Comment 121655

By kevlahan (registered) | Posted June 30, 2017 at 20:37:28

One correction, and a few comments on this timely and stimulating article.

It is not exactly true that "this country was born from treaties with Indigenous peoples", at least not all of the country.

For example, only two treaties were ever signed with first nations in British Columbia until the 1990s, and these covered only a tiny proportion of the province (about 3% of Vancouver Island and some of the Peace River country).

Various treaties were signed during early colonial days by different first nations with France or Britain. However, these treaties were often violated by both sides until the Europeans became dominant and no longer needed the first nations as allies in their wars, and could impose their will by force. First nations did not always consider these treaties binding and with no best before date since they also violated them.

Treaties are a good starting point, but it seems a bit simplistic to imply that treaties signed hundreds of years ago in very different conditions, often with misunderstanding on both sides, between political entities that no longer exist is all you need to sort out the relation between contemporary Canadians of native and non-native (often mixed) ancestry.

One of the most significant and successful treaties was the great peace of 1701 that finally brought peace between the French and 40 first nations, but it is considered nullified by the British conquest of Canada. Only eleven treaties were signed by the government of Canada and they exclude Quebec and the Atlantic provinces entirely. These treaties would seem to have a different status than those signed in the 17th or 18th centuries by the former colonial powers.

The residential school system was appalling, both for its coerciveness, and for the abuse of the children that the government claimed to be educating under its protection.

However, there remains the very difficult question of how to provide services comparable to those enjoyed by most Canadians to isolated communities with very small populations.

Education is mandatory for all Canadians, but the sort of education that is necessary to survive in the modern world is entirely European in origin and therefore alien to first nations traditions. Should it be imposed, as it is for other Canadians? Is a fusion of traditions possible or desirable? How can high quality education be provided to isolated small communities?

It is clearly not possible to have fully equipped high schools in each isolated community with a few hundred residents. I don't have a solution, but it is worth remembering that a "boarding school" would have seemed like a reasonable solution at the time (and was a common experience, often also abusive, for Europeans), even if the actual implementation was abusive and disrespectful of first nations culture. It's also worth remembering that the same tactic was used in Europe to try to eliminate regional ethnic cultures and languages (such as Welsh in the UK or Breton and Occitan in France) by using mandatory education to eliminate minority languages and assimilate the population into the majority.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2017-06-30 20:49:38

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