In the Canadian media right now there is discussion over the Canadian Indian Act of 1876. Recently the Assembly of First Nations has been calling for a new act to replace it. The act has been amended 18 times, the most recent one took place in the year 2000. There have been a long standing history of the Indian Act not living up to what it was intended to achieve: better housing, equality, ending discrimination and the protection of Aboriginal culture.
The Act is clearly out of date and new either remodeling or an entire new act needs to be written. The main concern of the Assembly of First Nations chiefs is the right to self-determination and the right to self-governance. These are very important issues for not only maintaining an autonomy, but also in defence of self-respect. The current act allows very little in the way of self-determination. Independence from the Federal government will go along way to restoring the independence lost by the colonization and domination of Aboriginal land.
“I believe there is both tremendous potential and urgent pressure on us all as First Nation leaders to facilitate, support and create real change in our communities.”
– AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo
One idea that has been discussed to the removal of the federal government and it being replaced with a “Department of Aboriginal Relations”, including a crown-treaty office whose job it would be to implement treaty obligations.
There have also been calls for a First Nations auditor general and a First Nations ombudsperson as a way for First Nations to be held accountable.
The current system set up under the Indian Act along with the Ministry of Indian Affairs is not adequate in dealing with any issues facing First Nations communities. Particularly in dealing with land claims the system is too bureaucratic and can’t deal with the issue properly. Not to mention the Minister of Indian Affairs actually has very little power. A more streamline system must be set up to deal with the continuing problems facing Aboriginal communities.
Clearly the system right now has failed to address these issues. Rampant unemployment, equality, self-determination. Poverty is rampant despite all attempts to eliminate it. Independence over resources has not created better living standards for Aboriginal peoples. Casinos and other corporations set up steal billions from Nations to flow into the pockets of an elite strata on the reserves. Corruption among Chiefs (including out of control nepotism) is draining many communities and disillusioning many of them.
The problem is not so much the Indian Act, which indeed must be replaced, but the forced application of the capitalist system onto Aboriginal communities. Greed, corruption, these are all things capitalism has brought to the First Nations peoples. The solution is not necessarily writing a new act, but returning to the roots of Aboriginal culture. Only by uniting together and collectivizing resources and distributing them according to need will the evils of colonization be eliminated.
Yes, reject the Indian Act and write it anew. But reject capitalism in its entirety as well.
See: Indian Act