Your journey in understanding key topics related to First Contact begins here. We’ve gathered this information and provided the resource links in this section as a companion to the First Contact series, and to encourage continued education on these significant subjects.
Mental Health Check:
If the information or links within this web site triggers an emotional trauma please reach out to the 24 Hour National Survivors Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419. or the Canada Suicide Prevention Service (CSPS), callers anywhere in Canada can access crisis support by phone, in French or English: toll-free 1-833-456-4566 Available 24/7.
Episode 101: Residential Schools.
Residential schools were government-sponsored religious schools established to assimilate Indigenous children into Euro-Canadian culture. The residential school system operated for over 150 years in Canada, between 1831 and 1996, systematically undermining Indigenous culture across Canada and disrupting families for generations to come.
The system forcibly separated children from their families for extended periods of time and in many cases children attending these schools never returned home. The system forbade these children from acknowledging their Indigenous heritage, their culture and their own languages. Children were severely punished if these, among other, strict rules were broken. The system severed many ties with Indigenous culture and sustained, and contributed to major loss of language for hundreds of thousands of Indigenous children. Many students of residential schools grew up without experiencing a nurturing family life and without the knowledge and skills to be able to raise their own families. These devastating effects of the residential school system continue to have significant impact on Indigenous communities today.
It’s only when we review and understand these various aspects of assimilation and their related policies, that we truly understand the atrocity of residential schools in Canada.
Additional Resources on the Residential School System:
Episode 101: Indigenous Barriers to Success.
The number of Canadians who identify as Indigenous has grown four times faster than the rest of the Canadian population between 2006 and 2011. This pace is expected to continue to increase according to the government agency Statistics Canada, but Indigenous people and communities still face deeply rooted, social and economic challenges. They include poverty, high suicide and incarceration rates, family violence, substance abuse, food insecurity and high rates of involvement in the child welfare system. As a result, these negatively impact the health and well-being for many Indigenous people in Canada and these challenges are intricately connected to historic and ongoing impacts of colonialism.
Education is critical for obtaining gainful employment and addressing some of these deeply rooted challenges and for many Indigenous people, experience with Canada’s formal education system has been a traumatic one. In the spirit of advancing opportunities for Indigenous students, new programs like the Gordon Oakes Red Bear Student Centre at the University of Saskatchewan have been created. There, Indigenous students are enhancing their success in graduating from university and connecting through their teachings, traditions and cultures while doing so.
Additional Resources on Indigenous Barriers to Success:
Episode 101: Facts About Seal Hunting.
In 1983, after animal activists groups like Green Peace were able to convince the European Union to ban products made from whitecoat harp seal pups, everything changed for the worst for Inuit people in the Canadian arctic. If that wasn’t enough, yet another ban in 2009 by the European Union caused even more hardship for the Inuit people who rely on their seal hunt to sustain their livelihood, their culture and their economy.
“Angry Inuk,” a film by Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, enlightens viewers by providing background on the reality behind the anti-seal hunt demonstrations and those using whitecoat harp seal pups as their slogan. By portraying the helpless baby white seal as their poster darling, animal activists have been able to, time and again, convince world governments and the public that hunting seals is “evil and cruel” and unnecessary.
Additional Resources on Seal Hunting:
Episode 102: Boil Water Advisories.
It’s Nibi in Ojibway, Nipiy in Cree, Samqwan in Mi’kmaq, and other nations have their own word for it. We all know it by the English word, water. We also know how important it is to life. We’ve heard about how pollution has caused changes to fish, and we can’t eat as much of this staple as we used to because of it. Some First Nations members cannot even drink their water.
The First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) currently monitors 285 community water systems with 5 or more connections and 49 public water systems that may have fewer than 5 connections and include public facilities. This is across 193 First Nations in British Columbia.
During 2017 – Seven long-term advisories (lasting longer than a year) were lifted (Six of which were boil water and one of which was do not consume advisories).
During 2016 – Seven long-term (lasting longer than a year) boil water advisories were lifted.
During 2015 – eleven long-term advisories (lasting longer than a year) were lifted (ten of which were boil water advisories and one of which was a long-term do not consume advisory).
Information on Drinking Water Advisories in community water systems is updated on the FNHA website (see web-link below) on a monthly basis and details the different types of Drinking Water Advisories that were in effect on the specified date.
Additional Resources on Boil Water Advisories:
Episode 102: What are Treaties?
Indigenous peoples in Canada signed treaties with British and later, Canadian governments before and after Confederation in 1867. A treaty is a mutual agreement between nations, defining their relationship and how it is conducted. No two treaties are identical and they’re comprised of a various rights; including reserve lands, annuities (a sum of money paid each year) and hunting and fishing rights. The treaty annuities are annual cash payments distributed by the Government of Canada to the registered descendants of the Indigenous peoples in Canada who signed the Robinson–Superior, Robinson–Huron treaties and the Numbered Treaties.
Treaty annuities are normally paid in cash at Treaty Day events held annually on or off reserve. Most descendants of the Numbered Treaties signatories receive $4 or $5 annually, an amount that has not increased over time to reflect inflation.
The treaty rights of an individual treaty signee will depend on the precise terms and conditions of the treaty that his or her First Nation signed. As a resource, you can learn more and explore a map of the treaty boundaries here at http://www.trcm.ca/treaties/.
It’s difficult to understand and narrowing views of treaties have produced a huge divide between the Canadian government’s perspective and that of Indigenous peoples. On the one hand is the government’s view of treaties as legal instruments that surrendered Indigenous rights. On the other is the Indigenous view of treaties as instruments of relationships between autonomous peoples who agree to share the lands and resources of Canada. Seen from the Indigenous perspective, treaties do not surrender rights; rather, they confirm Indigenous rights. Treaties recognize that Indigenous peoples have the capacity to self-govern. Bridging the gap between these two views of treaties poses a huge challenge to people and lawmakers in Canada.
Additional Resources on Treaties:
Episode 102: Ermineskin Residential School:
Roman Catholic missionaries established a boarding school just west of Hobbema, in what is now Alberta, in 1894. Ill health and overcrowding were problems in the school’s early years and in 1903, three children died of tuberculosis. Tragically, a government survey in the 1920s concluded that fifty per cent of the students at the school were infected with tuberculosis.
The federal government assumed complete responsibility for the facility in 1969. The residence closed in the early 1970s, and the educational facilities were transferred to the Ermineskin Band in 1979.
Additional Resources on the Ermineskin Residential School:
Episode 103: Indigenous Homelessness.
Indigenous homelessness is a human condition that describes many First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples living in Canada. Many Indigenous families and communities lack stable, permanent housing, or the immediate prospect of such resources. These communities develop mental health problems that have damaging effects and act as a barrier to establishing a better quality of life.
Unlike the common definition of homelessness (lacking a structure of habitation), Indigenous homelessness can also be described as a scarcity of basic necessities of life and culture. To be more specific, Indigenous homelessness can include; individuals, families and communities isolated from their relationships to their land, water, family, kin, animals, their languages and their cultural identities.
Importantly, Indigenous people experiencing these kinds of homelessness cannot reconnect culturally, spiritually, emotionally or physically with their “Indigeneity”.
Additional Resources on Indigenous Homelessness:
Episode 103: Indigenous Overrepresentation in the Justice System:
Indigenous overrepresentation in the criminal justice system is one of the clearest examples of what the Supreme Court of Canada has referred to as “a crisis in the Canadian justice system”.
Indigenous overrepresentation is often thought of as a problem in western Canada but in fact, Ontario ranks third in terms of overrepresentation across the country.
Indigenous youth are overrepresented in Ontario correctional facilities at a much higher rate than Aboriginal adults are. While recent sentencing amendments and Supreme Court decisions have led to a lowering of the overall jail population, the drop in Aboriginal admissions is much smaller than that of non-Aboriginal admissions. This is true in both the adult and youth justice systems and suggests that overrepresentation will continue to be a problem for many years to come.
Additional Resources on Indigenous Overrepresentation in the Justice System:
Episode 103: Indian Act
The Indian Act of 1876 gave the federal government complete control over Indigenous people in Canada. Specifically, The Act pertains to Indian status, bands, and Indian reserves and does not pertain to Métis or Inuit peoples in Canada. The Indian Act was based on the premise that it was the Crown’s responsibility to protect the interests of Indigenous people and it would carry out this responsibility by acting as a “guardian”, until such time as Indigenous people could fully integrate into Canadian society.
The Act gave great authority to the federal “Department of Indian Affairs”. The Department could intervene in a variety of internal band issues and make sweeping policy decisions, such as determining who was and wasn’t an Indian. Under the Act, The Department also managed Indigenous lands, resources and their money, controlling access to intoxicants and promoted assimilation. The Act violated human rights and created social and cultural disruptions for generations of Indigenous people in Canada.
The Act is still in effect today and has been amended several times, most significantly in 1951 and 1985, with changes focusing on the removal of particularly discriminatory sections. The Indian Act is also one of the most frequently amended pieces of legislation in Canadian history. It was amended nearly every year between 1876 and 1927.
Over-time, the legislation under the Indian Act became increasingly restrictive and imposed greater controls on the lives of Indigenous people in Canada. The Act forced the abandonment of traditional ways of life and introduced bans on spiritual and religious ceremonies, such as the Potlatch and Sundance.
Additional Resources on the Indian Act: