It’s More Than Just the Government Failing Canada’s Indigenous People

It’s no secret- Canada was once, and I suppose to some is still, viewed as the Golden Boy of the world: kind, inclusive, safe, welcoming, but it has fallen short in the last few decades. For years, our faults have been left out of our identity.

In the summer, I visited the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg. As a mild history junkie, I couldn’t help but notice some things that were missing. This included some misinformation regarding the Chinese Head Tax, internment camps for Japanese Canadians, and of course, the history of Canada’s relationship with its first people.

It’s been a trying relationship between Canada and Indigenous people. Various apologies, countless court battles, and continued social inequality and racism, but we’re moving in the right direction, right?

Wrong.

Why did thirteen-year-old Pamela Anderson, from Winnipeg go missing on October 25th, and no one knew about it until November 4th? Typically, an amber alert is dispatched as soon as a minor is reported missing, so what makes this case different?

There is a massive increase in suicide among Aboriginal youth in Canada.

The first week of July this year saw four suicides by Indigenous people between the ages of 12 and 21 in northern Ontario. There is an outcry for mental health resources and assistance on reserves, not only in Ontario, but across Canada.

The amount of times I have heard from the people around me that Indigenous people live off the government, are alcoholics and abusers, and various other stereotypes, has led me to wonder how we impact the lives of Indigenous people every day.

The Idle No More movement sparked interest across the country back in 2012. It brought attention to various issues Indigenous people in Canada face every day, like poor water on reserves, lack of funding for mental health services, and fear for future generations.

The government, while making efforts, continues to fail Indigenous people. But they aren’t the only ones. Every single day, any one of us contributes to the inequalities and oppressive experiences faced by Native people in Canada. We are all playing a vital role in maintaining the conditions that many Indigenous people live in.

Many First Nations people are living in third world conditions, in a country that is considered to be first world.

We as a national community are failing the people who have been here the longest. We have spent decades pushing them to the cusps of society, segregating Aboriginal communities to reserve lands that are hardly sustainable, and creating barriers for success.

How then, do we as Canadians go about our day, grateful to live where we do, under the government we do, with the opportunities we do, knowing all of this? Well, for some, they truly are unaware. Aboriginal issues are downplayed in the media unless it is portraying people in a negative light. Calling attention to the issues gives us an opportunity to point fingers at the government, at Indigenous people themselves, and at ourselves?

Yes. Ourselves. What can we do to promote social change? How do we work together to ensure everyone is flourishing in Canada?

With decades of stepping in the wrong direction, there is a lot of work ahead. This will be a challenge for our generation, but it’s time we learn to work together for social change, starting in our own country.