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Canada's Apartheid, by John Stackhouse
Stories
Introduction
  Nov. 3

Welcome to Harlem on the Prairies
  Nov. 3 (Saskatoon, SK)

Crystal's choice: The best of both worlds
  Nov. 5 (Mississauga, ON)

How the Mi'kmaq profit from fear
  Nov. 6 (Cape Breton, NS)

The healing power of hockey
  Nov. 7 (The Pas, MB)

Norma Rae of the Okanagan
  Nov. 8 (Westbank, BC)

Comic genius or 'niggers in red face'?
  Nov. 9 (Regina, SK)

Praying for a miracle
  Nov. 10 (Lac Ste. Anne, AB)

To have and to have not
  Nov. 12 (Moosonee, ON)

Trouble in paradise
  Nov. 19 (Tofino, BC)

A cut of the action
  Nov. 26 (Wabigoon, ON)

The young and the restless
  Dec. 3 (Ashern, MB)

The wireless warrior's digital dream
  Dec. 10 (Ottawa,ON)

'Everyone thought we were stupid'
  Dec. 14 (Salluit, QC)

First step: End the segregation
  Dec. 15 (Last in the series)

 
Have your say: Reader responses

November 4, 2001

Below are the responses of globeandmail.com visitors to the following question:

"Do you think natives should have a special status, or should all Canadians, native or not, have the same rights?"

To contribute your thoughts, please go to the main have your say page.

All Canadians must be treated the same! We claim to be giving Native Canadians the "rights" that they request. However, I believe that we have assisted in the downward spiral of many Native Canadians. There are no free rides and everyone feels better about themselves when they can take care of themselves. If they can't, the social programs for all Canadians will assist (hopefully) in helping these individuals. I also believe that there are many Native Canadians whose views should be sought on how to solve these repeated problems. I'm almost certain that would mean bringing the persons guilty of crimes against the Natives to justice. We must move forward - the people of Canada deserve no less than this -
Lu

As Aboriginals we are recognized in the Canadian charter. As a Canadian I am also recognized in the Charter. If the government had left the communities alone and not rallied up the Indians and put them on reserves (and told them to stay put)...they might be in a better position today. But, they took children from parents (I was one of those children) -- they put the children in residential schools where they were abused -- and on and on.. Special status? What is that? I am an Indian -- who happens to be paying for my own Executive Master of Business Administration program. Its not cheap. The government pays me treaty $ each year. $5.00 -- which I might add I have not collected for several years. I receive assistance with dental and prescription drugs (so do people on welfare) Oh yes...and I am able to live with a tax exemption because the land I work on belonged to the First People of Canada.
Northpoint

No one should have special rights, it causes resentment in the end. I only wish we, meaning everyone in Canada, could find a way out of this.
Chris

Think of it as an exchange. 400 years ago, Europeans took native land and resources. Now we're paying them for it in the form of tax exemptions and free education. Ask any native what they would rather have, land and dignity or a tax exemption. The answer is obvious. Giving natives special status and tax benefits is the very least we can do.
J.P.

The reason why too many natives are in this state is precisely because of their special status. They should have been treated just like anybody else ever since first contact. The treaties that were signed were first and foremost to establish peace on the frontier. The chiefs have been distorting the meaning of these treaties for too long; they take them to mean that they should have separate little countries within Canada, or in another language Apartheid. The chiefs keep their people down because they do not want to let go of the sole reason for their own special status as chief. Some are dynastic chiefs and are little more than tyrants. Canada should abolish this self-imposed Chief-Apartheid by shredding the treaties, ending these petty tribal 'governments', canceling all self-government talks and settlements, canceling all land-claims, removing DIAND, removing all special funding for their obsolete languages and culture, letting the reserve-natives become individuals like anybody else, and should return the three territories to the federal government by instituting a Federal commissioner for each and dissolving their legislative assemblies. We should remove all special group funding for them and move to integrate them into our society as modern 21st century people, not as hybrid hunter-gatherer/welfare people ruled by petty tyrannical chiefs. The misery is intolerable.
Eric Baecker

All peoples in Canada must have the same rights and privileges and abide by the same set of laws. The system will not work if some have special rights and privileges accorded them. The first step is to eliminate the reservation system. Aboriginals must be educated and trained to fend for themselves. If not this problem will go on forever. Aboriginals have gotten quite enough from society, it is time the pulled their weight.
Orlin D. Olsen

I think as citizens of the same country, and as simply humans, we should all have the same rights - No more, no less. Why should I have to forego a university education because of cost, when if I was of a certain race, that education would be free? By setting the natives apart, they will never join the rest of society, and become Canadians.
Scott Howell

This is not a valid matter for debate. The constitution and the treaties recognize and protect their special status. It is inherent to their existence as First Nations and it is historically justified. The nature of the question is at fault, leading Canadians to believe that there are valid grounds for debate. First Nations are supposed to be protected from racism and the "tyranny" of a non-native majority...that is one of the justifications for the way the European settlers got the land in the first place.
Cathy

All natives and Canadians should be one under the same laws. Racist reserves should have been closed years ago and natives should have been assimilated into the regular Canadian population. Residential schools are a great idea, and all native children should be put in these schools. Money - will not solve this situation - nor will political correctness - but courage and honesty to admit the mess of the current native population and then deal with this is the only solution.
Don

All Canadians must be treated the same, and that includes dealing with the courts. When we start to treat people on there ethnic background we are sowing the seeds of future social conflict.
Myles Sweeney

I believe that Native Canadians should have no more rights than non- native Canadians. All Canadians should have equal rights, which should be enforced.
Peter Dyck

The description of special status is a loaded one. If you ask should natives have the same opportunities to invest in their own future? I would agree. On a level playing field, natives have proven time and time again, they have the capacity to thrive and become economic powerhouses. I don't agree with self-governments only because of my personal beliefs as a Canadian. If the native people had the same rights as the rest of Canada, then you would see reductions in the levels of crime and substance abuse.
Darryl Severight

Natives should have special status. Canada was built on the backsides of natives - look at the resources that were defrauded from them. They can run their own lives. Let them live as they should in there own culture. I 'm sure they can lead themselves.
Lorne Benson

First nations people existed and functioned extremely well before the French and the English "FOUNDED" Canada. They were not discovered as most people in Canada claim. They have their own social, economic spiritual and cultural means for governing themselves and their institutions. I hope you have seen this in your travels. Their rights are based on a different system that was not part of the European system imported to this land, so yes they will have different rights.
F. Post

I do not feel Canadian natives should have special status. Special Status smacks of separate but equal treatment and can only result in poorer treatment of natives and a further division in Canada. I do not believe natives have been mistreated by Canadian society. What we must do is give natives the resources to develop the type of society they want then put a sunset clause on the resources and let them decide if they want to change or want to continue to live in their own ghettos. I have native friends who live on reserves and native friends who live off reserves and to me those that have moved off reserves and into white society are far better off. The reserves serve the band officers and the white social workers and lawyers and white employees and nobody else.
Brian Trueman

I think that all Canadians have to be treated equally, with the same rights, privileges and laws. We will never achieve true harmony until this occurs. In order to achieve this both sides will have to work towards that goal. Compensation for the loss of their traditional lands is paramount
Harv Schmidt

No special rights for anyone. One law, one justice system, one health system, one government. No matter how good the intentions are, someone will always come out feeling, or being, the second-class citizen. Natives lose out because they lose their self-respect. The rest of us lose out because we see the native citizen being given freebies and opportunity that we or our children don't get. It was wrong in South Africa and it is wrong here!
D.G. Howell

The approach taken by the British Government in the 1700 and 1800s and later by the Canadian Government in many ways should be applauded. Although far from perfect, the approach, in general has been far superior to that taken in the majority of the world (both today and historically - especially our southern neighbors). Given the multitude of conquests that occurred around the world, to me it is admirable that the focus has always been on negotiated agreements. Further, I believe it is clear that the multitude of negotiated agreements over the last 200 plus years have clearly recognized the rights of aboriginal people and must continue to be. I strongly believe we should renegotiate our agreements, recognizing and supporting the heritage of our aboriginal peoples, but also fully integrating them into the wonderful society that the majority of Canadians enjoy (7 years as the top UN country speaks for itself). Although I am temporarily living in Argentina, I could not be any more Canadian if I tried and I look forward to returning soon.
Matthew McIntyre

Everyone should be equal. No special rights, no special status. However this shouldn't result in the increase representation of people in professions. Being hired should be based on qualifications, and character, and that is all.
Ian Gray

People who claim "we all should be equal" refuse to recognize the reality that we are just not. The story of Native people in this country is a story of people losing their rights at every turn, from the first meeting with Europeans. Many non-Native Canadians don't realize the enormous invisible privileges they expect and enjoy every day, all earned at the expense of the original inhabitants of this land. We owe them, and we owe them big-time, so yes Natives must have special status, recognizing this huge debt.
Fran

The basis of treaty rights is that they are land based. Since this is the case, it seems to me that these special rights only exist on the reserve, and not where their feet happen to be at any given time. It has been my observation that if you are a white who lives on a reserve and works there, you have no charter rights as you are only there at the graciousness of the Chief or the Band Council. When our Indian friends come to town to live, to access our social system or to do any other thing that is not on the reserve, they are the same as anyone else. So pay your taxes, get a job, love and support your family, if that makes you mainstream and party of society at large, then welcome. If not, then good luck, and call me when you put a man on the moon.
C.D.W.

Arguments that some people should have more or different rights based on the arrival time of their ancestors is feeble. It would be equally ridiculous to give people born in Canada have more rights than landed immigrants. We are all Canadians. Let us try to live and abide by the same rules.
James Denis

Factors leading to this "Important" question would not be there, if those in power in this wonderful country tried a little better to look ahead and recognize that this is a country "stolen" from the rightful owners...we are "not" a conquered people. When Ottawa and those in power on our "Reserves" correct their dealings with those they serve in a manner that is seen as "being accountable"...issues like this will be pushed back, and other more important issues concerning the Nation as a whole will be dealt with more fairly by responsible people. Yes we have and always will have "Special status".
Wayne George

All Canadians should have the same rights. No one group should have special tax status or laws or any other special consideration separate from all Canadians. The government policies pertaining to natives has created a nightmare that will end in a divided Canada. Do away with all reservations and anything, including the Department of Indian Affairs, that separates natives from the rest of Canadian society. The solution is to give all citizens the same opportunities and rights. Help all citizens to prepare for the future by providing them with the tools/skills to be part of and contribute to this land called Canada.
Glen Buckles

Natives have always had special status. That was okay, as long as they and the special status stayed quiet and on Reserves. In this time of violence and turmoil we are the less affected, any ideas why? My idea is we have lived like this for along time, we have adapted and have overcome the oppression.
Janet Baker

Everyone should be treated the same! I do not think it is right that one group (the natives) has more rights than everyone else. There have been governments in the past who have tried to integrate natives by running schools, and, by and large they were treated as wards or children. It is long past the time that they should be treated as equals. They should be equal under the law, and equal as taxpayers. I do not believe this one group should receive a disproportionate share of the taxpayer's money. I have heard that natives do not strongly support having their own local governments, but I do not see a way out of the current situation unless they do. A first step may be getting rid of the Department of Indian Affairs.
Dick Carpani

Special status for natives? If they get special status then who will have lesser status? You cannot have one without the other. What a ridiculous question you pose. The answer to the poverty and disenfranchisement of the native population lies within their own self-empowerment and not through legislative policies from the federal or provincial government. They need to uncouple themselves from the band and chief mentality which creates a dictatorial system under which no one succeeds. I find the equating of the native population to Apartheid highly irresponsible. But I guess sensational headlines sell papers and not good reporting.
John Lanthier

I don't believe that we got such a great deal. I cannot believe that the Chiefs at the time of Treaty making were trying to make the Band members the poorest people in the land, it just does not make sense. Maybe we should redo the Treaties and put them in our language and not let government know what the true meanings behind the words are or let them know that what it really means to us is we will change it as we go along to benefit only our side of the equation.
Greg Plain

We should make a serious move to no distinction between all members of society, native or non-native. I realize this will be difficult and take a long time, but eventually, it must be done. I think everyone with an interest or concern with this issue should read Tom Flanagan's "First Nations, Second Thoughts".
Carl Hall

All Canadians should be treated to the same laws, without the benefit of hiding behind the cloak of ethnic diversity and so-called historical injustices. This is not Yugoslavia - we should not divide ourselves into ethnic enclaves - whether they be Native, French, English or Dutch, etc.
Mark Paolone

The state should not have to give minorities funding to promote their cultures, culture is a personal thing and can be dealt with on one's own time. I just think that, if it has to come down to it, we of European descent conquered the natives fair and square, but that doesn't mean we have to grind them under our bootheel, they should be given rights equal to those of any citizen in our great country, nothing more, nothing less.
Thomas Cook

To compare the plight of the blacks to the state of affairs of the Natives in Canada is an insult to the people of South Africa and the struggle they in which they have been involved. I, by no means, am trying to minimize the situation of Canada's Natives but it is totally inappropriate to label it Canada's Apartheid. Former South African Prime Minister Verwoerd stated: "We want to keep South Africa white. Keeping it white can only mean one thing, namely, white domination, not 'leadership', not 'guidance', but control, supremacy." That was what Apartheid was about. A black person in South Africa had very little rights and freedoms and these lack of rights and freedoms were written into law. It was a long, hard and bloody struggle that finally changed the official policy in South Africa and the struggle is still ongoing for many people there. Using a loaded term like Apartheid is unfair and totally misleading. It is inappropriate for the Globe and Mail to use such a term and I, for one, am disappointed that this paper has chosen such a tactic in order to sell a few papers. I trust most readers have the common sense to realize that Canada's political system is not anywhere near the political system of Apartheid and I think you should re-examine your choice of language.
Iain Thomas

Canadians have treaties with First Nations. Treaties are made between countries. Asking if natives should have special status is equivalent to asking should we respect the special status of United States and Mexico as provided in the NAFTA treaty. I would prefer the question should Canadians honour their treaties?
Sean H.

Native Indians should be given full status as Canadian and treated accordingly. The reservation system is destroying them.
U. Blok-Andersen

Yes, natives should have special status. Besides the fact that our federal government has a basic obligation due to agreements enforced in treaties many years ago, often accompanied with deception, lies and manipulation, the fact remains our governing bodies hold a very ethnocentric, egotistic belief in traditional Christian, "white", paternalistic methods. This to me means that by eliminating special status, as attempted in the late 1970s through the "White Paper", people of aboriginal ancestry will lose the only remaining legal distinction they have that acknowledges the unique position they hold as the first true land owners of Canada and first culture to develop and survive in Canada. This is not to say that people today need to "pay" forever due to the mistakes of the past, but it is to say that the people of today should not have the right to eliminate their obligations simply because they are challenging or difficult. Aboriginal issues are part of our Canadian charter and it is my hope that people do not believe we should simply be able to change our charter, the foundation of our Country, because it does not suit our current mood or financial situation.
Louise

This is one taxpayer that IS fed up with the 'special' status afforded to some provinces and native folks and all at the expense of taxpayers. Should all Canadians be treated equally? You bet they should but unfortunately we seem to have governments, some more than others, that adhere to the mistaken notion that some folks are 'unique, special and the founding nations' who now seem to have miraculously 'earned' this often tax free and independent welfare nation status. It's time we Canadians joined the 'real' world and treated all our citizens equally.
Len Howe

I think First Nations have had enough "special" treatment. I do not agree with Land Treaties either. I should not have to pay for the choices of "My Fathers". Times are different now than they were then. To say that First Nations People should get extra rights is as crazy an idea as to say that African Americans should receive special treatment for the acts committed against them. The best "payment" that could ever be given to a "class" of people is that history has recorded their pain and will always be taught to our children, so that it never happens again. Time to move on with evolution.
Kevin

All Canadians should have the same rights/status, Native, English or French, etc. Every group has a right to celebrate their own heritage but they should not be viewed differently when it comes to legal, financial, moral issues. For example if one group of people is exempt from certain laws and others have to comply we can only expect division.
David Wiebe

I'm not sure what the solution to the national tragedy of our first nations peoples is. They are not going to disappear and go back to isolated reserves where there is no employment and no future. We have to remember that like any other population on the planet they are people and deserve to be treated like human beings. The reserves are comparable to South African townships. Canadian apartheid is a very appropriate name for this series.
Glenda Osnach

I don't believe in special rights for any group. This is a direct route to fragmentation of society. Why is one group entitled to more than another? There is absolutely no justification for this. Canadian citizens, through their tax dolloars, give more than $7-billion each year to native Canadians but there is literally no accountability for this money. As soon as the Minister for Native Affairs makes any suggestion that he will investigate how this money is spent the Indian bands threaten civil disobedience. The current system smacks of corruption and should be dismantled immediately.
Stephen Graham

The question is based on a false assumption. It's not because we're natives that we have special rights. Our rights aren't based on race which your question assumes. Its because we signed political agreements called treaties that guaranteed pre-existing rights such as the right to government ourselves and tax immunity (not exemption)This is similar to the unique rights Provinces have when they entered confederation such as guarantees to Quebec citizens which are now constitutionally protected. The 3 groups of aboriginal peoples recognized in the Canadian Constitution - Indian, Inuit and Metis are all unique. Among the Indian (now called First Nations) there are some 80 distinct Nations. For many First Nations they have yet to negotiate their entry into Confederation. First Nations citizens were not given the right to vote in Canada until 1959. Everyone's rights in Canada are based on their history and they are unique based on where they live. They are now distinguished by how Provincial governments treat you.
Richard C. Powless

Nothing short of a massive and unprecedented long-term investment by all Canadian governments could bring an effective end to the culture-clash based socio-economic problems of aboriginal people(s) in under a century. That's because they (natives) couldn't fix their own problems (nepotism, despotism, economic plundering) right now even given the legal/material etc. resources, and present government policy isn't even addressing that issue. So is the political will there? No way, what government could sell it? No sane person votes for big government expenses when the payoff isn't even in their own lifetime! That said, such an approach still would undoubtedly have a big future financial and political payoff for both whites and natives. Will it happen? Undoubtedly not. Excuse my pessimism, but I think my reasoning holds.
Tim

Natives should not have special status. The word "should" does not merit use. Natives are born with the rights to their homeland. Why ask the question? You should know they have the rights to their homeland. A stipulation that is part of the British Columbia treaty making process is that Natives agree to extinguish their rights. Why would they demand Natives extinguish their rights if they didn't have any in the first place? The people they call Canadians claims ownership on the virtue of the "Doctrine of Discovery" whereby the discovers decides that they are now the owners of the land because they are the only Christians around and Christians are the only ones worthy to hold title to the land. That kind of argument is invalid to each governing body of Native people.
M. Green

Without a doubt, Natives should receive different treatment than other Canadians within the context of our social/justice system. The roots of Native problems are radically different than those of the general Canadian population and since our government has made many 'bad' decisions where Natives are concerned;(training schools, isolated ill-equipped reserves, the pass system which South African apartheid was modeled after) the government of Canada is in debt to Aboriginals. Alternative methods of sentencing would be a small step towards paying this debt. Jail is not the answer, it's time to re-examine the real roots of the problems and abandon the band-aid solutions that have proven time and time again to be inadequate.
Stella

Natives, French etc., nobody should have a special status. The natives have not helped build this country of ours to any extent. To have the Indian Act still have power over 100 years later when the population and demographics have changed significantly is a fallacy.
Paul Smith

The question is, on the surface, black and white. Of course all citizens should have the same rights. Do all citizens have the heritage, education, and social skills to take advantage of those rights? I think not. Do we have the resources and knowledge to change that? I taught on a reserve in Northern Manitoba for five years. I started out ready to change the world and ended realizing my inability to make a global dent. It is in our humanity that the problem lies, not our race. This like the Afghanistan situation is the lot of humanity. Our hope lies in making our small sphere of influence a better place for mankind, one neighbour at a time.
Alex Holliday

There must be an approach taken by government, natives, and non-natives that would seek to have natives become autonomous of government to the extent that any average Canadian citizen is independent of government. In other words, special status is necessary to eventually achieve a state where special status is not necessary.
Jacob Tummon

No. As a Saulteaux from the Sakimay First Nation, I don't think that Aboriginal people need to be treated any differently than others. But I do believe that the treaties need to be updated to reflect today's needs. I think that Aboriginal people of today need to learn how to live with and among others who are non-native. Aboriginal people of today need to heal. And as long as we don't life for us won't change. Every Aboriginal person needs to heal for him/herself. Those of us who are succeeding, have taken the time and efforts to heal. We need to take pride in who we are, what we've "been through", and as long as there are some Aboriginals still "in there", what is there to be proud of? Aboriginal people need to heal.
Lisa C Pinnell-George

I believe that we all should have the same rights. It seems to me that our present system of Apartheid continues to teach learned helplessness and destroys any self-esteem that might be there.
Robert Bryson

I think right now, especially, people should see the value of treating everyone equally and specially. Worldwide, we should all have 'special status', in that we recognize all races, religions, ancestries, cultures, sexes and ages as integral to all our societies. I really believe that legislating inequality, on anyone's behalf, is divisive and immoral.
A.J. Palmer

Yes, I think natives should continue to have 'special' status due to the 'special' nature of the treaty and aboriginal relationships they have with the Crown; simultaneously, the 'natives' have an inherent right to survive as 'natives'; preserving their cultures, history, languages, etc., whereas, other Canadians/immigrants are not beneficiaries to that legal relationship and have arrived after the fact. However, there is a sunset clause as to the termination of this relationship with the native people and that is when the sun will stop shining, when the grass will stop growing and when the rivers stop flowing. Further, the use of the word "special" is misleading, as it usually carries positive connotations, which it should be, but regarding natives, the contemporary synonym for "special" might be "apartheid"?
D. Anaquod

We as First Nations people here in this country have signed this new concept what we know today as "Treaties". These Treaties were signed across the country, 11 of them in total. These numbered Treaties ensured to us, as First Nations people a "special status" that is unheard of. To put this into context here in Saskatchewan, only a mere 150 years ago we were roaming the prairies, practicing a traditional way of life that was on the verge of extinction. The federal government at the time felt they had to make their claim on "our land" out West without knowing fully what they were getting themselves into. This thing called "treaties" that the government's experts had drafted, based on a European definition of law we adhered to. We feel that we do not own the land and we never have made that comment. Land is something that is not ours, we cannot cut it up and hand it out. However the government insisted they would avoid any sort of conflict and would sign "treaties" and in exchange they would take the land and herd the First Nations people onto what we know today as, "reserves". For this reason we as First Nations, do feel that we have and deserve "special status". Our culture is one that is so unique. One that has so much respect for one another. It is debates such as this one, that just adds fuel to the fire for the people that do not have a full understanding. One only needs to refer to the "updated" history books and realize that we do and always will have "special status".
Gene O.
    Nov. 6th ResponsesNext

 
 

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