Overcoming Assimilation: Aboriginal Relations in Canada

by cscott18 on October 5, 2017 - 10:51am

Aboriginal relations are one of the largest failures in Canadian history, although recent years have seen cooperation in negotiations due to the adoption of UNDRIP in 2016 by the government. Threats of assimilation have gone, but many disputes still arise over land/resource rights and development. This article by Paul Withers (2017) discusses the current tensions between local fishermen and the Mi’kmaq tribe in Nova Scotia. The issue starts with the poverty in reserves due to the lack of government funding for things like clean water. This lifestyle forces these aboriginals to sell illegal lobster out of season to support their families. Trapping out of season resulted in smaller, less mature lobster being caught which can have detrimental affects to stocks next year and resulted in local fishermen protesting about aboriginal fishing rights. Yet, most tribes like Sipekne’katik were more concerned about how aboriginals are involved in only 1% of fisheries and how more inclusiveness would allow them to fish for their livelihood.  The DFO heard this concern and gave 25% of the east coast’s clam quota to an aboriginal enterprise and an award of 1,100 tonnes of snow crab to First Nations earlier this year. Negotiations have come a long way from the Indian Act of 1876 and the intent of this article is to illustrate that progress as well as the source that starts these indigenous problems, poverty.


Membertou chief, Terry Paul describes an unacceptable level of unemployment and poverty still lingering from assimilation (Withers, 2017). The root of the problem is simple; the government spends 30% less on education for natives and this stems into 3 times more high school dropouts, 2 times higher unemployment, 10 times more criminals and most importantly a median income that's 60% the national average (Statistics Canada, 2015). Combine this with more underfunding for clean water etc.. and it becomes abundantly clear to me that our government policies are the very reason those fishermen trapped lobster out of season. It bothers me that the Harper government denied the UNDRIP in 2007 while witnessing cases like this and has waited until now to make a real impact. It raises questions like what advantages came from not adopting UNDRIP? However, Trudeau has promised more funding for education and mental health, but there are many other issues on reserves that lead to poverty. I live near Rama, one of the richest reserves in the country because of their casino and even this reserve needs major renovations and more government funding.


Due to the unemployment rate and lack of education, aboriginals find it difficult to secure a foothold in any major resource industry as shown in this article. Seeing that Canada runs on a staples economy, these industries are the backbone of our country and natives should have more involvement in them. 1,100 tonnes of crab isn't a solution and although 25% of the east’s clam quota is a small step in the right direction, this is only helping one enterprise. Canada needs to take some new steps and find a way to give our first nations a larger role in these industries, after all it's their resources were exploiting. How do we expect them to secure jobs when we don't supply an education? But, as Trudeau increases education funding, more aboriginals will be qualified to work in their area of concern, the environment. Therefore, help should be provided to ensure they are involved right now while times are tough and in the future, a whole new aboriginal workforce will be ready to support the industry.





Statistics Canada as published in Gilmore, S. (2015, January 22). Canada’s race problem? It’s even worse than America's. Macleans. Retreived from http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/out-of-sight-out-of-mind-2/


Withers, P. (2017, September 29). Indigenous fishermen can't be blamed for 'trying to make a living,' chief says amid lobster dispute. CBC. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/first-nations-fishery-lobster-...



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