TRIGGER WARNING: Mention of emotional, physical and sexual abuse
Most people, especially those living in the United States, seem to have the idea that Canada is a perfect country; incapable of being mean or bigoted. Although Canada is, for the most part, very accepting of different people, the idea that Canada is free from all sorts of prejudice is a horrible and dangerous misconception. One group that has continuously faced oppression from the Canadian government is our indigenous people.
The First Nations of Canada have had their land stolen, their people brutalized and killed, and their issues are still going ignored, even today.
In Canada, the term “aboriginal” refers to the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people, who are considered to be the first inhabitants of the land. When Europeans first settled in Canada in the 17th and 18th centuries, the aboriginal people gladly helped the settlers with trading, curing diseases and surviving the harsh winters. The early settlers seemed to have a collaborative relationship with the various indigenous groups.
Eventually, the Europeans learned to live in Canada without the help of the First Nations, and they ended up becoming victims to centuries of colonization and brutal oppression. Under European colonization, the aboriginal people were forced to marry Europeans, taken as slaves, pushed away from their homes, and even starved to death when the country cut the amount of rations to First Nations to save money. But, that’s not the end of it.
In the 1880s, the Canadian government forced aboriginal children into residential schools. The main objectives of these schools were to isolate and remove young children from the culture that was deemed inferior, and to conform them into the more dominant culture. Authorities took children from their homes and placed them in a school far from their families. Then, in 1920, it became illegal for aboriginal children to attend any other school. The schools were not funded properly, and, as a result, the students were far less educated than non aboriginal children. Within these schools, children were subjected to severe emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. The horrible conditions either killed these young children, or left them traumatized for life. If you think that this was a long time ago and shouldn’t matter now, just know that the last residential school closed in 1996. Merely 21 years ago.
Today, indigenous women across Canada are getting murdered at a rate that’s 4.5 times higher than any other women in the country and the suicide rate among aboriginal groups is much higher than any other group of people in Canada.
For a country that prides itself in tolerance and acceptance, Canada is doing very little to help the indigenous people of their country, especially considering the country’s long history of dehumanizing and brutalizing their aboriginal groups.
Maybe we have a less serious problem than other countries, or maybe we’re just better at hiding our problems. Either way, the lives of aboriginals are just as important as the lives of any other person living in Canada. As a country, we need to do better, and change begins with education.