Canada’s Indian Act: An Affront To Human Dignity

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“Canada’s Indian Act: an affront to human dignity” by Manuel Escott published on January 3, 1994, in the Globe and Mail is an insight into the political motives present in the Indian Act. Canada’s history of discriminating against Indigenous people, especially when it comes to the policies concerning the Indigenous people resulted in several disputes. I am going to analyze a newspaper article describing a policy called the Indian Act which discriminated against Indigenous people. The article “Canada’s Indian Act: an affront to human dignity” informs us about the selfish intentions of the government to exploit Indigenous people for their land.

The newspaper article discussed that the Canadian government used the Indian Act as a document that restricted the Indigenous people's freedom and tried to assimilate them with Canadian culture by damaging their identity (Escott, 1994). A similar piece of information was provided by the article The Indian Act: a historical perspective by Leslie, John F. which told us the objective of the government behind the Indian Act was to erase “Indian” out of every person which basically meant to eliminate Cultural values out of every Indigenous person (Leslie, 2002).

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The article also gave the real picture of the band chief and council as they had no effective say in the majority of important matters such as control over the land as Section 35 of the act give province or local authority the right of a compulsory takeover of reserve land for “public purposes.” A similar issue was with Section 32 which prohibited barter trade outside the reserve without the consent of Indian agents (Escott, 1994). Moreover, the language of the Indian act promoted to keep children away from their families made it difficult for Indigenous people to pass on their language and cultural values to their younger generations.

The newspaper article failed to inform about women's rights however, in my research article Indian Act Sex Discrimination: Enough inquiry Already Just fix It. I found out about the “Marrying out rule” which stated that children of Indigenous women will lose their status if they married a non-Indigenous person however it did not apply to men (Brodsky, 2016). Another issue that the article did not bring to the attention of the audience was the effect of the Indian Act on the health care system as from the research I came to know that the revised Indian Act would result in an increased number of First Nation people which would put immense pressure on existing health care system (Lavoie, 2011).

All the observations point towards the fact that the main motive behind the Indian Act was to assimilate the Indigenous culture into the Canadian government so that the government could have complete control over the land. The government showed no hesitation while its implementation and tried to continue it. But when its drawbacks such as its discriminatory nature towards Indigenous people showed up, especially discrimination against Indigenous women was noticed by foreign organizations such as the United Nations and many more. Canada faced criticism and it was re-drafted. But still, after the changes were made there were many issues with the Indian act but the government still decided to follow it.

The author has done a great job of addressing the issue as this article was published on Jan 3, 1994, and at that time media was generally biased while depicting the Indigenous community but this article had mentioned the majority of the issues.

All in all, I can conclude based on my research that the Indian Act was never intended to help or support Indigenous people. Instead, it was used as a weapon to commit genocides by the government based on wrong beliefs. I completely agree with the author's notion that the Indian Act is an insult to human dignity as it destroyed the lives and culture of Indigenous people. All this happened because of the failure of the government to work together with Indigenous people and failure to follow an ethical approach.     

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