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The Indian Act is a federal statute in Canada that regulates Indian brands, reserves, and status. It has been highly paternalistic and intrusive throughout history, as it authorizes the Canadian federal government to oversee and control the affairs and daily lives of reservation groups and enrolled Indians. This government has used absolute political power, such as enforcing prevailing systems on Native communities in the form of band meetings, to restrict Indians' rights to exercise their customs and culture. The Indian Act gives the Canadian government to define the land base of these communities in the form of reserves, and to determine who meet the requirements as Indian in the form of Indian status. The act was first passed in 1876, and since then it has undergone some amendments, but it retains its original form even today. The Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) administer the Indian Act, previously known as the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) (Reyhner, Jon, and Jeanne, 2017). The Indian Act intended to assimilate native people and to terminate the social, cultural, political, and economic individualism of Aboriginal peoples by absorbing them into normal Canadian values and life. There is nothing more equitable than giving the Indians the opportunity to fully take part in Canadian life. The native people should be released from the yoke of the reservation life and Indian Act, and allow them to live according to their culture within normal Canadian society. The Indian act should be abolished to give the natives people equal rights with those of the Canadians.
The Indian act should be abolished because it brings about great inequality for Indians. There have been several amendments to abolish the Indian Act to achieve equality for all Indians so that they may enjoy equal rights with the Canadians. One way to abolish this act was the “White Paper” policy proposed by Trudeau. According to him, the act was not morally right because and it should be abolished by abolishing the Indian Act and destroy the Department of Indian Affairs which was governing the activities of the native people (Woolford, 2009). The act is a negative oppression of the native people and doing away with it would essentially make Indians become like other Canadian citizens.
The proposed “White Paper” policy was rejected by Indigenous peoples across Canada because they are selfish and did not want to assimilate the Indians into mainstream Canadian society. They did not want them to obtain equal rights as those of Canadian, and they urged that assimilating them would not make them achieve equality. The Canadian wanted to maintain a legal distinction as Indian people, and because of the widespread resistance against the white paper across Canada, the federal government finally abandoned the policy. According to John Milloy, 1969 proposed white paper policy acted as a turning point when the federal government eventually established First Nation constitutionally protected rights and finally abandoned their policy of assimilation (Woolford, 2009).
The United Nation Human Rights Committee has criticized the Indian Act for its gender discrimination as another means of dismissing ones’ Indian status, therefore eliminating women from their Aboriginal rights. The law specified that a status Indian woman who wedded a non-Indian man would cease to be an Indian. The woman would lose not only her status but also lose the health benefits, treaty benefits, and the right to take over her family property. The act is discriminatory because the woman who married a non-Indian man would lose her right to live on her reserve, and even the right to be buried on the reserve with her ancestors when she dies while when an Indian man married a non-status woman, he would keep his status and all his rights. The Indian woman would be eliminated from her band even if she married another Indian man, and become a member of her husband band. If a woman was abandoned by her husband, or windowed she would become empowered and lose her status and her rights.
On the other hand, if a non-native woman wed an Indian man, she would attain the Indian status. Section 12 (1) (b) of the Indian Act explicitly state that an Indian woman who wed a man who is not an Indian is not permitted to be registered (Reyhner, Jon, and Jeanne, 2017). It is clear that the status of women depends entirely on their husband and these situations are biased. Women should be given their own rights regardless of who they marry or not marry. Women should be given rights that are equal to those of men because both of them are equal.
The reserve system under the1876 Indian Act is racist construction which holds the Indians to be as little as children. The act allows the Canadians to set aside that many reserves that are unproductive in remote locations that make them economically unviable. They cannot carry out agriculture because the reserves are small and unproductive. The reserve system deprives most on-reserve Indians people the primary means of creating wealth and come out of poverty by denying them the right to own their homes. If the Indians had their homes, they can go out to work and earn income which they would use to upgrade their standards of living and attain a middle-class level.
The reserve system makes people live in poverty because they do not receive adequate education to meet the employment requirements. The federal-state set aside some funds for their education on aboriginal reserves, but the funds are not enough for everybody. High school graduation rate was 35.5 percent in the on-reserve in the year 2011, which makes a quarter of the 80 percent high-school graduates in Canada (Reyhner, Jon, and Jeanne, 2017). The difference is due to education being desperately inadequate and underfunded per capita which vary from one region to another. The living conditions on the reserve are poor and are associated with poor housing, lack of water and sanitation and low employment opportunities. The basic living standards are inconceivable anywhere else in Canada, and therefore the reserves make the Indian lives terrible instead of helping them preserve their culture and traditions.
Reserve system and the Indian Act have people mired in a corrupt, crumbling feudal government of dependency. People on reserve have no ability or the incentive to work and improve their social and economic class. Each generation remains in poverty, and they accepted their status in the society. They depend entirely on the federal state for every provision they need for survival, and this sinks them to more poverty. The act should be abolished to allow them to assimilate and compete on equal footing with all other Canadians. They should be empowered and motivated to work and make it without any assistance like everyone else. The government should get out of the way and give them an opportunity to flourish (Helin, 2014). Many have been born in poverty and eventually make it in the outside world. The reserve system robs aboriginals of self-esteem and the will to succeed.
In conclusion, most aboriginal communities are sentimental for a past Stone Age, survival culture while yearning the status symbols of modern Enlightenment industrial society. Some of the traditions and culture that the reserve system aimed to protect is outdated and therefore the system should be repealed. It is clear that the Indian Act, and its selfish federal department, is a failure which should not be carried out in the 21st century. Women should be given rights that are equal to those of men because both of them are equal and Women should be given their own rights regardless of who they marry or not marry (Morden, 2016). The Indian Act should be abolished because it has perpetuated entitlement, inequality dependence on these third-class people. In a search for a brighter future, the federal government should allow the aboriginal ancestry to participate in Canadian culture and economy. They should be free to make wealth and then pay taxes for infrastructure and public services. They should be given right to choose the leader that want by exercising their democratic right of voting for equal terms in legislation.
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Helin, Calvin. Dances with Dependency: Out of poverty through self-reliance. Open Road Media, 2014.
Woolford, Andrew. "Ontological destruction: genocide and Canadian aboriginal peoples." Genocide Studies and Prevention 4.1 (2009): 81-97.
Morden, Michael. "Theorizing the resilience of the Indian Act." Canadian Public Administration 59.1 (2016): 113-133.
Reyhner, Jon, and Jeanne Eder. American Indian education: A history. University of Oklahoma Press, 2017.
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