“The great aim of our legislation has been to do away with the tribal system and assimilate the Indian people in all respects with the other inhabitants of the Dominion as speedily as they are fit to change.” – Sir John A. Macdonald, 1887
Sir John A. Macdonald, just as many subsequent Canadian government leaders, clearly saw indigenous people as barriers to Canada’s “success” as a nation. First came the “Gradual Civilization Act” of 1857. The very name of this legislation is repugnant – especially given the creator’s notorious binge-drinking and being seen chronically intoxicated in public. This Canadian “hero” even showed up to a debate drunk – and vomited on stage before all to see. He united racist Canadians alright, with a love and thirst for alcohol – and a hatred of other cultures. I see him as nothing more than a destroyer – and this is why:
McDonald’s “Indian Act” of 1867, effectively treated indigenous people as children, imbeciles, and wards of the State. This mentality persists today as the racist legislation.
By 1869, McDonald and the Canadian federal government had created the “Gradual Enfranchisement Act” which established the elective band council system that remains in the Indian Act to this day.
We also remember that in 1883, Sir John A authorized the creation of residential schools. In total, more than 150,000 indigenous / Métis children were removed from their families and forced to attend these institutions, which were akin to child forced labour concentration camps. Separated from their families and punished for speaking their native languages and practicing their cultures, the vast majority experienced neglect, suffering, and abuse; thousands died.
Louis Riel (Métis leader of the 1885 Northwest Rebellion – a movement to protect indigenous land and treaty rights and to preserve the Francophone and Indigenous cultures) was tried and executed for treason, along with eight other Indigenous leaders. Canada’s “hero”, Sir John A was instrumental in upholding Riel’s death sentence, quoted as saying: “He shall die though every dog in Quebec bark in his favour.”
“Macdonald’s racist policies went beyond Indigenous peoples. While debating the 1885 Electoral Franchise Act in the House of Commons, John A proposed that “Chinamen” should not have the right to vote on the grounds that they were “foreigners” and allegedly separate species: “the Aryan races will not wholesomely amalgamate with the Africans or the Asiatics,” and “the cross of those races, like the cross of the dog and the fox, is not successful.” He amended the legislation to exclude “a person of Mongolian or Chinese race.” Read more here.
When the Mohawk Workers and other indigenous political organizations became more extensive in the 1920s as groups began to pursue land claims and reparations, the federal government added Section 141 to the Indian Act which outlawed the hiring of lawyers and legal counsel by Indians, effectively barring indigenous peoples from fighting for their rights through any legal system. Eventually, these laws expanded to such a point that virtually any gathering was strictly prohibited and would result in a jail term.
In 1969, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau proposed a “white paper” policy where “Indians” would essentially become assimilated into Canadian citizens.
Amnesty International, the United Nations, the Canadian Human Rights Commission, and many others, have continually criticized the “Indian Act” as constituting an on-going human rights abuse. Yet nothing is done and racists continue to be glorified in this occupied and racist state now known as Canada.
Learn about the Mohawk Initiative and see what the Grand River Mohawks and the Mohawk Workers are doing about this today here.
The definition of Apartheid refers to a political system where people are clearly divided based on race, gender, class or other such factors.