8 Things You Need to Know About On-Reserve Housing Issues

 Did you know that adequate housing was recognized in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Did you also know that one in five (19.4%) of Aboriginal people lived in a dwelling that was in need of major repairs in 2016? Or that In 2016, 18.3% of Aboriginal people lived in housing that was crowded? [1] Those stats are not for a developing country. 

Those stats are for Canada, which ranked as  the 24th wealthiest country in the world in 2017. In 2014, James Anaya, then-Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, noted that housing in First Nation communities “has reached a crisis level.” [2]

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The ongoing impact of the Indian Act on Indigenous Peoples health

In nearly every country with an Indigenous population, and that includes some of the wealthiest countries in the world, there are disparities between the health of the Indigenous population and that of the non-Indigenous population. In 2017, Canada was ranked as the 24th wealthiest country in the world, according to Global Finance Magazine. Yet, the overall health of Indigenous Peoples in Canada is well below that of the non-Indigenous population.

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Indigenous Peoples Reconciliation and Canada150

June is National Aboriginal History Month, and this year, the day after National Aboriginal History Month ends activities for Canada150 begin. Massive celebrations are planned across the country, as was the case for the centenary. This article will point out some issues that some Indigenous People might have with Canada150. We also would like to acknowledge that many Indigenous Peoples, such as Indigenous actor Adam Beach, who is an ambassador for the celebrations, are supportive of Canada150.

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A Brief Look at Indian Hospitals in Canada

We would like to acknowledge that this article was framed from the research and writing of authors Maureen Lux (Separate Beds A History of Indian Hospitals in Canada, 1920s - 1980s) and Gary Geddes (Medicine Unbundled A Journey Through the Minefields of Indigenous Health Care).


In this article we use “Indian” as that was the term used at the time. For information on appropriate terminology, download our free ebook “Indigenous Peoples: A Guide to Terminology.

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A look at First Nations Prohibition of alcohol 


The Indian Act Prohibited the sale of alcohol to First Nations (1884 - 1985)

 

“Every one who by himself, his clerk, servant or agent, and every one who in the employment or on the premises of another directly or indirectly on any pretense or by any device,

(a) sells, barters, supplies or gives to any Indian or non-treaty Indian, or to any person male or female who is reputed to belong to a particular band, or who follows the Indian mode of life, or any child of such person any intoxicant, or causes or procures the same to be done or attempts the same or connives thereat…..

….shall, on summary conviction before any judge, police magistrate, stipendiary magistrate, or two justices of the peace or Indian agent, be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months and not less than one month, with or without hard labour, or to a penalty not exceeding three hundred dollars and not less than fifty dollars with costs of prosecution, or to both penalty and imprisonment in the discretion of the convicting judge, magistrate, justices of the peace or Indian agent.” [1]

Note on terminology: in this article we use the term "Indian" as it is the term used in the Indian Act. 

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Indian Act and enfranchisement of Indigenous Peoples

 


Enfranchisement of any First Nation admitted to university (1880 amendment)

99.(1) Any Indian who may be admitted to the degree of Doctor of Medicine, or to

any other degree by any University of Learning, or who may be admitted in any

Province of the Dominion to practise law either as an Advocate or as a Barrister

or Counsellor, or Solicitor or Attorney or to be a Notary Public, or who may enter

Holy Orders, or who may be licensed by any denomination of Christians as a

Minister of the Gospel, may upon petition to the Superintendent-General, ipso

facto become and be enfranchised under the provisions of this Act; and the

Superintendent-General may give him a suitable allotment of land from the lands

belonging to the band of which he is a member. [emphasis added]


The ultimate purpose of enfranchisement (loss of status rights) was to encourage

assimilation/civilization and to reduce the number of *Indians the federal government

was financially responsible for. If you gave up your status you gave up associated rights and benefits.

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10 quotes John A. Macdonald made about First Nations

July 1 is Canada Day, a day during which many Canadians celebrate the achievements of the founding fathers of this country. Sir John Alexander Macdonald, as the first Prime Minister of Canada, July 1, 1867 - November 5, 1873, (and again October 17, 1878 - June 6 1891) will be one of those whose achievements will be celebrated.


In the spirit of reconciliation, we wanted to provide a perspective of Prime Minister John A. Macdonald that is often overlooked when the accolades are flowing. He was the architect of the Indian Act which launched the government of Canada on an ever increasingly and repressive series of Acts and policies directed towards the assimilation of the original inhabitants of this land now known as Canada. Residential schools, a cornerstone of the assimilation policy, was recently branded “cultural genocide” by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

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The Residential Schools Apology

On Wednesday June 11, 2008, the Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, made a Statement of Apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools, on behalf of the Government of Canada.

truth-and-reconciliation-commission-report

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Indian Act and Elected Chief and Band Council System

The first thing to know about the Indian Act electoral process is that if you are chief or council, you are elected by your people, but you are accountable to Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.

Ever since the arrival of the colonizers and the imposition of their governance systems throughout Canada, the Aboriginal peoples have resisted and struggled to reconstitute their traditional forms of political representation and governance practices, to maintain control of their own affairs, and to have governments be accountable to them. [1]



As stated in the quote above, the imposition of the Indian Act electoral system undermined a tradition of self-governance that had existed effectively for thousands of years. The imposed system displaced traditional political structures and did not reflect, consider or honour First Nation needs or values. It also did not recognize that each Nation had its own style of governance with specialized skills, tools, authority and capacity developed over centuries. It was designed for assimilation – to remake traditional cultures in the image of the colonizers.

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Indian Act and the Pass System

“No rebel Indians should be allowed off the Reserves without a pass signed by an I.D. official.The dangers of complications with white men will thus be lessened & by preserving a knowledge of individual movements any inclination to petty depredations may be checked by the facility of apprehending those who commit such offences.” [1]

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