Which offers the chance of a better future for Canada’s “ native people”, self-government or integration into urban Canada?
The initial wave of First Nations genocide took place from the 1500s to the early mid 19th century. It caused the extinction of entire tribes or the traumatic decimation of populations due to European disease; the loss of traditional hunting lands and their economies; and a church-state partnership with the intent of assimilation that would threaten all hope for its future generations. That policy of assimilation was reinforced in 1867 by the British North America Act that determined Aboriginal people as wards of the state with no rights of their own. The First Nations were not aware of this meaning and when approached by the government negotiated treaties that clearly stated that the two parties would share the land, resources, medi-care and education; as long as the First Nations lived on parcels of land called reserves. In 1879, the policy for education came into play with the Residential Boarding Schools and the government forcibly removed First Nations children from their families. The system saw the death and abuse of tens of thousands  of Aboriginal children. The children lived in substandard conditions and endured physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Closer scrutiny of past treatment of native children at Indian residential schools would show 100% of children at some schools were sexually abused. These children remained at the schools for 10 months out of the year and rarely experienced normal family life. They were not allowed to speak their language or practice their ceremonial traditions, and rarely saw their parents. When these children returned to their families on the reserve, they were severely emotionally and psychologically damaged and no longer fit in with their communities. An average non-Aboriginal mainstream Canadian might wonder what this has to do with First Nations and their struggle for self-governance – in short – everything. This is because the second wave of genocide began when those very children were striped of their entire identity including any morsel of self worth. When those children became adults, they were not equipped to cope with life or parent their own children, thus perpetuating the cycle of abuse upon their offspring. The impacts cascaded through time creating second and third generations of residential school survivors. Their suffering to recover was further impacted by the government’s broken treaty promises to share the land and resources leaving them in poverty. It was not until 1982 that the Constitution Act recognized and affirmed the existing Aboriginal and treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada. This recognition infused the survivors to fight for compensation and acknowledgment of their abuse by the government, which burgeoned an Aboriginal people’s movement for self-governance. First Nations began demanding acknowledgement and an apology from the government for its treatment of the Aboriginal children that suffered in the residential school system. After a great deal of stalling, on June 11, 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered a public apology. The late, NDP leader Jack Layton stated that the country was still living with the residential school legacy, and called on Canadians to help “reverse the horrific and shameful statistics afflicting Aboriginal populations, now: the high rates of poverty, suicide, the poor or having no education, overcrowding, crumbling housing, and unsafe drinking water”. The uncovering and acknowledgement of this dark part of Canadian history has created a surge of defiance and collective nationalism among Aboriginal people. Yet, this residential school legacy has also ironically supported another form of genocide implemented by the government that continues. It is in the form of handouts to establish programs largely aimed at the psychological and emotional