Gender, Colonialism and Aboriginal peoples.doc

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Jan 4, 2012
Aboriginal groups are very diverse, therefore we must not make any formal
generalizations (i.e., “Indian”, Aboriginal peoples speak over 60 languages, and
there are 52 distinct cultural groups.
It is a stereotype that Aboriginal peoples only live on reserves. As of 2011, 70% of
Aboriginals live off reserves, and 69% actually live in major cities.
Why the exodus off reserves? In some reserves, such as the Mohawk reserve in
Quebec, language and culture flourished, but are presumably the exception to the
general rule of a reserves characterized by poverty. There are studies on living
conditions and health issues on living conditions in reservations in Canada, and it
has been documented how conditions on reservations really closely resemble
those that we would associate with developing Third World countries. I.e., housing,
running water, poor sanitary conditions. These conditions cultivate disaster and
despair, and led to many other heath issues such as tuberculosis.
“Body Bag” Scandal – with the outbreak of H1N1 virus, Aboriginal peoples on
reserves were sent body bags rather than the vaccination of the virus.
1. Review Previous Discussions Relating to Aboriginal Peoples
Early in the colonial relationship between white settlers and Aboriginal peoples,
there was somewhat of an equitable relationship, where they were reliant on each
other (i.e., fur trade). But their arrival shattered prevailing gender roles within
Aboriginal peoples (i.e., women and two-spirited people). Nevertheless, Aboriginal
men had a certain degree of power to negotiate treaty and trade with the white
The more the Canadian economy changed, the more Aboriginal peoples were seen
as impediments to colonialization and progress and were treated accordingly.
The state policies sought to “civilize” and “Christianize” Aboriginal peoples, and
virtually control all aspects of their rights (i.e., Indian Act).
The goals of early legislation and early laws for Aboriginal peoples were exercise
control, which led to the assimilation of Aboriginal peoples (i.e. residential schools,
reservation systems, land-cessation treaties, non-Aboriginal modes of family etc.)
a. Social and economic marginalization
i. Average income
In 2001, the average income of Aboriginal people was 36% lower than
the national average.
ii. Poverty
Aboriginal women are amongst the poorest of the poor in Canada;
they’re poorer than Aboriginal men, and non-Aboriginal women.
iii. Death rate
The death rate between Aboriginal people between 25 and 44 is 5
times higher than the general death rate of non-Aboriginal peoples
that age.
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iv. Life expectancy
The life expectancy for Aboriginal men and women is 6.7 years lower
than non-Aboriginal men and women.
v. Experiences with violence
Aboriginal women experience violence, including abuse, assault and
murder (i.e. Pickton Case – one of the reason why the murdering was
allowed to go on for so long is because of the killing of Aboriginal
women who are not treated as equals.)
The overall mortality rate from violence is 3 times higher for Aboriginal
women than non-Aboriginal women.
Aboriginal women, and racialized women in general, who are sexually
assaulted, are less likely to be taken seriously than white women.
b. Section 12 (1)(b) of the Indian Act
Why was the Indian Act discriminatory? An Aboriginal man (with Indian
status) who married a non-Aboriginal woman was able to not only transfer
his status to his new wife, but also onto his children. However, women who
intermarried were not only unable to transfer their Indian status to their
husband or future offspring, but also lose their status, and lost privileges that
went along with being so-called “status Indians”.
i. Jeannette Corbiere-Lavell
An Aboriginal woman from Ontario lost her status by marrying a non-
Indian man (she lost the case).
ii. Mary Two-Axe Early’s activism
She led extended activism on this issue and played a large role in
highlighting this problem to the House of Commons and international
iii. Sandra Lovelace at the United Nations
Lovelace was an Aboriginal woman who became divorced from a non-
aboriginal man, and was seeking to regain her Indian status, but was
denied. Both Canadian and reserve politicians attempted to prevent
her from living on the reserve where she was originally from, and
threatened to charge her with trespassing.
She later approached the UN Human Rights Committee, which claimed
that since she was denied access to her reserve, she was also denied
access to her Maliseet, culture, and language. The Canadian
government ignored this ruling, as they have often done in the past.
However, the publicity of this case led to national embarrassment,
resulting in an amendment of the provision (Bill C-31)
iv. Bill C-31 (1985)
Called the act to amend the Indian Act, which essentially reversed S.
12 (1)(b) of the Indian Act.
Because of Bill C-31, an estimated 35,000 women re-claimed their
status. However, there were severe restrictions on retroactive claims
from second generation of people who lost their status because of their
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