By Peter Bjel.
Canada is unique among many nations. Throughout its modern history, it has never experienced internal conflict. It is a prosperous, stable, and robustly democratic nation—in 2013, Transparency International ranked Canada among the top ten least corrupt nations in the world, just below the Netherlands and above Australia and Luxembourg. Being annually endowed with such prestigious global standing, however, it has been scarred by what is arguably Canada’s darkest historical chapter, and it is only now being addressed.
The U.N. is demanding action regarding the plight of Canada`s First Nations people today, and Canada’s international standings have been challenged by its attempts to reconcile the past. Ottawa must account for the fallout of its state-sanctioned oppression of indigenous populations. Undoing centuries of mutual mistrust and incrimination is an arduous task, but after Canada’s long, shameful history of government-Aboriginal relations, it has barely begun.
A National Blemish
In October 2013, a United Nations fact-finding mission, led by lawyer James Anaya, the U.N. special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, reported that Canada faces a “crisis” concerning its treatment of Aboriginals:
“The well-being gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in Canada has not narrowed over the last several years, treaty and aboriginals claims remain persistently unresolved, and overall there appear to be high levels of distrust among aboriginal peoples toward government at both the federal and provincial levels.”
In 2013 Canada’s Human Development Index ranking fell from 5th to 11th place. But, in a 2005 statistic not cited by Anaya, Canada’s human development ranking would have slid from the top ten to forty-eighth place (between Latvia and Costa Rica) if the conditions of the country’s Aboriginal communities were solely ranked. This is the level of equality that Anaya observed between Canada’s First Nations and the national average.
The perilous conditions confronting many of Canada’s Aboriginal communities have roots in …
To read complete articles from the Spring 2014 issue, you must subscribe to our eReader edition.