The following blog post was written by a student in the grade 11 NBE3U – Indigenous Voices class and is re-posted here with her permission.
As you’ve probably already realized, Indigenous people have one of the worst- if not the worst relationships with the Canadian government. Over the centuries, the sad truth has become apparent- that the Canadian government doesn’t prioritize Indigenous communities. Because of this and all of the injustices Indigenous people have faced, it’s honestly hard to believe that the government actually wants to reconcile their relations- especially because that means a loss of power that they’ve strived for from the fifteen hundreds.
A chart showing how many of the 94 calls to action have been completed, in progress, or have not started.
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission published a report that included 94 calls to action. These are simple, fair requests that Indigenous representatives had put together to advance reconciliation after they made a final report about the abuse Indigenous children faced in residential schools. After reading through the calls to action, I believe they’re all reasonable and easy to follow-through with, but despite everything, only ten actions have been completed. Why? You may be wondering. Because if they get all of their requests fulfilled, they will have equal rights and the government doesn’t want that. They don’t want this because that means fulfilling the original promises made to Indigenous groups over their land, reimbursing the money, and most importantly- educating people on the Indigenous people and Canada’s dark history. Let’s not forget about the lack of information to the public as well, because when I was trying to research these so-called ‘projects in progress’, I couldn’t find any specific plan to solve the issue. This makes me wonder if there’s actual actions being taken in the first place. I know for a fact, that if I were an all-powerful leader, I wouldn’t want people to know the secrets I’ve tried so hard to bury. If Canadians learn more about the past, it can open their eyes towards the truth, so there is less prejudice and bias. This is because they will know that Canada isn’t just free education, healthcare, and all the other things we take pride in.
A graph showing the employment gap between non-Indigenous and Indigenous people.
To be honest, most of the calls to action seem like basic rights most of use get to take for granted on a daily basis. Canada is known for being a multicultural country, but there are very few Indigenous people in public service fields such as child welfare, social work, and nursing. So, all they ask is to increase the number of people with first-hand experience of growing up Indigenous, so they can be able to help more. However, there’s too much bias in the work field that creates educational and employment gaps. Plus, the Indian Act is still a thing in the 21st century, so most Indigenous people can’t even go to university in the first place. Another section of the calls to action is education because it should be equally accessible to this minority compared to the rest of Canada. For example, First Nations people still can’t go to university, as long as they have a Status card and identify as ‘Indian’ (Oh lord, don’t even get me started on that).
Personally, going to university has always been a norm in my household, especially because my brown parents are immigrants and they’ve emphasized the importance of education since I was a kid. Any parent wants their child to have their best shot at being successful in the future, and for many, that means a post-secondary education. But, this choice, along with many other choices for Indigenous people have been taken away from them, even though the government claims that they are equal Canadian citizens. Since these communities have already been forced into being ‘Canadians’ (despite them being here centuries before the Europeans), they should at least be treated like every other citizen. Instead, the government associates them as a part of Canada only when there’s a benefit like when taking land and throwing them into reserves. The sad reality otherwise, is that Indigenous people are backed up into the corner of society.
Anyways, another aspect to this section of the report is that other Canadians should be educated on Indigenous people and their history, in order to get closer to reconciliation. But surprise surprise, the government hasn’t completed these calls to actions either. Why? Because everyone knows that knowledge is power, so once Canadians know the truth, the government won’t be able to hide all the injustices Indigenous people have faced and still face. This minority is facing daily struggles to the point of no clean water, while we’re all living in the propaganda-filled ‘first-world’ country of Canada. I mean, can you imagine having generations of your family belonging to a specific area of land you call home, but then being forced to move because some random new people come in and kick you out? And on top of that, these new people are spilling all your hard work in staying sustainable down the drain. This reminds me of when my dad rented out our other house to a group of people who didn’t clean it properly, and then when we went back to the house we once lived in, we were shocked at how messy it was and we felt powerless to do anything about it. To add on, my family owns farmland in India that my grandparents and great-grandparents have worked hard on, so if we were forced to give it away, especially without some sort of payment in return, it would be completely unfair.
Sikhs protesting for recognition of the Indian governments role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
Overall, I think the problem is that the government doesn’t care enough about Indigenous people because even though most of them are legally Canadian, they don’t live in the European-based society we live in. I think some of these issues can be easily solved if the government would just listen to the voice of this minority for once. And no, I don’t even think the government should be able to negotiate compromises because the entire history of the governments relationship with the Indigenous people is based on lies, manipulation, and unkept promises. So, the least they can do is step down from their high pedestal and be willing to listen. In my opinion, history classes should be diversified, so you can have the option to choose a specific group of people in history to explore, instead of just European history. For example, I’m Sikh, so I could learn more about the injustices and genocides of my own culture. This can even help make a change because to this day, the Indian government hasn’t accepted responsibility for the anti-Sikh riots of 1984, which just shows that Canada isn’t as different to India, as many Indian-Canadian families like to believe.
I mean, my parents say they immigrated here to live in a more equal nation, but Canada isn’t as multicultural as I thought because the Indigenous people still seek recognition and reconciliation, just as Sikhs in India do. This way, diversity in textbooks can ensure that the point of view won’t be one-sided and it can share the stories of minorities. Even in Canadian history, the history textbooks are bias because the story’s POV is different, compared to the Indigenous perspective of European settlement and the development of Canada.