Discussion 2: Topic 3
Like other colonial governments in other parts of the world such as South America, Africa, and Asia, Canadian governments focused on forging relationships with Native peoples (Aboriginals) as this would ensure the survival of colonists and settlers (Retzlaff, 2005). A perfect strategy used by the Canadian governments was to assimilate the Native peoples into mainstream society with the introduction of various initiatives or policies. Unfortunately, once good relationships were forged with the Aboriginals and a grasp of handling the living conditions established, the governments assumed paramountcy and went against the commitments made with the Natives. Four key initiatives or policies were used by the Canadian governments to assimilate the Aboriginals into mainstream Canadian society. First, was the policy of Christianizing the Aboriginal people of Canada, which had however begun with the arrival of the first missionaries in the 1600s. The Christianization of the Native peoples became more systematic following the passing of the Indian Act in 1876. While implementing this act, the governments placed sanctions on the Native peoples who refused to embrace Christianity. For instance, the Natives who did not convert to Christianity were not allowed to testify or have their cases had in court (Retzlaff, 2005). Second, was the initiative that saw Canadian governments make the Aboriginal people sedentary. The governments believed that this initiative would pave the way for the creation of model farming villages and eventual agricultural production that had become commonplace in modern society. Unfortunately, this initiative failed forcing the forcing the Canadian governments at to shift focus to the creation of Indian Reserves aided by the Indian Act of 1876. The creation of the Indian Reserves placed further restrictions on the Native people including banning all intoxicants, decreasing hunting and fishing practices, and restricting their eligibility to vote in band elections (Retzlaff, 2005).
The third initiative used to assimilate Native peoples into mainstream society was encouraging them to enfranchise. In other words, the governments encouraged the Aboriginal groups to remove all existing legal distinctions between them and Her Majesty’s other Canadian Subjects. With this initiative, the people and their families were stripped of the “Aboriginal” title with the hope that they would become more civilized and less savage enabling their assimilation into mainstream Canadian society (Retzlaff, 2005). Fourth, the governments used the Canadian residential school system policy, which was considered more ambitious and integral to the assimilation of Native peoples into mainstream society. The policy achieved the objective of assimilating the Aboriginals into mainstream society as it successfully and effectively led children out of the perceived savage communities into civilization and mainstream society. In 1920, the Canadian government, following the amendment of the Indian Act, made school attendance compulsory for all Native Canadian children aged between 7 and 15 (Bedard, 2007).
As already mentioned, the Canadian residential school system policy was the most effective and successful in the assimilation of Native peoples into mainstream society. However, numerous adverse impacts and consequences accompanied the implementation of the policy. With the assistance of police officers, children were forcibly taken from their homes to schools (Bedard, 2007). The enforcement of the residential school system had injurious effects on children and created turmoil between Aboriginal Canadians and mainstream Canadian society. Moreover, although the residential school system was aimed at educating and assimilating Aboriginal children into mainstream society, the schools faced myriads of problems including disease, under-funding, and abuse of the children. This put Canada at loggerheads with the international community, and in 2008, Canada’s Prime Minister apologized to the world for the residential school system.
Bedard, T. (2007). Assessing the Right of Forcibly Separated Romani Families to Compensation: Lessons from the Canadian Experience. Retrieved from http://www.errc.org/cms/upload/media/02/F4/m000002F4.pdf
Retzlaff, S. (2005). What’s in a name? The politics of labelling and Native identity constructions. The Canadian Journal of Native Studies, 25(2), 609. Retrieved from http://www3.brandonu.ca/cjns/25.2/cjnsv25no2_pg609-626.pdf