Opinion: A troubling relationship with Native people in Canada

A residential school in Saskatchewan. Circa 1906. Photo by John Woodruff

Jake Flanigan of The New York Times explores Canada's treatment of Native people:
Today, Canada is one of the few countries in the Western Hemisphere where the indigenous population is actually growing. In 2001, 976,600 Canadians self-identified as Aboriginal, reports Jonathan Kay for the National Post. “By 2011, the figure was 1.4 million.” This follows nearly two centuries of steady population decline due to diseases imported from the Old World, and more direct exterminatory measures in the 19th century such as starvation and colonial warfare.

While roughly 40 percent of registered Aboriginals still reside on rural reservations laid aside by the Canadian government, “many of them will be moving to urban areas in coming years, in search of jobs,” Mr. Kay writes, and this poses the greatest challenge to Canadian integration efforts. “Is Canada ready to help them integrate into urban culture?” he asks.

“Unlike East Asians and South Asians,” which are the two most populous visible-minority groups in Canada according to the 2011 census, “Aboriginals who live in a big city do not have any large, prosperous clusters they can look to for start-up communities,” Mr. Kay explains. “Aboriginal enclaves in cities tend to be poor and geographically disparate.”

Some observers, however, blame the failed integration of indigenous tribes not on Canadian policymakers, but rather Aboriginal leaders. “The rhetoric and political pressuring of Aboriginal leadership has been to disassociate their communities to the greatest extent possible from mainstream Canada,” writes Jeffrey Simpson for The Globe and Mail. “The entire constitutional, political, economic and sociological structures of Aboriginal Canada have been based for many decades now on parallelism within Canada, a hard sell to the rest of the population that is strongly integrationist.”

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Jake Flanigan: What’s Behind Canada’s Troubled Relationship With Its Aboriginal Peoples (The New York Times 7/24)

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