Canada’s failing indigenous assimilation system

Chantal Elias

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At present, it is not a time when one would be critical of our government’s dealings with the Indigenous community in Canada. We have our own Minister of Indigenous and Northern Development, numerous reconciliation committees, and hoards of money being funnelled into cultural programs daily. But maybe that is the real problem. Our country is so blinded by the titles, funding, and superficial publicity, that we fail to see the damage we have brought upon the Indigenous people. The harsh reality is that Canada is constantly undermining the intelligence, independence, and strength of Indigenous citizens. Our government treats them like incapable infants who are unable to take care of themselves.

Why do we feel the need to house them on reserves? Is it really necessary to constrain them to a plot of land because we are too afraid to let their culture shine through in urban Canadian life? We have a demented view of the Indigenous world – this ideology that they are scared of living in modern society. Have we considered the prospect of Indigenous citizens assimilating into the present while holding onto their culture? Yes, we have a duty to reconcile the unforgivable destruction we caused to their communities, but the reality is that our thinking has not progressed dramatically from the time of residential school in the 1900s. We still believe that we are superior to them, thinking that we have the best-trained doctors, best education, and the ‘right’ way of thinking.

However, Sydney Ofiara (a politically engaged grade 11 student) has a different perspective, believing that, “Maybe [Indigenous people] don’t want to become integrated because they view [Canada] as their land that was taken from them.” Unfortunately, we have citizens living in conditions parallel to that of a developing country – water contamination, and a suicide rate that is through the roof. And our response? Send in the ‘outside’ help, because we don’t believe in empowering our Indigenous communities to become psychologists, caseworkers, and lawyers. We have youth committing suicide daily because they have no hope, no education, and no jobs. We are scared, answerless, and so we push them away to their reserves, afraid that we might come to realize our moral derailment. This is not acceptance and diversity; this is the Canadian government believing that they are superior to our Indigenous friends. Canada, let’s face it- we don’t have all the answers, but trust me, the plethora of problems in our government- indigenous relations will not be fixed by hiding in the shadows of European supremacy. Let’s hope that with a new year, comes a new attitude.

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Canada’s failing indigenous assimilation system