It is a rare occasion when I agree with Trudeau or Chretien’s ideas on much of anything but way back in 1969 they addressed one of Canada’s most pressing issues in drafting a policy document called the “White Paper”. Unfortunately the lawyers, activists and other assorted parasites within the growing “Indian Industry” had already been entrenching themselves well and managed to exert enough pressure to get the Trudeau government to back off on a policy direction that would have worked towards bringing hundreds of thousands of people out of the misery of poverty, crime, health issues and general social dysfunction living racially segregated under Canada’s racist Indian Act.
Many activists within the Indian Industry speak against the Indian Act and demand that we adhere to treaties and the obligations within them. These same activists go utterly haywire when somebody actually proposes the abolition of the wretched Indian Act or points out that Canada already goes well and beyond the obligations laid out in treaties. The bottom line is that there is a large and well organized element of parasitic people who thrive on the horrific status quo of native affairs in Canada and these people fervently and effectively fight every possible effort to end their existence based on the misery of countless natives living in the horrific racially segregated enclaves that we call Indian reserves.
The Statement of the Government on Indian Policy is a relatively short (24 pages) document and is concise on the goals for changes to native policy and the means to reach those goals. I strongly recommend that this document be read from end to end.
I will highlight some parts from the document below. In the past and currently supporters of the status quo of native misery have predictably dismissed the document as racist and having no goal aside from assimilation. That as usual is utter garbage but the hot-words of racism never fail to quell rationed policy debate thus the shallow self-serving supporters of the Indian Industry never fail to claim racism whenever something may threaten their income from the system. The irony of it all is that the White Paper was explicitly working towards ending policies of racism in Canada.
Below is the preamble from the paper which gets to the gist of things:
Statement of the Government of Canada on Indian Policy, 1969
Presented to the First Session of the Twenty-eighth Parliament by the Honourable Jean Chrétien, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
To be an Indian is to be a man, with all a man’s needs and abilities. To be an Indian is also to be different. It is to speak different languages, draw different pictures, tell different tales and to rely on a set of values developed in a different world.
Canada is richer for its Indian component, although there have been times when diversity seemed of little value to many Canadians.
But to be a Canadian Indian today is to be someone different in another way. It is to be someone apart – apart in law, apart in the provision of government services and, too often, part in social contacts.
To be an Indian is to lack power – the power to act as owner of your lands, the power to spend your own money and, too often, the power to change your own condition.
Not always, but too often, to be an Indian is to be without – without a job, a good house, or running water; without knowledge, training or technical skill and, above all, without those feelings of dignity and self-confidence that a man must have if he is to walk with his head held high.
All these conditions of the Indians are the product of history and have nothing to do with their abilities and capacities. Indian relations with other Canadians began with special treatment by government and society, and special treatment has been the rule since Europeans first settled in Canada. Special treatment has made of the Indians a community disadvantaged and apart.
Obviously, the course of history must be changed. To be an Indian must be to be free – free to develop Indian cultures in an environment of legal, social and economic equality with other Canadians.
What is most striking is how even 40 years later, the statement above is just as valid as it was then. Today problems are much larger and more acute on native reserves though and until we change things they will only get worse.
Below are the policy recommendations of the paper. Native life would be so much different (and far better) had the Canadian government of the day stuck to it’s guns and implemented these policies.
1. that the legislative and constitutional bases of discrimination be removed;
2 that there be positive recognition by everyone of the unique contribution of Indian culture to Canadian life;
3. that services come through the same channels and from the same government agencies for all Canadians; 4 that those who are furthest behind be helped most;
5. that lawful obligations be recognized;
6 that control of Indian lands be transferred to the Indian people.
The Government would be prepared to take the following steps to create this framework:
1. Propose to Parliament that the Indian Act be repealed and take such legislative steps as may be necessary to enable Indians to control Indian lands and to acquire title to them.
2. Propose to the governments of the provinces that they take over the same responsibility for Indians that they have for other citizens in their provinces. The take-over would be accompanied by the transfer to the provinces of federal funds normally provided for Indian programs, augmented as may be necessary.
3. Make substantial funds available for Indian economic development as an interim measure.
4. Wind up that part of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development which deals with Indian Affairs. The residual responsibilities of the Federal Government for programs in the field of Indian affairs would be transferred to other appropriate federal departments.
Race based policy created the abhorrent state that Canadian natives live in. Only through ending race based policy will we see an easing of the disaster that is our reserve system. While pointing out what is required is simple, actually getting to a racially blind system in Canada is anything but. With the passing of 40 years problems on native reserves have gotten far worse by every measure and Canada is no closer to implementing the simple measures that are absolutely required to work towards ending this misery.
Canada has known for over a generation what needs to be done with native affairs. The only question now is how horrific will things have to get in our system of racial apartheid before a government gets the courage to face-down the defenders of the Indian Industry and make the changes that must be made.
It is the 21st century and still Canada insists on maintaining racial segregation though the Indian Act. It is embarrassing and it is a disaster. Even Trudeau knew this. Alas, Trudeau chose to make the Charter his legacy instead of the abolition of the racist Indian Act in Canada.