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The Importance of Sovereignty for Aboriginal Canadians

Ellis Drobot, First Voices

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The problem is not them. Here in Canada that is a bold statement, isn’t it? Many people in high authority thought that it was important to force upon young aboriginals the Euro-Canadian culture. Essentially, the overall results did more harm than good.

First Nations culture was significantly altered by a dominating European culture. Even today it seems there is constant discrimination towards them as a people. Many questions, many topics are never really discussed. Most Indigenous people would love to have the opportunity to have their own government. It’s my belief that sovereignty would help to give them the freedom and respect they seek as a group.

So what about the future? It would be beneficial for Aboriginal people to have their own government because governments are a reflection of the values that people hold, and therefore a sovereignty would mean that all the values that they hold dear are reflected in the laws and policies of government.

Canada’s dark history of genocide and residential schools, a form of absolute cruelty, shows a reason for them wanting sovereignty. Residential schools, a form of absolute cruelty and genocide. A place where you would think there would be a sense of safety and trust, prior to hearing to the horrific actions because of the religious backing. Ironically, the church (along with financial assistance from the federal government) was their support starting in 1998 while the schools officially closed down in 1996. J.R. Miller states in an article that “at least 3,200 died from disease and malnourishment, but many believe that the number is closer to 6,000.”

Essentially, the residential schools were a huge cause of the evolving indigenous generations’ abuse of alcohol and drugs. The government’s support for them mainly included dealing with acts of violence and anger purely from the history of residential schools. Aside from the residential schools, long before European settlement, they ran their own government, and they have been trying to attain their government back since The British American Act in 1867. From then on, it meant that the aboriginal people didn’t have any authority over their own land, later called “Indians and lands reserved for the Indians”.

“When sovereignty’s synonyms are considered, words such as jurisdiction, power, authority and control are found.” Says Spencer Mann on the article found at http://www.idlenomore.ca/sovereignty_do_firstnations_need_it. It is important we understand that in present times there is ever more reason to give them sovereignty. They should be given the right to govern over themselves. They are so over represented in the criminal justice system; they have a lower rate of graduation, as well as high incidences of suicide. If they were to have sovereignty, maybe they could respond to these issues in a better way for their people. “The suicide rates among Indigenous Canadians are among the very highest in the world. Suicide and self-inflicted injuries are the leading causes of death among Indigenous people under 45.” These statistics are from the editorial
https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/editorials/globe-editorial-indigenous-youths-keep-taking-their-own-lives-and-we-keep-looking- away/article35609418/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com& . How this nation is treating the first nation people is such a disappointment on our country’s behalf. Maybe instead of leaning toward just what we think, it would be beneficial to begin on caring firstly on the lives of everyone in this nation equally. On many of the reserves they don’t have clean drinking water and many cry for help. Wouldn’t the safety of the children in our nation be the most important? Certainly, everyone deserves to feel safe in their home situation. Of course, if they have their own government, their well-being can add provisions and help for their education systems, hence providing a higher rate for high school graduations. Another one is health care and social services. If they cannot attain proper attention with only a little help from the federal government, one way to improve is to get sovereignty. Additionally, while they live in their houses that they have bought, the band that they belong too actually own and have control over that property. So, essentially, they have no freedom. Regardless, if they had their own government, they would have the opportunities to express their values and become further united with our community.

What would an Aboriginal sovereign nation look like? Decisions would be made based on their core values, meaning no more protesting pipelines, oil tankers, logging, or mining. Economic decisions would align better with their environmental values. Indigenous people and their opinions aren’t really seen or valued in our politics.

“The federal government should work toward reforming the Indian Act to give aboriginals more private-property rights and greater control over their natural resources, so they can create prosperous, sustainable communities that are able to lift residents out of poverty and help drive the Canadian economy,” states Jesse Kline in a National Post article.  Unfortunately, they have terrible economies and deficient infrastructure, but that is what you can expect from the fact that they don’t even have the right to own their own property! Also, they are dismissed (mostly) in court issues whereas, if they had their own government, they would be able to clearly state their values. They would be well equalized in politics and valued as citizens.

We must understand the importance of equality and fairness among everyone in our nation. The sovereignty of the indigenous people includes that. In the past three paragraphs I have discussed why, in the past, there are reasons why they should have sovereignty. That was brought out through the facts about the residential schools, and the European settlement that destroyed their culture and who they were as a people. The present gives us reason to understand their core values and belief as a people. When we talk about their protests against the destruction of the earth we know that our government doesn’t truly understand or care, and they would rather dismiss them. A healthy future for the nation includes them having their own sovereignty.

If things remain as they are, I can’t imagine the ongoing discrimination, suicide rate, and poverty. We need change now for a brighter future.

(http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/residential-schools/).

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The Importance of Sovereignty for Aboriginal Canadians