Why Infrastructure (Canada)
Drawing from the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (1996), Canada’s
relationship with its Aboriginal people has had essentially three phases4;
- Contact and cooperation; and,
- Displacement and assimilation.
Displacement and assimilation of Aboriginal people began in the late 1700's under
British rule. Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald created Canada’s
policy on forced Aboriginal assimilation when he informed Parliament Canada’s goal
“... to do away with the tribal system and assimilate the Indian people in all respects
with the inhabitants of the Dominion.”1
The country’s perception of this policy was as a duty to “civilize” Aboriginal people.
This duty became the justification for the extensive annexation of Aboriginal lands
and resources. Federal legislation was created that purposely designed educational
systems, social policies and economic developments to extinguish Aboriginal rights
and assimilate Aboriginal people. As a direct consequence of Canada’s policy on forced
Aboriginal assimilation, two paths were laid out at confederation,
“... one for non-Aboriginal Canadians with full participation in the affairs of their
communities, province and nation; and one for the people of the First Nations, separated
from provincial and national life, and henceforth to exist in communities where their
traditional governments were ignored, undermined and suppressed, and whose colonization
was as profound as it would prove to be immutable over the ensuing decades.”5
One hundred and forty one years later, on June 11, 2008 Prime Minister Stephen Harper
declared that forced Aboriginal assimilation no longer had a place in Canada. The
legacy of Canada’s policy on forced assimilation includes:
- A history of incomprehensible abuse of Indigenous people;
- Wounded people and communities in need of healing and rebuilding;
- Rampant poverty;
- Aboriginal communities and nations devoid of modern infrastructure through which
to rebuild; and,
- A country built on a lie and in need of reconciliation.
Across Canada, most Nation communities are trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty
because they refused to assimilate to non-aboriginal ways. Poverty in today’s Aboriginal
communities was purposely caused by the destruction of traditional Aboriginal infrastructure
in an effort to force Aboriginal people from their land into non-Aboriginal communities.
The withholding of Aboriginal rights to build traditional infrastructure while the
Indian Residential School system erased memories of the cultural functioning of local,
regional and national Aboriginal infrastructure, left Canada’s Indigenous Peoples
almost devoid of infrastructure. What little infrastructure remains now functions
as non-Aboriginal infrastructure facilitating federal programs developed within a
system created by the policy of forced assimilation. Traditional Aboriginal infrastructures
are missing for trade and commerce, education, resource management, traditional foods,
health, justice and more.
Now that Canada has acknowledged the human carnage caused by the policy of forced
Aboriginal assimilation, we are left with absent, insufficient or inappropriate infrastructure
in each of the areas that Indigenous infrastructures should have developed to keep
pace with the changing needs of Indigenous citizens. These missing traditional infrastructures
would have developed in a modern context and integrated into modern Canadian and
global infrastructure. Nothing will change for Canada’s First Nation, Inuit, Innu
and Métis nations until missing traditional aboriginal infrastructures are restored
and harmonized into both the Canadian and global systems. Only then will reconciliation
in Canada be achieved.
It is time for a fourth phase in Canada’s relationship with its Aboriginal Peoples.
It is time for the phase of restoration and harmonization. To achieve this, traditional
Aboriginal infrastructure needs to be rebuilt and harmonized with local, provincial,
federal and international infrastructure. These infrastructures would already exist
if Canada had not chosen to displace and assimilate its Indigenous Peoples.
See Reference Footnotes
© Christian Aboriginal Infrastructure Developments
Last Updated September 15, 2015