In many instances, Indigenous peoples are treated far worse and are apprehended by law enforcement at greater levels than non-Indigenous people. The legal relationship between Indigenous peoples and the Government of Canada originated with the Indian Act—one of the most racist, restrictive, discriminatory laws in Canada’s history; Indigenous people are the only group of people who have an Act of legislation that regulates many important aspects of their lives.

In addition, Indigenous peoples are overrepresented in the criminal justice system, with disproportionate numbers of Indigenous peoples in prison/under police surveillance for the amount of Indigenous peoples in Canada.

DEFINITION

Systemic Discrimination

Refers to a pattern of behaviour, policies, or practices that exists in parts of organizations, which creates and perpetuates disadvantage for racialized peoples. 

Background & Context

Indigenous people were seen as “property” of the government of Canada - allowing them to be controlled and allowing for legislation to be passed which gave the Government further control over Indigenous peoples.

One of the most famous pieces of legislation is the Indian Act. The Indian Act is the principal statute through which the federal government administers Indian status, local First Nations governments, and the management of reserve land and communal money. Although the Indian Act only applies to First Nations peoples, its influence and legacy affects the lives of all Indigenous peoples via the stereotypes it brought along with it.

In addition to that Indigenous peoples, as a result of conflicts with police in the past and in the present, as well as RCMP involvement, there’s a strained relationship between RCMP/local and provincial police forces and Indigenous people. Recent encounters with RCMP and local police forces during events like Idle No More, the shale gas protest at Elsipogtog and support rallies around the country, and occupation of Parliament Hill during Canada 150 celebrations, show that there are challenges to rebuilding positive relationships with police forces.

Key Stakeholders

Who is affected?

  • Many Indigenous people are affected by police brutality and the negative behaviour RCMP officers display
  • The most marginalized groups are: Indigenous men, homeless Indigenous individuals, Indigenous members of the LGBTQ2S community, Indigenous sex workers and Indigenous people with mental health issues

Who is making change?

  • Chief and Council
  • Prime Minister
  • Cabinet Ministers
  • Political Parties: New Democratic Party, Conservative Party, Green Party, Liberal Party
  • AFN – Perry Bellegarde; ITK – Natan Obed; MNC – Clement Chartier
  • Legislative Committees
  • Elders
  • Police Forces: RCMP, Provincial/Territorial/Municipal Police

What is being done now?

Resources

  • Chansonneuve, D., (2005). Reclaiming Connections: Understanding residential school trauma among aboriginal people. Ottawa: Aboriginal Healing Foundation.
  • Belanger, Y. (2014). Chapter 5: The Indian Act and Indian Affairs in Canada. In Ways of Knowing: An Introduction to Native Studies in Canada (2nd ed.). Toronto: Nelson Education.
  • Blackstock, C. (2016). Social Movements and the Law: Addressing Engrained Government-Based Racial Discrimination Against Indigenous Children. Australian Indigenous Law Review. Vol 19(1). P-19. Retrieved from http://www.ilc.unsw.edu.au/sites/ilc.unsw.edu.au/files/articles/AILR%2019-1%20Blackstock.pdf
  • Cardinal, H. (1999). The unjust society (2nd ed.). Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre
  • Frideres, J., & Gadacz, R. R. (2008). Aboriginal peoples in Canada (8th ed.). Toronto: Pearson Prentice Hall (pp. 1-21).
  • Hanson, E. (2009). Oral Traditions. Retrieved March 28, 2017, from http://Indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/oral_traditions/
  • Palmater, P. (2014). Genocide, Indian Policy, and Legislated Elimination of Indians in Canada. Aboriginal Policy Studies , 3(3), 27-54. Retrieved from https://ejournals.library.ualberta.ca/index.php/aps/article/view/22225/pdf_22.
  • R, G. (1763). Royal Proclamation of 1763 - relationships, rights and treaties = La Proclamation royale de 1763 - relations, droits et traités.
  • Sterrit, N. J. (1989). Gitksan and Wet'suwet'en. Unflinching resistance to an implacable invader. In B. Richardson (Ed.), Drumbeat : anger and renewal in Indian country (pp. 265-294). Toronto: Summerhill Press.
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