true that the government may have made mistakes in the past, or was unfair, but First Nations people do have access to schools. As the statistics pointed out, it is the children who drop out; this is a very important factor. There is not a lack of the availability of educational systems, but a lack of desire to learn, and a lack of motivation amongst the Native children.
Many people use these statistics in order to back up their prejudice beliefs. The First Nation people are often stereotyped as lazy, unintelligent alcoholics. This is unfortunate, because it is not characteristic traits that have put many aboriginals in this state of poverty, prohibiting growth. Their present state of distress is a result of historical matters and wrongful approaches by the government in an attempt to rectify their situation. In Issues on Human Rights it is stated that ?Aboriginal title is limited? (Issues in Human Rights, pg.5) Aboriginal title encompasses land rights and mineral rights. However, if aboriginal people wish to use their land in a way which aboriginal title does not permit, then they must surrender those lands and convert them into non-title lands. Because the Natives were the first to occupy Canadian land, they should be given the right to land, regardless of how they choose to use it. Throughout history there have always been on going issues on land claim settlements and referendums. The Aboriginal people recently put out a special report called the Royal Commission, ?Treaty making in the spirit of co-existence.? (Bradford, Christopher pg. 37) There is also a current referendum being held in hopes of settling the Nisga people?s longstanding claims. The recent agreement for the Nisga people has taken 17 years. On the new treaty, the minister of Indian Affairs was still ?considering and exploring further with the affected parties how certainty can be best achieved.? (Bradford, Christopher pg. 39). The First nations people may be feeling as if they have been treated unfairly and frustrated. If the government sees no progress on the reserves, he may find it difficult to give land claims. The Aboriginal does not need money or land alone. Their main necessity is to have the proper tools to make a positive difference in the lives of Aboriginals possible. There is an old proverb that states, ?Give a fish to a man and you feed him for a day, teach a man how to fish and you feed him for life.? The Canadian government has been traditionally ?giving? the Native people fish. Though these may have been generous intentions, the allocation and distribution of funds has led to the use of this money towards vices. The first Nations people were given money, but not the requirements on how to make their own profits. The funds received were therefore misused. If it was, or is properly invested, jobs could and can be created along with a better standard of living. The younger generations do not see many cases of ?success? on the reserves, they are not exposed to any better way of living, and therefore do not have the same expectations as other Canadians may have developed. They see the life styles of their peers and elders and this low standard of living and accept this lifestyle because they are not exposed to anything else. Their economic status and poor standards of living will not improve if the Canadian government makes no significant change. However, if the Native people have the opportunity they will be able to rise economically and preserve their culture and beliefs as well.
It is very evident that the paternal approach of the government over the last two centuries has not worked, nor will it work in the future. Therefore the time is right for the Aboriginal people to become masters of their own destiny by working and utilising the Canadian economic, political and social systems while maintaining their own distinct cultural and ethnicity origins. In order to do this, the First Nations people should be self-governed. But before anything, they must unite themselves as a single ethnic group. At the moment they are being dealt with differently and in separate groups. There is no need for them to be physically together, but can be together politically as a nation regardless of their location in Canada. Once they have identified themselves, it would allow them to be self-governed more efficiently, which would in turn deal with the interests of the aboriginal people first and foremost. Self-government exists in the Canadian federal structure, along with the many distinct cultures and races that keep their uniqueness and are still integrated with the rest of Canadian society. There is no reason why the First Nations people should not be the same. With all of the Aboriginal people united across Canada they could be governed like any other province with their own provincial representative of each parliament.
The First Nations people should aim for a society similar to that of Quebec. The Quebecois live in a distinct society where they are able to keep their culture alive. Quebec has its problems, but these are minuscule in comparison to what a system like this could offer the aboriginal. The Native people have always had to adapt to nature and change in order to survive. Society has changed drastically since the Europeans arrived in Canada, and once again they have changed many of their ways for survival, they must be integrated into the Canadian society to benefit themselves, but this will not necessarily cause their culture to be lost. Firstly, by creating a distinct society, they are recognising their uniqueness as a culture. They can teach their children of the many beautiful traditions their culture holds. Jobs could be found while sharing their culture, such as opening Aboriginal stores, continuing the making of traditional artefacts and Native art. The native people must be given this opportunity and come to the realisation that by integrating themselves in the Canadian society they will help their people and be able to hold their culture while erasing the stereotypes they have been given.
It cannot be denied that there were many injustices towards Canada?s indigenous people in the past, but that was the past and cannot be changed. Bitterness must be forgotten therefore enabling the First Nations people to move forward and heighten their social status, at least enough to live comfortably. They must use the system of government to their advantage and utilise their funds properly. On December 31, 1998 a landmark decision was made. The Canadian government granted the aboriginal people of Labrador 5% of the land and 250 million dollars with the right to self govern themselves. If properly utilised, a century from today the Aboriginal people may be prosperous, well-educated entrepreneurs of the Canadian fabric.