The Illegitimate Indian Act Essay

2708 words - 11 pages

The Illegitimate Indian ActI Introduction:The major intent of 1876 Indian Act was to allow the federal government to exercise its constitutional authority over Indians and their land; however, it also has been used as a tool to oppress the Indian people. Despite, the many amendments to the Act, it still falls short in protecting and serving native Canadians. The classification of "Indian" and the special rights and privileges that the Act provides undermines the principle of equality for all Canadians, not just Indians. Note the use of the word "Indian". Although politically and technically incorrect, it is the legal term used for "Indians" and is referred to in this paper as such. The Indian Act is illegitimate as it supports segregation, weakens initiative, and promotes inequality.II Segregation:The Indian Act has segregated Indians legally, geographically, and economically. First with the definition of Indian in Section 2 of the Indian Act, which describes who and who is not an Indian is the first form of segregation in the policy. Author Michele DuCharme takes issue with this point in his book, The Segregation of Native People in Canada: Voluntary or Compulsory? : "to ask the question (who is an Indian?), in legal terms is in it self, segregation."No other race in Canada is legally defined. Second, all Indians must be registered in a band to be eligible for their rights or in other words put on a "racial record." Third, before the Europeans came, the Indians were a strong and proud people moving about the land as their needs dictated. With the arrival of Samuel de Champlain, the Indians shared their expertise allowing him and his men to establish the first colonies in Canada. Also, they taught them how to survive the hard Canadian winters. In return, the Canadian Government has ruthlessly stolen land through misleading treaties and placed these people on reserves which Daniel Raunet illustrates in his History of Nishga Land Claims: "The native population has been herded on to reduced territories in order to make way for others." Hence, the implementation of the reservation system in Canada has removed the Indians from the mainstream of Canadian society. Indians are sent to live on patches of almost uninhabitable land, so desolate no businesses would ever think of moving there. The Indian is no longer able to support himself on the land thus, making his sole source of money, federal grants, creating dependence on the government. Section 61 of the Indian Act puts the federal government in charge of the monies. The Indians are granted special treatment but on a condition: they must stay on their reserve and must be registered. This puts many Indians into a conundrum: stay isolated, on a little piece of land, and keeps their Indian status and culture, or assimilates into the white man's world, having no past, no treaties and no culture.Within the reserves, the Indian's freedom has been handicapped which is well illustrated in Section 25 of the...

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