Canadian Indian Act

The first Canadian Indian Act was issued in 1876. Though it has been revised

numerous times, this hundred and thirty year old legislation has been left virtually

unchanged. Established in order to ensure the assimilation of Native Americans in

Canada, the Indian Act instead had achieved the total opposite. It has made this

distinction more and has given immense power to the government, letting them control

all who reside on the reserves. It was then that the distinction between Status Indians and

Non-Status Indians was made. The Canadian government quickly displayed their control

by forbidding the sale of any land within the reserve unless it was turned over to the


Another major part of the act was the enfranchisement of the Native American.

When most refused to become enfranchised, the government made it so all Native

Americans obtaining a University degree would automatically become enfranchised. In

the amendment of 1884, the government banned the potlatch ceremony (a popular

celebration among the First Nations an the Pacific Coast) for they believe it was a corrupt

and destructive ritual. In 1951, after the imprisonment of numerous Natives, this

legislation was dropped by the act. In 1927, it became forbidden for any person to raise

money for Aboriginal in order to pursue any claim, unless permission was granted by the

Superintendent General of Indian Affairs, yet attempt in making them absolutely

dependent of the government. The next important change occurred in 1960 when the

Aboriginal were finally given the right to vote. Though the implementation of better

health services and the accessibility to education increased, the First Nations still found

themselves living below the poverty standard of average Canadians.

As we fast forward to the present, we see that this act may have diversified effects on

Native American people. Take for example a small northern reserve. We have people

who live in poorly constructed homes that are not even built to withstand the cold. They

cannot even afford running water, which makes laundry and bathing a difficult task. All

of this is happening because they are not self sufficient. These people do not have the

knowledge needed to properly run the reserve. These Native Americans have no choice

but to depend on a government that cannot fulfill the their needs. Besides not receiving

enough funds from the government, they are expected to pay ridiculously high prices to

satisfy their basic needs such as food from convenient stores. Though they intend to one

day own their own stores, they are practically denied the opportunity to communicate

with those in charge.

On the positive side, they have learned English, their children do attend school.

However, the level of education is not sufficient. To be able to assimilate into an

environment, they would have to work harder yet they are continuously slowed down by

the government. This is simply one example of a people living in atrocious conditions.

There are Natives living a better life. They are well educated, having degrees in

engineering, law, architecture among others. Most of their population is employed and

nearly self sufficient. They lead lives very similar to those of non-status Indians. A great

achievement on their part, but not quite perfect. Since the Canadian government banned

the right for any Native American to own or sell any land, they cannot sell the houses

they have built. Outsiders are reluctant to purchase houses on the reserve for they fear its

unstable situation. Another clause in the Indian act prohibits them to connect to the major

sewage system.

In conclusion, it difficult to understand how a government we claim to be

civilized and free to all can promote an amendment so primitive and ultimately

suppressive. Though the initial plan seemed to be the assimilation of the First Nations,

the government has also went out of their way to do the exact opposite. Such laws leave

little hope for those who have no recourse or legal backing, those how depend on a mute

system that hinders the tribes with natural resources but sustains the ones without. And

those who are better off must still fight to obtain what should be there birth right. Sadly,

even though the Indian Act has been around for over one hundred and thirty years, the

shackles of it’s either