Thursday, May 12, 2005 Rose H.
On the global scale under the United Nations Human Rights Act, Canada is listed as the number one country out of one hundred and seventy-four for human development, and is considered the second most desirable country to live in.
If Canada was graded solely on its own rating on how they treat their own Indigenous people, it would drop drastically to forty-eighth, based on how all levels of its governments have treated them. When compared to how other countries that we consider third world countries are dealing with their indigenous communities.
Please see reference listing on last page Reference: #1
The United Nations development program's ranking of 174 countries in the 2000 Human development index
Canada ranked low in UN native report
April 11, 2005 - GENEVA - Canada's high ranking on the United Nations' human development scale would dramatically drop if the country were judged solely on the economic and social well-being of its First Nations people.
According to a new UN report, Canada would be placed 48th out of 174 countries if judged on those criteria. The low position is a significant drop from Canada's usual top 10 ranking on the UN's human development scale. Canada came in seventh in the last report but if the conditions of native people were the only qualifiers, the country's ranking would plummet. "Poverty, infant mortality, unemployment, morbidity, suicide, criminal detention, children on welfare, women victims of abuse, child prostitution, are all much higher among aboriginal people than in any other sector of Canadian society. "Economic, social and human indicators of well-being, quality of life and development are completely lower among aboriginal people than other Canadians," said Rodolfo Stavenhagen a United Nations representative. Who has also acknowledged that the condition of aboriginal people in the country was "The most pressing human rights issue facing Canada." Unfortunately our own governments do not see this.
The conclusions in the UN report are no surprise to anyone knowledgeable about First Nations issues, particularly in BC. Highlighted in the report: •Poverty-60% of aboriginal children • Annual income of aboriginal people is "significantly lower" than other Canadians. •Unemployment is very high among aboriginals. • 20 per cent of aboriginal people have inadequate water and sewer systems. • Aboriginals make up 4.4 per cent of the Canadian population but account for 17 per cent of the people in prison. • Cases of tuberculosis are six times higher than the rest of Canada. • Life expectancy among the Inuit is 10 years lower than the rest of Canada.
Canada has become notorious for hiding, and masking its own failures when it comes to dealing with its own Indigenous people. Canada has committed crimes like; deploying First Nations men into wars that were not of their own creations (A), and signing treaties before these soldiers’ families could read and write the colonizer’s language. Other crimes that were committed and most times overlapped one another with the introduction of each treaty or bill that identify, divide and slot First Nations (FN) in accordance to their skin color(B) and gender, were the residential schools (C), the creations of sixties scoop, foster care, and adoption(D). The remnants of this era go far beyond the decades of the actual occurrences. The legacy of all these events reaches well into the minds of the now present adult survivors of this era. Their present behaviors could be considered as a reflection of how they the survivors think, or perceive the world and how they treat their children.
A) As heard first hand from some of the First Nations war veterans, they lost their rights to live with their own families or communities, when they were forced to enlist in the war that was not of their own doing, and had returned home from fighting over seas. They had to give up their status cards, their land and all other rights that identified their uniqueness of their culture, to fight this war. It was because of their skin color that they were not honored in the same way as their non-status comrades for fighting in the same wars. Canada’s F.N. war veterans would have to wait until the early 1990s to receive their medals after enduring a long fight with the Canadian government over their entitlements to be treated with the same dignity and respect that their non-status (natives) comrades had received. It was because of Canada’s own racist attitudes that these First Nations war heroes were not able to receive the same entitlements as their non-native comrades. Many were denied privileges such as entering a Royal Canadian Legion, or the rights to receive adequate medical services from a veteran’s hospital, or the privileges to ride above the car decks of BC’s own ferry corporation (as late as mid 1970s). Other entitlements such as spousal and dependants support were also denied. Segregation was still applicable to them, in their own homeland, until the end of the apartheid (1968). The rights to participate in any non-native elections were denied until the end of the apartheid, so fighting for their colonizer’s rights and freedom reduced these indigenous soldiers to a life of poverty and homelessness in their own home land.
B) This loss of cultural identity and land also applied to women who lost their status through marriages to non-status men. Some were forced to marry these men after being kidnapped, placed into residential schools, used as medical guinea pigs, or raped, often conceiving a child through these hideous crimes. For women from all cultures it was still frowned upon to be pregnant and un-married during the FN apartheid. So, when these indigenous women married, they still were treated as savages by their counter parts (non-status women).
C) Residential schools for many of the attendees ----this was a time of horror. Some children where forcibly removed while others where voluntarily given by their families and communities. All of them were subjected to ridicule and taunting by non-natives. This was a time when many of them were turned into slaves instead of students. They had become slaves to the whims of the schools that were financed by religious bodies. The children who were sent to these schools were expected to work twelve and sixteen hours cultivating hundred of acres of gardens, and to clean the schools for the school officials. The food and flowers that they grew in these gardens, were not for their own consumption, they were for the church and school officials. The attendees’ spiritual, emotional and physical was not built on a healthy diet. These children were subjected to all sorts of abuse and neglect, not by their families, but by the bodies that were and still are running this country. They are called the government. These children’s bodies were so depleted mentally and emotionally that the physical impact on their bodies resulted in a life time of chronic health concerns due to the malnourishment. They were fed mush (porridge), stale bread, sometimes water or powder milk and out dated baloney on almost daily basis denying their bodies enough enriched vitamins for these young children’s bodies to develop. Almost all of these attendees lived in fear of being rejected, alienated, and becoming sexual slaves to the predators who ran these schools. Some of these children were as young as three years of age. Many of them did not survive and have moved onto the spirit world leaving their unclaimed remains to be buried on the school grounds of these now defunct schools. Their memories still remain in the minds of their surviving kin and fellow students.
D) The sixties scoop was an era when the highest percentage of indigenous children where being apprehended from their family and placed in non-native homes. The reasons for these apprehensions varied from an inadequate supply of food, to problems such as the lack of housing, life skills and health care. The amount of apprehension would continue to climb higher then 40% of all indigenous children in care throughout Canada. A few of these children were adopted out to non-native homes until the early 1980s. This is when the Provincial government in BC introduced a bill that would forbid any adoptions of First Nations children to non-native families residing in their province. Unfortunately this moratorium was not applicable to the other provinces, or territories, or to the amount of apprehensions that were placing First Nations children in non-native foster families by labeling them un-adoptable. So it is still legal for non-natives to cross the provincial borders, or reservations and adopt native children.
This type of interference has created a huge wave of uncertainty amongst the indigenous people, with a high percentage of their race being born into multiple addictions such as, alcoholism, gambling, AIDS, TB, in addition to being malnourished, raised illiterate, suffering from poverty and homelessness. All of these diseases are treatable, a few are avoidable, but all are usually beyond the financial scope of these individuals realm, forcing F.N. to rely heavily on non-status support for their existence. The costs of treating these diseases are then usually paid for by multiple levels of governments, which include First Nations bands, who usually have restricted medical coverage. That does not always cover all of the medical expenses of their band members’ needs, increasing their poverty.
Canada’s governments continue to forge forward denying the truth of this history which has created a life time of uncertainty for all people, including the non-status who have inherited the aftermath of lost souls and have not been told the truth of their ancestors’ actions, or lack of actions. The non-status do not understand that they have been deceived by their governments about how the land that they currently reside on was taken from the F.P.
The money, land, and education that are needed to ensure the first people’s survival is in existence, but with barriers attached to them. Over coming, these barriers is almost impossible for the first people (F.P.) to achieve without going to the non-status to gain access to their traditional foods, lands and medicines.
Canada’s own indigenous people were once strong in their numbers according to the 2001 Census counted 499,605 Aboriginal females, out of a total population of 976,305 (Statistics Canada 2001a). 5 The FN population is young, with over one third 14 years or under. However, the next fastest growing segment of this population is women 65 years or older (4% of the entire population) placing these women in a danger zone with a higher rates of violence, suicide, diabetes and substance abuse than any other ethnic group because of the lack access to funding, land, housing, traditional medicines and foods.
Unfortunately with colonization many First Nations have moved onto the spirit world via premature deaths such as suicides, infant mortalities, and being used as medical guineas pigs. The reports on attempted suicide have been reported as high as seventy percent.
70% more than double homicide rates, compared with non-Indian populations,” according to Bob Kennedy’s of Turtle Island native news report on the Red Lake Minnesota Indian Reservation (n.p.).
Even with the rapid depletion of their population due to any one of these diseases, the number of children ending up in the government’s care has not decreased, since the ends of the wars, residential schools, sixties scoop, the apartheid, First Nations women losing their status through marrying a non-status partner and the legalization of adoption of First Nations children to non-First Nations families. The number of First Nations children living in the care of the government indefinitely has continued to stay high. These children are growing up and expressing confusion about who they are, and about feeling like they are the walking dead, zombies or aliens. These are now some of the adults who feel that they have no other identity except a little piece of paper that says that they are an officially registered adoptee with no cultural history of being Métis, First Nations or bill C-31 person. Some of them literally live in multiple worlds, spending their energy trying to sort out which culture they belong to and which one will they follow.
They are looking for a sense of belonging which is vital for their well being. This slight hesitation of identity does definitely have a rippling effect, and will help determine whether or not they would be entitled to possess a status card. This piece of paper slots and categorizes them, so that basic services like health care and education can be provided to them in accordance to the treaty that was signed over a hundred years ago. Food and housing have fallen off of the top their criteria. I think this has happened because of the increase of food banks, soup kitchens and dependencies on government funds.
First Nations Band offices also benefit by having status cardholders on their list. These bands get paid by the government in accordance to the number of band members registered on their list, not who is actually living on the reservation. Many of these status cardholders have never lived on the reservation or met their chief, because their existence has never been talked about or recorded by the mothers of these children. There are not enough adequate services available to them, or these individuals have become too assimilated to mainstream society, and do not feel comfortable living on segregated land.
To sum this essay up, I personally would agree that any attempts of genocide happening in Canada are happening to its own first people and are being done by its own government’s rules and regulations. These crimes are being done in a slow and systematic process through the loss of, First Nations people’s chance to bond with their own mothers, ability to speak their own language, to claims of cultural identity, access to their community elders and their own lives.
Lacking access to these services and to their traditional elders, these people have been provided minimal support to reflect back on to, so that they continue caring for their offspring in as traditional way as they can. First Nations people have lost access to their traditional teachers (the elders) and foods. It is not highly encouraged for these survivors to seek out these elders from non-status service providers. Access to their traditional foods is almost non-existent due to the over population, pollution, consumption and restrictions imposed by the colonizers. Even the “Traditional” music that is being taught and sung today has been tampered with. Meaning that the original meaning of each song has been changed slightly along with who can and cannot sing these songs.
Some of these songs have started losing their meaning and owners when it was forbidden for these songs to be sung or taught during the time of the apartheid, which was when it was forbidden for all natives to speak in their traditional tongue. Some of these songs are still owned by a particular clan or families and are forbidden to be sung in public without the families consent or have lost their original meaning.
These additional barriers created problems for those who have not grown up knowing their culture. Problems such as “Who do they turn to when they feel the desire to return their ancestral roots or to their traditional way of life? How do they learn what is protocol and whose protocol do they learn?”
Many First Nations songs and stories have expired as colonization progressed and taken permanent roots in a new era where many different cultures have influenced what is considered traditional for this country. New legends that are being created by the people of this time are now being told without the guidance of the elders. These are their own stories of the homeland wars against racism, poverty, sexism, abandonment by their own races, and feelings of alienations towards both races and their own desires for survival.
Being considered First Nations in Canada in the new millennium is not easy. According to a report recently released by CBC reports Aboriginal Canadians are a part of the fabric of Canada (see reference #4). On the global scale under the United Nations Human Rights Act, Canada as a country is not doing well when it comes to ensuring wellness for its own Indigenous people. Under the social and economic scale if these people are to survive into this millennium then Canada as a whole country must ratify its’ social development policies and eliminate all forms of discrimination that are based on one’s skin color and gender.
Canada’s First Nations people must stay strong in their determination to resist total assimilation in order to preserve what is left of their race and traditions.
Aboriginal Canadians are a part of the fabric of Canada, a brave federation of differences: multiculturalism, official bilingualism, minority rights, cultural and geographic diversity, and ancient grievances. Managing these differences is a constant juggling act, like a high stakes poker game, an act of faith. From fishing rights to the creation of a new territory, CBC News has examined a number of issues and stories related to aboriginals in Canada.
1. The Indian Act formed much of the basis for the introduction of oppressive apartheid policies against Black people in South Africa which lasted for decades.
2. In 1969, all Indian Agents were withdrawn from reserves across Canada ending the government's overt paternalistic presence on First Nations land.
Reference # 1 Published on Thursday, June 29, 2000 in the Manchester Guardian
Divided World: Rich Live Longer, Poor Die Younger
United Nations discloses report to Aboriginaltimes.community
“Canada ranked low in UN native report April 11, 2005 - GENEVA Switzerland”
Bob Kennedy. ”Red Lake Minnesota” www.turtleisland.org last accessed April 5, 2005
United Nations Report Human Rights and Developments
And Rose’s own Thoughts