5 Main Issues Faced by the Aboriginal People of Canada

Thu, 06/05/2014 - 23:42 -- Gulzar Ahmed

The word Aboriginal refers to those peoples of a country who are living there from the earliest times or from before the arrival of colonists. Aboriginal people of Canada play a vital role in formation of history and cultural identity. There are three main groups of aboriginal people in the country and their population is more than 1.6 million.

  1. First Nations (North American Indian)
  2. Métis
  3. Inuit

All these three groups have their own distinct traditions and languages in their respective jurisdictions. But the matter is that, there has been a number of reports list on the problems facing by the Aboriginal people of Canada.

1. Child Welfare Programs Slashed With No Guarantee of Return

Indigenous approaches are defined in national legislation of Canada which describes a set of specific rights for aboriginal people based on their historical ties to a particular territory, and their historical or cultural distinctiveness. These indigenous-run projects designed to fill the gaps in the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s child services programs for aboriginal families of Canada. These indigenous approaches initiated in 2009 with $600,000 per year allotted funding. These approaches  provides First Nation communities and other two aboriginal groups with family court assistance programs, community gardens cultivated (With aim of fighting child hunger) and training for social workers so that they can best help aboriginal families with culturally sensitive dialogue.

However, due to mishandling of budget over the past six years since indigenous approaches, it was difficult for auditors and government accountability institutions to identify where exactly all the funding went. Recently the Ministry of Children and Family Development has given assurance to provide a “template” for IAs (indigenous approaches) to follow if they want to apply for aid. But still there is lack of communication between the ministry, those administering IAs (indigenous approaches institutes) and the people who will actually gain benefit from these programs, aboriginal families have not been pointed to alternate resources, and the possibility of reestablishment for IAs (indigenous approaches) looks bleak at best.

2. Many Unresolved Cases of Missing Aboriginal Women of Canada

The most recent research by the National Women’s Association of Canada shows that more than 1000 aboriginal women have been missing and/or murdered since 1990. One biggest factor blamed for such a high number of unresolved cases of missing aboriginal women is police inaction by Canadian forces.

Many of these aboriginal women were convicted by vulnerable issues including mental illness, domestic violence and drug addiction. As these missing or murdered aboriginal women were the ethnic minority, therefore there was a lack of urgency in the Canadian justice system to find out when where and how these crimes were actually committed. A ray of hope arise, by recent efforts of the United Nations and Canadian police as they begun to open up new channels of investigation for these aboriginal women murders, since it is crystal clear that justice has been delayed for far too long already.

3. Unequal Access of aboriginal people to Canada’s Health System

The aboriginal people of the Canada as a whole are more vulnerable to chronic sickness, HIV/AIDS, mental illnesses and many other infectious as well as fatal diseases. A recent report by UNICEF shows that aboriginal children are twice as likely to be hospitalized for preventative diseases due to government loopholes as to who pays for their coverage. It seems very difficult for Canada’s universal health care system to be consistently extolled for its quality of care even though it remains out of reach for First nations.

4. Native Lands Might Soon by absorbed by Mining Companies

A new designed mining project by Canadian Government may take advantage of oil-rich native lands in the First Nation reserve of Long Lake. As reported in a periodical The Huffington Post, aboriginal residents might capitalize from recent investments to the area, which could generate as much as $60 million thanks to a mineral deposit.

This is not for the first time that native lands have been sought after and exploited for resources. The fair agreements by mining companies could benefit the living conditions for Long Lake. Still the companies not start work and Long Lake is under negotiations process that will best benefit the reserve, but only time will tell either aboriginal will get true benefit in the long run or not.

5. Lack of Knowledge Surrounding the History of Residential Schools

Recently, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released alarming information about residential schools; this report shows 4,000 aboriginal children died due to lack of protection from school fires, failures in enforcing health codes and safeguards against abusers. This is only tip of the iceberg, many figures and facts are expected to rise as more federal records are analyzed.

How could this happen? For aboriginal people whose children read in residential school system such news of these figures and facts come as no surprise. The prevailing Canadian system has cast a dark shadow on the aboriginal community for decades. Many practices were put in place by the Canadian government and other religious ministries administering these residential schools system in order to erase aboriginal language and culture. Administrators and government wanted aboriginal children to adopt the “dominant” culture, and about 150,000 children were forcibly removed from their homes by the time the last school closed.

Without an iota of doubt, it is difficult to tackle with such a painful period of history. Although a majority of Canada masses have never learned about the history of residential schools but residential schools have been closed for nearly 20 years. Now it is very important for Canadian government to slowly uncover these past abuses if government wants to provide Aboriginals with the support they need to recover and build a stronger future.

Summing up all, who is responsible for these five recent issues in Aboriginal communities, and what can Canadian government do to better support them? Facing these five problems is the first step, but it is ultimately up to government ministries, commissions and communities and other human right institutions to work collectively to cultivate a sense of resolve.