Canada's Indians: A Powerless Minority

Harding, Jim
Publisher:  SUPA Research, Information and Publications Project, Canada
Year Published:  1965  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX11860

Discusses several complicated issues bringing to light the troubling relationship between the Canadian government and Native communities.

Abstract:  Jim Harding's Canada's Indians: A Powerless Minority highlights several contentious issues between the Canadian government and Aboriginal communities. In the 1960s, during a time of increasing economic and industrial growth, Canadian Aboriginals were often ignored and faced with the decision to either integrate fully into Canadian society, or be a powerless minority within the nation. Harding explains, "One could say that the problems facing people of Indian ancestry occurred by accident, and are unfortunate results of the random growth of Canadian society. According to this view, it would be common to state that until the Indian and Metis completely assimilate into mainstream society, and reject their cultural remnants, their underdevelopment will continue. Such a view would not point to any explicit factors underlying the problems". Harding criticizes the government for its failure to adapt policies and programs that would benefit both sides. He believes that "if one does not allow a people to learn and develop responsibility, responsible behaviour is unlikely. Often the failure to allow people of Indian ancestry to run their own affairs has created the conditions and attitudes whereby they are unable to run them. The self-fulfilling prophecy plays a major role in relationships between a dominant group and an ethnic minority, and there is no exception regarding people of Indian ancestry"
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The denial of repression and the denial of responsibility from government officials in the affairs of Native populations "undermined the values of self-determination and freedom". Writing about theses issues, Harding attempts to shed light on the situation and make suggestions towards improving the relationship between the government and Native communities. Harding emphasizes how Natives in Canada were treated with a paternalistic attitude by the government and seen as a people who had the choice to either assimilate or disintegrate. He also comments on the perspective of many Canadians, believing "We have been ingrained with "racist thinking," and because we do not yet have a racial conflict of major social consequence, we do not even know it yet". The article calls for a new approach to bridge the gaps between Native communities and the Canadian government. Self-determination and self-governance must be brought to the bargaining table in order for the people as well as the nation to benefit. Harding's article discusses several complicated issues bringing to light the troubling relationship between the Canadian government and Native communities.

[Abstract by William Stevenson]

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