As a young nation, Canada has a very unique and complex history. Native or aboriginal people are a large part of this history, and their interactions with foreign nations can be dated back early as the first arrivals of French settlers. At this point the relationships between outsiders and Aboriginals have now been established.
Mistakes from the Government have helped improve later agreements for example the special status and rights given to the Native groups. However, through the countless alterations of agreements and laws, the Native to non-Native relationship will not achieve full equity and understanding. Therefore Canada can not achieve Native Reconciliation. Major disputes can be found in some events that not only changed the Native connection, but also Canada, forever. Such as one of the earliest treaties Treaty Number 11 in 1921, WWII Aboriginal Involvement, the White paper of 1969 and lastly a rather recent violent stand-off The Oka Crisis of 1990. Treaty Number 11 in 1921 was the last of 11 treaties signed between Canadian Monarchs and the Natives and was an early display of unfair treatment to the Native people. The treaty was created to suit the living needs of Aboriginals in northern provinces with less agricultural potential due to harsh conditions. It provided education, land, health rights.
Natives people objected the Treaty rights because they had different goals and ideologies. Aboriginal goals include: “1. To ensure the physical survival of Indian nations; 2.
To keep peaceful relations with the Canadian government through ongoing relationships of equality and respect; 3. To affirm the ongoing cultural and spiritual survival as distinct Indian tribes and nations, by preserving distinctive traditions and institutions; and 4. To be able to make a transition to a new lifestyle by borrowing certain technologies, including the treaty promises involving educational, economic, health and other benefits” (Price, 1992). Federal government goals include: ” To acquire legal title to western and northern lands for farming, railways, mining and other types of development; 2. To peacefully settle the west with Ontario and European immigrant farmers; 3. To keep the costs of this western expansion at minimum, and in particular to avoid costly wars with Indian and Metis inhabitants; 4.
To stop American expansion into Canada’s western and northern territories and to protect these territories; and 5. To respond, to some degree, to Indian requests for treaties and treaty benefits” (Price, 1992). With immensely differed goals, relationships between the Aboriginals and the rest of Canada worsened as conflicts over rights continued and unity shattered. Treaty 11 of the Native treaties of Canada was one of the first sparks that led to future clashes.
What would catch fire for the Natives was their involvement during the 2nd World War against the Axis powers. Thousands of Natives volunteered and enlisted for the war-effort, along with many homefront contributions such as donations and bond selling. Despite the military services provided by the natives, racist attitudes persisted in the beginning of the enlistment process with a “whites only” mentality against the minority groups. “First Nations leaders remembered the limited exemption in 1918 and protested that it was unjust to compel people without citizenship rights to fight to defend those same rights..
.this policy remained unchanged until late 1944, when the conscription crisis forced Prime Minister Mackenzie King to begin sending conscripts into combat overseas, including Status Indians. This, however, violated promises made during negotiation of several historical treaties and Indian Affairs requested a limited exemption for Status Indian conscripts, which was passed in December 1944″(Sheffield, n.d.). In the post war period as veterans returned home, racism lasted until the end of the war as many Native veterans were not given proper treatment and recognition. Without aid from the government after the war, Aboriginals became one of the most disadvantaged groups in Canada which brought further government action and conflicts.
In 1969, former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau introduced his ‘White paper’ policies. This unified the Aboriginals but the movement was against the government. The White Paper(also known as the Statement of the Government of Canada on Indian Policy) was passed to change Indian status and rights as well as abolish historical treaties. The Natives viewed this as another assimilation attempt despite Trudeau’s truly positive intent. The Paper would however eliminate Indian status, culture and freedom. ” If we are to be part of the Canadian mosaic, then we want to be colourful red tiles, taking our place where red is both needed and wanted” (Cardinal, 1999). Led by Harold Cardinal, the National Indian Brotherhood protested against the ‘White Paper’ with their opposing policies which was known as ‘Red Paper’. These Government decisions forged further resistance from the Natives which would provoke them into using aggressive tactics in response.
Native and non-native relationships worsened due to The Oka Crisis in 1990. The tragic event was a stand-off between the Mohawk tribe and Government deployed law enforcement. It was caused by the industrial expansion into sacred Mohawk territory. Mohawk warriors first took action by building armed roadblocks to cut off access to roads into the Mohawk territory.
The government did not wish for conflict, therefore held several private negotiations, with the Mohawks demanding full sovereignty in the later stages of the stand-off. “There is still no agreement over the land. The only thing that has changed since Oka is that the day-to-day (routine) has returned. Our municipality isn’t that big.
After the crisis it was really hard. People on both sides weren’t talking to each other. No one was looking at each other” (Valiante and Rakobowchuck, 2015). The final issue still remained unresolved today since there is still no agreement over the sacred grounds. The Oka Crisis has been one of the most detrimental issues that nearly caused a war between the Canadian government and the Native tribes, with negative relationships still lingering to the present day.Many attempts have been made to settle a good bond with the Natives and to finally coexist alongside them but both sides have fiercely opposing goals with no clear resolve to have been made in past negotiations; full reconciliation is near impossible.
Both political and social conflicts were factors that scarred our Canadian history and this repeated government action has only fed the growing fire of the Natives. From past to present, issues still remain, and complete reconciliation between Native and white, Aboriginal to non-Aboriginal may not ever be achieved. However we can continue to strive for improvement in the future because coexistence is inevitable.