Residential School Survivors’ stories and experiences must be remembered as class action settlement finishes

Written by Cindy Hanson, Curtis J. Shuba, and Sidey Deska-Gauthier.

Article from MSN:

March 31 marks the conclusion of the largest class action settlement in Canada’s history. After 14 years, the Independent Assessment Process (IAP) — a compensation process established to resolve claims of serious physical, sexual or emotional abuse suffered at Indian residential schools — is officially over.

(William James Topley. Library and Archives Canada, C-015037) Students of the Metlakatla Indian Residential School, B.C.

Despite the fact that it collected claims from more than 38,000 Indian residential school survivors, the IAP remains relatively unknown.

The court-ordered destruction of IAP testimonies and records, the biased and superficial mainstream news media reports and the continued emphasis on compensation and costs ensure that if it is remembered, it will be through a colonial gaze.

This gaze represents the perspective through which the process is framed, what is explicitly valued or absent, and whose story is remembered: the colonial narrative is privileged and the Indigenous voice limited.

Our national study seeks to understand perspectives and the framing of the IAP to create public knowledge, in the wake of the destruction of records. The study analyzes government documents (Hansard Index, the traditional name of the transcripts of Parliamentary debates), national and Indigenous media, along with transcripts produced through interviews and focus groups with survivors, health support workers, adjudicators, judges and lawyers. The results presented here are preliminary.

A bit of background

Of the 38,000 survivors who applied to the IAP, almost 27,000 attended adjudications — an out-of-court process. The adjudication gave survivors the opportunity to tell their story of abuse to an adjudicator and government representative, with optional supports including a lawyer, health support worker, elder, translator or family. The fate of the records and testimonies from these hearings — 800,000 documents — was decided by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2017.

The court upheld the position of the Indian Residential School Adjudication Secretariat, the body responsible for administering the IAP, that the testimonies would be destroyed unless individual survivors decided to claim or share their records. Currently only a handful of survivors have requested their transcripts or offered to make (sometimes redacted) versions publicly accessible through the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR). In 2027, any remaining survivor testimonies and records will be destroyed.

In January 2020 an Ontario Superior Court ruling blocked the creation of static reports. These included information the secretariat gathered during the IAP about variables like the child’s age and sex, particularities of residential schools, types of abuses and community impacts. The case was appealed by the NCTR and the Ontario Court of Appeal’s judgment is pending.

Coverage of the IAP: Colonial and wanting

Media coverage of the IAP is sparse. Preliminary results of our study reveal a focus on the trials and tribulations of a bureaucratic process that attempted to combine class action law with reconciliation-based gestures. Lost in this narrative is the survivors’ lived experiences within the IAP and a critical evaluation of the IAP’s overarching goals: healing and reconciliation.

Through our study, “Reconciling Perspectives and Building Public Memory: Learning from the Independent Assessment Process,” we established factors that played key roles in healing: giving testimony, and supporting, believing and validating the survivors. This perspective was largely forgotten by the media and instead reports often focused on the credibility of survivors’ claims of abuse, financial compensations and court cases. It was, however, acknowledged in the IAP’s final report.

(Bud Glunz/Library and Archives Canada, PA-134110) Cree students sit in class at All Saints Indian Residential School in Lac La Ronge, Sask., in March 1945.

The dominant narrative conflated success of the IAP with compensation. For example, the secretariat reported success when the claimant garnered a cash settlement (89 per cent success rate with an average of $91,000 in compensation). And although compensation metrics are certainly one indicator of success, the experiences of survivors telling their stories are key to considering the IAP’s larger goals.

The defensive posture of the federal government recently surfaced. An independent review of claims (specifically those from St. Anne’s Indian Residential School) was recently announced following critiques by survivors and public officials like former senator Murray Sinclair and MP Charlie Angus.

Elected officials in the House of Commons had an opportunity to contribute to public memory based on meaningful reconciliation, but it was largely swept away in partisan politics. Looking at Hansard Index debates from 2004-19, we found the IAP was discussed only 28 times.

The significance of Indian residential school abuses, the damage the system did to families and communities, the litigation and compensation settlements that came after the IAP can only be fully comprehended within Canada’s long history of denial of Indigenous human and gender rights.

The move from explicit systems of violence to concealed structures of domination cannot be mistaken for reconciliation. We must examine the ways in which Indigenous rights are both explicitly and implicitly advanced or denied: this was highlighted in an earlier IAP study that found that although residential schools taught girls domestic tasks, unpaid work caring for children was not acknowledged or compensated in the IAP model.

Remembering for a common future

We fear additional tragedies are inevitable without abundant data regarding abuse factors, or intergenerational and community impacts. These data add a quantifiable dimension to the horrors of residential schools and remind us of the consequences of racist public policy. Such policy is not just about the individuals impacted; it affects the consciousness of collectives and communities.

Public records are valuable for understanding how public memory is created, and who is directing its narrative. Unless attention is paid to the ways in which the media and Canada continue to decentre Indigenous voices and experiences the colonial gaze will endure.

How residential schools and the IAP are remembered is not only relevant to Canada’s identity but for government-Indigenous and public-Indigenous relations, now and into the future.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Of course we have the ol’ caker method of refusing to collect data in order to deny facts, whitewash history, and prohibit later necessary action. Now throw in the destruction of critical evidence and testimonies under the guise of “privacy” for individuals. Not even statistical data is allowed to be collected, proving how hollow privacy claims are.

Naturally no individuals or entities are prosecuted or publicly held to account, it is the mere giving of money to shut people up. Of course these survivors deserve compensation for their suffering, but how telling the behavior is – cutting cheques for absolution, while doing nothing else.

Joyce Echaquan video

An Indigenous woman is neglected and insulted as she lays dying. She happens to capture it all on video, but Quebec’s Premier still insists there is “no systemic racism” and it’s just a one-off.

Remember the Francophone rule: the Quebecois are victims, the Indigenous are not.

Remember the caker rule: Aboriginals get what they deserve. (Wheel them out for the tourists and detest them in private.)

Post Script:

This year we saw the death of George Floyd captured on video, so I thought I’d include a parallel video from Canada.

Cakers mouthed off regarding events down south and mostly ignored this; it created some minor news clips and some Aboriginal groups protested (a few dozen protesters). Protests for George Floyd (solidarity) greatly outnumbered any protests or marches for this, as this would require facing Canada’s issues.

Related: Mireille Ndjomouo

Perspective: I

As Canadians watch events unfold down south regarding the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement and overall discussions about race, they pay lip service to these topics without looking inward. So here I am to point out the obvious.

Let’s begin with mass murder.

Small pox

We begin with the First Nations people and Jeffrey Amherst. Amherst was a British Army officer who fought to conquer New France and was the first British Governor General of the territories (later Canada).

Smallpox was an infectious disease brought to the New World by European conquerors; since Indigenous people had not previously been exposed they were decimated by the disease when it spread in their communities. This applies from Canada on down to South America and everyone knows this.

Fewer know that Amherst tried to deliberately infect the Indigenous with small pox (clearly showing he knew the disease was deadly among them; no “herd immunity”) as one of many ways in which to “reduce them”.

This has been known for some time by authors and historians (see: Atlas of the North American Indian, 1985 & The Conspiracy of Pontiac and the Indian War after the Conquest of Canada; 1886).

Francis Parkman, the historian who wrote The Conspiracy of Pontiac quotes in his book:

“Could it not be contrived to send the Small Pox among those disaffected tribes of Indians? We must on this occasion use every stratagem in our power to reduce them.”

Vol. II, p.39 (6th edition)

Amherst’s attempts to kill via small pox have been known for quite some time among Indigenous people (and apparently a few others), but was denied at large by “polite white society” as some type of urban myth.

Researchers had to go and and find evidence of the letters and writings in microfilm. (The papers had been microfilmed as part of the British Manuscripts Project in the 1940s.) The research was done on a promise to Floyd Red Crow Westerman of the Dakota Nation who wanted to uncover legitimate evidence of the crime.

The quote from the book has not yet been found in microfilm, but others have:

P.S. You will Do well to try to Innoculate the Indians by means of Blankets, as well as to try Every other method that can serve to Extirpate this Execrable Race. I should be very glad your Scheme for Hunting them Down by Dogs could take Effect, but England is at too great a Distance to think of that at present.

Microfilm reel 34/41, item 114. (Letter image)

This quote was a response from his subordinate lieutenant colonel Henry Bouquet:

P.S. I will try to inocculate [sic] the Indians by means of Blankets that may fall in their hands, taking care however not to get the disease myself. As it is pity to oppose good men against them..”

Microfilm reel 34/40, item 305. (Letter image)

The letters clearly prove a conspiracy among at least some in the British Army to use biological warfare to assist in reducing or exterminating Indigenous nations.

The most basic definition of genocide:

the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation.”

Now it could be argued Amherst and his co-conspirators were referring to specific tribes they were in conflict with. However, it shows little concern for Indigenous peoples as a whole, when the disease could easily spread between tribes, killing them off while Europeans remained less exposed.

Murder through biological warfare had been known for some time, yet most liked to insist there was “no proof”, or that intent hadn’t been there – it was an accident later attributed to ill intention.

The fact letters have been found after hundreds of years and describe the will to murder through smallpox is astonishing, when you take into account the time elapsed, the poor system for correspondence, the storage of the letters and so on. If this small trace exists and these men had the hubris to put their designs to paper, one can only guess at the actual attitudes and behavior of the time.

And even if you remain unconvinced about Amherst, we move on to a more recent time with more damning record evidence.

(With thanks for source material from Peter d’Errico.)


Most Canadians now know that many children in the residential schools died of tuberculosis. But they wave off the idea these children were intentionally killed, and again describe the incident as accidental or perhaps a bit of ‘well-intentioned’ neglect.

A national journalist attempting to be the “voice of reason” against allegations of murder, wrote this:

“There were front-page stories a century ago, too. In 1897, senior Indian Affairs officials started blowing the whistle on the cavernous, shoddily-built, creaking institutions, pointing out that you couldn’t have built more efficient incubation vectors for contagious disease, and for mass death, if you tried.

Back then, P.H. Bryce, the Indian department’s chief medical officer, conducted a study of 1,500 children interned in 15 different Indian residential schools across Canada. He found that one in four of the children never made it out alive. A separate study of the Kuper Island school found that four of every 10 children sent there over a 25-year period never survived to graduate.

This is sufficiently damning. It is not necessary to assert, as Annett does, that infectious diseases were deliberately employed as part of a plot to “cull” Canada’s aboriginal population. Everybody knows what happened. It is no secret, and is not even a secret that there are mass graves.”

The Tyee: Truth and Native Abuse, 2008

Even while defending the Canadian government on public record, this journalist admits that senior Indian Affairs officials were publicly blowing the whistle: “you couldn’t have built more efficient incubation vectors for contagious disease, and for mass death, if you tried.

He also admits the children were dying en masse; that the issue had been studied and was known in government, nothing was done, and it’s no secret currently there are “mass graves”. (The cognitive dissonance is stunning.)

Conditions were such that officials felt the need to “whistle blow”, which subsequently is damning evidence against the Canadian public – many of whom were aware as well.

Imagine this scenario: the Chinese come and take over Canada; they place all the children in mandatory “re-education” schools and COVID-19 mutates into a deadly strain which children begin to catch. In the schools, the children begin dying at an alarming rate: from a quarter of students to half or more. The Canadian government begs the Chinese to allow the children to stay home since the schools are killing them. Yet the Chinese refuse, claiming ‘education’ precedes the need for safety since the disease is commonplace.

Is this not the willful murder of children? The Canadian government still clings to the narrative it tried to help ‘civilize a savage people’, and in doing so ‘accidentally’ killed off a large amount through incompetence or at worst, neglect.

But if you know you are killing children – is it not murder? If you know half the children will die by attending school and you keep them there, is it not murder? When the chief medical officer for Indian Affairs says the conditions are encouraging disease spread and will kill children – and you sit by indifferently – is it not murder? Of course when you know the outcome there can be no excuses.

They didn’t need to put their deeds onto paper like Jeffrey Amherst, they didn’t need to specify in writing – their deeds speak for themselves when taken into context.

If my coworker wanted to put a hit out on his wife and hired a hit man, and I did nothing, I would still be culpable because I knew the outcome and took no action.

Dr. Bryce, an employee of the Canadian government and Indian Affairs, wrote a book called The Story of A National Crime. It was not called the National Mistake or the National Accident – he called it a CRIME.

Crime: “an action or omission that constitutes an offense that may be prosecuted by the state and is punishable by law.

Duncan Campbell Scott, superintendent of Indian Affairs, brushed off years of Dr. Bryce’s warnings, reports, studies and ultimately his book.

“It is readily acknowledged that Indian children lose their natural resistance to illness by habituating so closely in the residential schools, and that they die at a much higher rate than in their villages. But this alone does not justify a change in the policy of this Department, which is geared towards a final solution of our Indian Problem.”

Department of Indian Affairs Superintendent D.C. Scott to B.C. Indian Agent-General Major D. McKay, DIA Archives, RG 1-Series 12 April 1910


Before I listen to anything the government has to say about the United States and its past, history, or issues, I would like to have the following:

An acknowledgement that Canada’s Governor General Jeffrey Amherst attempted to kill off Indigenous nations with small pox in order to obtain and keep Canadian land.

Acknowledgement of the innocent Indigenous girl slaves “who worked as household help and served as concubines for the French. They were often hardly ten years old. Their average age at death was 17 years.”

An acknowledgement that Canada’s chief medical officer in the 1900s wrote a book claiming the government of Canada was committing a crime.

Acknowledgement that the Canadian government participated in the willful murder of children through both action and omission, ultimately knowing the outcome but pursuing their agenda despite the cost of life.

An acknowledgement by the Canadian government that it continues to protect the abusers of children in residential schools, and puts money before the pursuit of justice.

An acknowledgement by the Canadian government that by protecting the perpetrators of child abuse, and by not admitting to past crimes of murder, it has attempted to protect itself from financial litigation and legal accountability.

Perhaps then I will care about your thoughts on America.

Post Script:

I understand what the journalist is trying to convey: that this was not some diabolical scheme etched in the halls of power on par with the Wannsee conference.

There is no need to assert “that infectious diseases were deliberately employed as part of a plot to “cull” Canada’s aboriginal population.” When you are killing children and know your actions are killing them, but it does not “justify a change in policy” I would argue that is indeed “culling the population”. These children were in the schools and dying because they were not white. One can speak of Canada’s “polite, quiet” way of killing the Indigenous, and levels of intent, but the outcome and facts remain the same: the government chose to kill children to fulfill its agenda.

CULLING according to the Cambridge dictionary:

When people cull animals, they kill them, especially the weaker members of a particular group of them, in order to reduce or limit their number.

Prince Edward Island (Potato isle)

Since it’s such a chore to write about Canada, let’s ease back into this by writing about the insignificant Prince Edward Island.

It’s a small island of nearly 158,000 people. The population has increased by nearly 2% recently, thanks to international immigrants; among native-born citizens the number leaving for other provinces is double those arriving.

P.E.I’s biggest claims to fame: potatoes, the fictional book character Anne of Green Gables and calling itself the “Birthplace of Confederation” (which is a bit like Frankenstein bragging about his creation).


The Mik’maq natives were the original inhabitants for thousands of years. At some point the French landed and made a settlement, then were more or less booted out by the British who anglicized the island to “Saint John”. The bulk of immigration came from Britain with an influx of Loyalists after the American revolution. The island was controlled by Nova Scotia, changed its name to Prince Edward, began running its own affairs and eventually joined the Confederation in 1873.

Now, islanders did not want to join Confederation but were eventually forced to because of a crippling railway debt. Attempts to bribe them were made by offering to pay off the island’s debts; still they declined a few times. Eventually when on the brink of an economic collapse, they relented.


The Mik’maq First Nations claim they never technically gave away their land or rights to it. There’s a tricky history where they signed treaties which “contained no monetary or land provisions” but did guarantee land use rights and the end to various disputes. (There was also that time Governor Cornwallis punished them by offering money for their capture and scalping.)

What else?

The capital city is Charlottetown – population just under 40,000. The backbone of its economy is farming, followed by fishery, tourism and some tech companies. It’s the lead province in producing potatoes, which employs 12% of the island’s workforce. Glamorous stuff.

According to a report: 23% of Charlottetown children were living in poverty, and about 17% on the island as a whole. House prices have jumped over 38% in the past 3 years. The average house price in Charlottetown is $277,000. Yes, in a province with under 200,000 people and a city under 40,000! The rental vacancy is 0.2%

Winter isn’t too much fun: it lasts from November to April on average, with a mean minimum temperature of -26 C in January and February, and plenty of snowstorms each year.

To Summarize:

Prince Edward Island is an insignificant place even by Canadian standards – quite the feat. It’s a cute little place to wander for a day or two while eating ice cream or nibble on some potatoes in a field. Crime is low because barely anyone lives there and more citizens leave it than arrive.

There’s no point in going there: housing in the only “big” city is unaffordable, rental vacancy is almost nil, and there’s little employment if you aren’t a farmer or getting a job transfer from a local company. Housing and rental prices are going up due to limited supply, population growth is driven by new immigrants, and there are very limited resources for homelessness, poverty and social issues.

The bulk of the people there were born on the island, will die there, and everyone else in Canada will continue forgetting the place even exists. Fun stuff.

O Canada!

Royal Commission Report: Volume 1

I decided yesterday to begin tackling the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.

The report was completed in 1996, after four years of drafting. Volume 1 is called “Looking Forward, Looking Back” and concerns the origins and history of Aboriginal peoples in Canada, as well as previous government policy concerning them.

It has been 20 years since this report was originally released, which is of interest because Volume 5 is called “Renewal: A Twenty Year Commitment”. It will be interesting to see what progress, if any, has been made regarding Aboriginal peoples and which recommendations have been implemented.

In Volume 1, I was expecting explicit details concerning treaty matters: the particulars of negotiations and agreements as originally made, and how policy making has either followed or diverged from them. I assumed that this was the crux of the issue regarding modern conflicts with Aboriginal communities and questions about their rights and independence.

However, the report begins with a broad overview of Aboriginal peoples and their cultures as they existed before Europeans arrived, followed by the military and political struggles that ensued. While it makes for interesting reading, the general history is broadly known. What is less known, is which agreements took place: the details, legality, legacy and relevance to modern times.

The treaties and agreement information doesn’t begin until a little over 100 pages in. This article will be a work in progress because it is still ongoing. Volume 1 is nearly 700 pages long, so I have attempted to pare down the information to the most relevant for a broad overview.

All comments in italics are mine, the rest are quotes from the report.

Volume 1: Looking Forward, Looking Back

It begins with an introduction which speaks of the importance of recognizing the past, the unique Aboriginal experience, reconciliation and the need to include Aboriginal people in policy making while respecting their rights. It also advises Aboriginal people to let go of anger over historical wrongs so that both parties can work together. It’s clear from the language that the authors of the report tried to be as fair and respectful as they could.

THIS REPORT of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples concerns government policy with respect to the original historical nations of this country.

… Aboriginal peoples anticipate and desire a process for continuing the historical work of Confederation. Their goal is not to undo the Canadian federation; their goal is to complete it. It is well known that the Aboriginal peoples in whose ancient homelands Canada was created have not had an opportunity to participate in creating Canada’s federal union; they seek now a just accommodation within it. (p 6)

History also shows how ancient societies in this part of North America were dispossessed of their homelands and made wards of a state that sought to obliterate their cultural and political institutions. History shows too attempts to explain away this dispossession by legally ignoring Aboriginal peoples, in effect declaring the land terra nullius — empty of people who mattered. This is not a history of which most Canadians are aware. It is not a history of democratic participation, nor is it a history that reflects well on Canada or its sense of justice. (p 7)

In 1982 the constitution was amended to recognize and affirm the Aboriginal and treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada. Those amendments contained a promise to amend the constitution further to determine the nature and scope of those rights. The constitutional promise was not fulfilled in the first ministers conferences conducted for that purpose, and the basic constitutional promise of 1982 is still outstanding. (pg 9)

There have been important changes in recent years in the nature of Aboriginal peoples’ participation in statecraft in Canada. Since the white paper proposal to eliminate the distinct status of ‘Indians’ and the prime minister’s refusal in 1969 to recognize the treaties, Canadian society has developed a greater willingness to include Aboriginal peoples as partners in the Canadian enterprise.” (p 10)

PART ONE – Getting Started

This Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples was born in a time of ferment when the future of the Canadian federation was being debated passionately. It came to fruition in the troubled months following the demise of the Meech Lake Accord and the confrontation, in the summer of 1990, between Mohawks and the power of the Canadian state at Kanesatake (Oka), Quebec. (p 10)

The Mandate:

The Commission, established on 26 August 1991, was given a comprehensive mandate: The Commission of Inquiry should investigate the evolution of the relationship among aboriginal peoples (Indian, Inuit and Métis), the Canadian government, and Canadian society as a whole. It should propose specific solutions, rooted in domestic and international experience, to the problems which have plagued those relationships and which confront aboriginal peoples today. (p 11- 12)

In four years of consultations, research and reflection we have come to see clearly that the problems that plague the relationship cannot be addressed exclusively or primarily as Aboriginal issues. The questions we probed during our inquiry and the solutions that emerged from our deliberations led us back insistently to examine the premises on which Canadian law and government institutions are founded and the human values that Canadians see as the core of their identity. (p 12)

We maintain that Aboriginal nations have an inherent right to determine their own future within Canada and that the governments of Aboriginal nations should be recognized as a third order of government in the Canadian federation. (p 13)

A Demographic Profile

THE TERM ABORIGINAL obscures the distinctiveness of the First Peoples of Canada — Inuit, Métis and First Nations. With linguistic differences, for example, there are more than 50 distinct groupings among First Nations alone. Among Inuit, there are several dialects within Inuktitut, and the Métis people speak a variety of First Nations languages such as Cree, Ojibwa or Chipewyan, as well as Michif, which evolved out of their mixed ancestry. (p 20)

The figure of 500,000 for the indigenous population at the time of initial sustained contact with Europeans is perhaps the most widely accepted today, although many would regard it as a conservative estimate. (p 21)

This is followed by statistical information on Aboriginal birth rates and projected growth (90’s) as well as charts and demographic stats.

Conceptions of History (Overview)

Indeed, it is impossible to make sense of the issues that trouble the relationship today without a clear understanding of the past. This is true whether we speak of the nature of Aboriginal self-government in the Canadian federation, the renewal of treaty relationships, the challenge of revitalizing Aboriginal cultural identities, or the sharing of lands and resources. We simply cannot understand the depth of these issues or make sense of the current debate without a solid grasp of the shared history of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people on this continent. (p 36)

But Commissioners also concluded that most Canadians are simply unaware of the history of the Aboriginal presence in what is now Canada and that there is little understanding of the origins and evolution of the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people that have led us to the present moment. (p 37)

In the Atlantic region, for instance, a sustained non-Aboriginal presence among the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet peoples has been a fact for nearly 500 years, but in most parts of the far north, Inuit have been in sustained contact with non-Aboriginal people only in recent times. In Quebec and southern and central Ontario, the relationship is of almost the same duration as that in the Atlantic region, while in northern Ontario and the prairies, sustained contact and the development of formal treaty relationships has occurred only within the last 150 years. In parts of the Pacific coast, the nature of the relationship has yet to be formalized in treaties, even though interaction between Aboriginal and nonAboriginal people has taken place for some 200 years. (p 41)

Overview: Contact & Cooperation

It was a period when Aboriginal people provided assistance to the newcomers to help them survive in the unfamiliar environment; this stage also saw the establishment of trading and military alliances, as well as intermarriage and mutual cultural adaptation. This stage was also marked by incidents of conflict, by growth in the number of non-Aboriginal immigrants, and by the steep decline in Aboriginal populations following the ravages of diseases to which they had no natural immunity.

Although there were exceptions, there were many instances of mutual tolerance and respect during this long period. In these cases, social distance was maintained — that is, the social, cultural and political differences between the two societies were respected by and large. Each was regarded as distinct and autonomous, left to govern its own internal affairs but co-operating in areas of mutual interest and, occasionally and increasingly, linked in various trading relationships and other forms of nation-to-nation alliances. (p 42)

Overview: Displacement & Assimilation:

Non-Aboriginal society made repeated attempts to recast Aboriginal people and their distinct forms of social organization so they would conform to the expectations of what had become the mainstream. In this period, interventions in Aboriginal societies reached their peak, taking the form of relocations, residential schools, the outlawing of Aboriginal cultural practices, and various other interventionist measures of the type found in the Indian Acts of the late 1800s and early 1900s. (p 42)

Non-Aboriginal society began to recognize the failure of these policies toward the end of this period, particularly after the federal government’s ill-fated 1969 white paper, which would have ended the special constitutional, legal and political status of Aboriginal peoples within Confederation. (p 43)


THE HISTORY OF THE RELATIONSHIP between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in North America begins, of necessity, with a description of the period before contact. Aboriginal nations were then fully independent; as described by the Supreme Court of Canada, they were “organized in societies and occupying the land as their forefathers had done for centuries.”

Europeans arriving in North America attempted to justify their assumption of political sovereignty over Aboriginal nations and title to their lands on the basis of a reinterpretation of prevailing norms in international law at the time, in particular the doctrine of discovery. This doctrine is based on the notion of terra nullius — a Latin term that refers to empty, essentially barren and uninhabited land. Under norms of international law at the time of contact, the discovery of such land gave the discovering nation immediate sovereignty and all rights and title to it.

Over the course of time, however, the concept of terra nullius was extended by European lawyers and philosophers to include lands that were not in the possession of ‘civilized’ peoples or were not being put to a proper ‘civilized’ use according to European definitions of the term. (p 47)

Upon the ‘discovery’ of the North American continent by Europeans, according to this doctrine, the newcomers were immediately vested with full sovereign ownership of the discovered lands and everything on them. When faced with the fact that the lands were inhabited by Aboriginal peoples, European commentators, such as the preacher Gray, popularized the notion that Aboriginal peoples were merely in possession of such lands, since they could not possibly have the civilized and Christian attributes that would enable them to assert sovereign ownership to them. Over time these ethnocentric notions gained currency and were given legitimacy by certain court decisions. (p 47-48)

These kinds of arguments, which distorted the reality of the situation and converted differences into inferiorities, have had surprising longevity in policy documents and in court proceedings up to the present day. As modified by the courts, they are at the heart of the modern doctrine of Aboriginal title, which holds that Aboriginal peoples in North America do not ‘own’ their lands, although they now have the legal right in Canada to demand compensation if they are dispossessed of them by the authorities. (p 48)

Followed by information on the M’ikmaq, Iroquois, Blackfoot, Northwest Coast tribes, Inuit: their hierarchies, self-governing, traditions, etc – a brief overview, p 48 – 83

The accounts often reveal elaborate social structures built around the nuclear and extended family. These are grouped into a band, clan, district or community all of which, in turn, may be part of a larger nation that may itself belong to a confederacy of many nations and to a larger language group. Governance is usually decentralized, with local units coming together or sending representatives to the councils of the nation or confederacy. In the councils of decision making, individuals are generally equal, and deliberations typically continue until consensus is reached. Leaders thus tend to guide, counsel and speak on behalf of the people; they typically do not exercise the authority to make unilateral decisions or to impose their will. Where conflict arises, an effort is made to bring the contending parties together and to find a middle ground. This is in keeping with an ethic that respects diversity and acknowledges that there are many different ways to accomplish a particular objective.

The accounts also reveal the ultimate importance to Aboriginal societies of their spiritual relationship to the land. This arises not only because of dependence on the natural world for life itself, but also out of the belief that human beings were placed on the earth at Creation and given special responsibilities to serve as stewards of the natural environment. Through a very long history of living in close harmony with the environment, adjusting as required to changing social and environmental conditions …

Aboriginal peoples accumulated an enormous amount of knowledge and wisdom and passed it on orally from generation to generation. (p 84)

Followed by a description of European nation-states: feudal societies becoming governed by monarchy; originally seeking natural resources and then driven on by economic interests and justified through Christian doctrine and papal decrees. p – 84-87.

The earliest Basque, Breton, French and English contacts in North America were aimed initially at extracting fish and other resources from the sea, rather than gold or silver from the ground, and involved considerably less use of force. This early pattern of relatively peaceful and incidental contact gave way by the early seventeenth century to a new system of relations based on treaties and trade with the indigenous inhabitants. In the next chapter, we describe the essential characteristics of this early, often co-operative, relationship. (p 87)

Contact and Cooperation:

Although a few Aboriginal persons were, willingly or unwillingly, taken to Europe over the years, contact occurred almost exclusively on North American soil as transplanted Europeans began to arrive in ever-increasing numbers after the late 1400s.

First contacts between Aboriginal peoples and Europeans were sporadic and apparently occurred about a thousand years ago when Norsemen proceeding from Iceland and Greenland are believed to have voyaged to the coast of North America. (p 94)

These early Norse voyages are believed to have continued until the 1340s, and to have included visits to Arctic areas such as Ellesmere and Baffin Island where the Norse would have encountered Inuit…

Conflict with Aboriginal people likely occurred relatively soon after the colony was established. Thus, within a few years of their arrival, the Norse appear to have abandoned the settlement and with it the first European colonial experiment in North America. 

Further intermittent commercial contacts ensued with other Europeans, as sailors of Basque, English, French and other nationalities came in search of natural resources such as timber, fish, furs, whale, walrus and polar bear. Little is known of this very early period of contact. By the late 1400s, explorers were commissioned to find a route to the Orient by sailing west from Europe, thus providing an additional motive for European contact with North American Aboriginal peoples. These subsequent explorations included the voyages of Christopher Columbus to several islands in the Caribbean sea and those of John Cabot, who was seeking a more northerly route. Cabot’s voyages began as early as 1494, and by 1497 he landed in a place he referred to as New Found Land. (p 94)

Relations were established in a context in which Aboriginal peoples initially had the upper hand in population and in terms of their knowledge of the land and how to survive in it. These factors contributed to early patterns of co-operation and helped to overcome the colonial attitudes and pretensions the first European arrivals may originally have possessed. The newcomers, far from their home ports and scattered in a vast land of which they had little practical knowledge, of necessity had to develop friendly relations with at least some original inhabitants. Political and economic accommodations soon followed. (p 95)

However, the existence of relatively strong, organized and politically active and astute Aboriginal nations caused the Europeans to recognize in practice, and later in law, the capacity of Aboriginal nations not only to govern their own affairs and to possess their own lands, but also to conclude treaties with them of a type similar to those the European nations were accustomed to making with each other. In the many ensuing struggles between France and Britain, as well as in the later ones between the American colonists and the British, Aboriginal nations were also greatly valued as military allies. Since victory or defeat in any particular military contest might hang in the balance, strenuous efforts were often made by the warring colonial powers either to enlist the support of Aboriginal nations or, at least, to assure their neutrality. Neither support nor neutrality could be demanded at this stage in the relationship, however; it could be achieved only by persuasion and diplomacy. (p 96)

With declining Aboriginal populations and ever-increasing European immigration to the New World, the numerical balance between the two groups gradually shifted during this first period of relations between them. By the latter part of the 1700s, in fact, it is estimated that Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people were roughly equal in numbers. (p 97)

Outside the salons of Europe and the discourse of élites, ordinary people adopted each other’s foods, clothing, hunting or transport technologies as they proved useful. Those brought together by the fur trade often intermarried and, as a result, enriched both cultures. The offspring of these unions would eventually form a new people with a distinct identity, the Métis people. And at the same time as missionaries were seeking to convert Aboriginal peoples to Christianity, there is also evidence that Europeans, especially young men working on the frontiers of contact with Aboriginal peoples, found much not only to admire but also to emulate, especially their quiet determination and independent attitudes. Indeed, many Europeans were adopted and assimilated into Aboriginal nations. (p 99)

Although some European traders obtained Aboriginal clothing, canoes, snowshoes and other items for themselves, the most sought after goods were beaver pelts. They could be sold in Europe as the raw material for felt hats, then in vogue among the middle class and the nobility. The traders were especially interested in procuring pelts that had already been worn as clothing for fifteen to eighteen months. Wearing them during the winter wore off the long guard hairs, thereby rendering them most valuable for the manufacture of high-grade felt. For Aboriginal people, hunting the then-abundant beaver and selling used clothing was an economical means of obtaining European goods. (p 100)

By the first decade of the seventeenth century the French were granting trading monopolies to wealthy merchants in hopes of promoting year-round European settlement in the St. Lawrence region …To maintain cordial trade relations, the French offered to assist the Innu intheir hostilities with the Mohawk, a decision that was to lead to decades of enmity between the French and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. (p 102)

For many years, a flotilla of 60 canoes and 200 men from Huronia came to Quebec via the French, Mattawa, Ottawa and St. Lawrence rivers. As many as 15,000 pelts were traded annually. (p 102)

During this period many Aboriginal people regarded the missionaries as shamans, interpreted their baptismal rites as curing rituals, and generally tolerated their presence for fear of jeopardizing trade and political alliances with the French. To the Jesuits their mission was akin to a war against satanic forces and was intended to reap a rich harvest of souls. (p 103)

It is also clear that the patterns of relationship varied significantly from one Aboriginal group to another. Since Algonquian and Iroquoian nations, for example, had different modes of subsistence and social organization and unique and well established patterns of political and trade relations before European contact, it is not surprising that they experienced the effects of contact differently. Pursuing different strategies of accommodation and compromise, the many diverse Aboriginal nations on the northern half of the continent that came into contact with non-Aboriginal peoples did not all experience the effects of that contact in the same way. (p 105)


Evidently, the reality of relations between Aboriginal and European nations in these early periods was remarkably complex, fluid and ambiguous. Thus, while the French, for instance, clearly wanted to assert some form of sovereign control over neighbouring Aboriginal peoples, in practice they often had to settle for alliances or simple neutrality.

And while Aboriginal nations sometimes wished to assert their total independence of the French colony, in practice they often found themselves reliant on French trade and protection and increasingly overshadowed by European armed might.

The French policy of cultivating the friendship and alliance of Aboriginal peoples was replicated, with less success, by the burgeoning British colonies to the south. Like New France, these colonies would have preferred to be in a position to dominate and control their Aboriginal neighbours. However, they often had little alternative but to solicit Indigenous peoples as trading partners and as allies in the struggles with France. (p 106)

There was one important difference between British and French practice in this context that would have long-term effects on the overall relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in this part of North America. The French colony, whose population remained small, was planted along the shores of the St. Lawrence River, in an area no longer inhabited by the Iroquoian peoples of Stadacona and Hochelaga. Thus, there was no need for the French to obtain lands from their Aboriginal neighbours. By contrast, from an early period the British colonists found their Aboriginal neighbours in possession of lands they wanted themselves for purposes of expanding their settlements and economic activities.

In the opening stages of British settlement in North America, this collision of interests resulted in warfare and led to the forcible dispossession of Aboriginal nations in Virginia and New England. Many Aboriginal nations allied themselves with the French or retreated before the advance of the British colonists. Over time, however, and to avoid further hostilities, a policy developed whereby lands required for settlement would ordinarily be secured from their Aboriginal owners by formal agreement. Thus, treaties specifically involving land cessions by Aboriginal nations soon became a common feature of the British-Aboriginal relationship. (p 107)

Nevertheless, by 1763, when New France was ceded to the British Crown in the Treaty of Paris, Aboriginal/English relations had stabilized to the point where they could be seen to be grounded in two fundamental principles. Under the first principle, Aboriginal peoples were generally recognized as autonomous political units capable of having treaty relations with the Crown. (p 107)

A second principle emerged from British practice. This acknowledged that Aboriginal nations were entitled to the territories in their possession unless, or until, they ceded them away. Although this proposition may seem self-evident, it was not always so from the colonists’ self-interested perspective, and it required periodic restatement. (p 108)

When New France fell to British forces and was ceded to the Crown in 1763, Great Britain was confronted with the twin problems of winning the friendship and trust of France’s former First Nations allies and dealing with the mounting dissatisfaction of some of its own indigenous allies over incursions by American colonists on their lands. (p 108)

Royal Proclamation

This document, issued on 7 October 1763, is a landmark in British/Indian relations (see Appendix D). It has been described by Mr. Justice Hall of the Supreme Court of Canada as the Indian Bill of Rights. “Its force as a statute”, he writes, “is analogous to the status of Magna Carta which has always been considered to be the law throughout the Empire. It was a law which followed the flag as England assumed jurisdiction over newly discovered or acquired lands or territories.” (p 109)

The basic viewpoint informing the Proclamation’s Indian provisions is summarized in the preamble as follows:

“And whereas it is just and reasonable, and essential to Our Interest and the Security of Our Colonies, that the several Nations or Tribes of Indians, with whom We are connected, and who live under Our Protection, should not be molested or disturbed in the Possession of such Parts of Our Dominions and Territories as, not having been ceded to, or purchased by Us, are reserved to them, or any of them, as their Hunting Grounds… “(p 109)

In short, the Proclamation portrays Aboriginal nations as autonomous political units living under the Crown’s protection and on lands that are already part of the Crown’s dominions. Aboriginal nations hold inherent authority over their internal affairs and the power to deal with the Crown by way of treaty and agreement. In a word, it portrays the links between Aboriginal peoples and the Crown as broadly ‘confederal‘.

Relations between the Crown and Aboriginal peoples differed from those between the Crown and its settler colonies. This difference is reflected in the structure of the Proclamation, which deals in a separate part with the constitutions of Quebec and several other new colonies. (p 110)

There was a basic difference between the constitutions of Aboriginal nations protected by the Crown and the constitutions of the settler colonies. The latter stemmed largely, if not entirely, from explicit grants, in the form of royal charters, proclamations, commissions, instructions, or acts of Parliament, as supplemented by basic unwritten principles. By contrast, the constitutions of Aboriginal nations sprang from their own internal arrangements and philosophies and were nourished by their inherent powers as self governing nations. These powers were modified over time by relations with the Crown and by certain customary principles generated by Aboriginal/Crown practice.

Nevertheless, through all these changes, Aboriginal constitutions retained their original roots within the communities concerned. (p 111)


The earliest treaty making between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in Canada was undertaken in the context of small groups of settlers living on a small portion of the land mass of the continent and involved such matters as trade and commerce, law, peace, alliance and friendship, and the extradition and exchange of prisoners. It took place in a time of intense diplomatic and military competition among European powers to claim territory, trade and influence in North America. In this context, economic and strategic ties with Indian nations became important, for the Europeans needed treaties to justify their competing territorial claims and to garner allies for their struggle. As long as their colonies were small and vulnerable, they eagerly entered into treaties with due consideration to the terms, and according to such protocols, as Indian nations wished. (p 114-115)

The principal alliances of the French with the Innu (Montagnais), Algonquin and Wendat (Huron) were economic and military in nature …

The military aspect of the alliances originated with the French helping their allies in conflicts with the Haudenosaunee in return for commercial privileges. The French, however, soon came to rely heavily on their partners to counter British expansionism.

In this case, the interests of the French and their allies were common, because the expanding territorial aspirations of the burgeoning settler population of New England were also a threat to Aboriginal interests. (p 115)

Although these agreements addressed matters of economic and military alliance, the first written treaties were signed in the interests of making or renewing peace between nations at war. Thus the first written treaties between the French and the Haudenosaunee, in 1624, 1645 and 1653, were essentially non-aggression pacts that had little lasting success. (p 115)

The treaty-making tradition between representatives of the British Crown and the Mi’kmaq continued in the middle decades of the 1700s, following a pattern in which some matters addressed in earlier treaties were reaffirmed while changing conditions gave rise to agreement on new issues. Thus, after the British established themselves in Halifax in 1749, new treaty discussions began, and in 1752 an important treaty was signed by the influential Mi’kmaq chief, Jean Baptiste Cope. (p 117)

It appears that European and Aboriginal interpretations of their agreements, whether written or not, differed on some key issues. The two principal ones were possessory rights to the land and the authority of European monarchs or their representatives over Aboriginal peoples. In general, the European understanding — or at least the one that was committed to paper — was that the monarch had, or acquired through treaty or alliance, sovereignty over the land and the people on it. The Aboriginal understanding, however, recognized neither European title to the land nor Aboriginal submission to a European monarch. (p 118)

The European doctrine of discovery resulted in an impairment of the rights of Indigenous peoples. Although they continued to be regarded as “the rightful occupants of the soil”, with “a legal as well as a just claim to retain possession”, they ceased to be free to dispose of the soil to “whomsoever they pleased” and were compelled to deal with the European power that had, at least in European eyes, ‘discovered’ their land. Indigenous nations, however, did not regard the arrival of European traders, adventurers, diplomats or officials as altering in any way their sovereignty or their ownership of their territories. (p 118)

… the Aboriginal conception of land and its relationship with human beings was based on the concept of communal ownership of land and its collective use by the human beings, animals and trees put there by the Creator. While people could control and exercise stewardship over a territory, ultimately the land belonged to the Creator — who had given the land to the people, to care for in perpetuity — and was thus inalienable. French views, by contrast, were grounded in that country’s feudal history, in which the suzerain, or ruler, not only had a form of land ownership but also had political authority over his vassals. ( p 118)

There was also a considerable discrepancy between official communications and the dialogue with Aboriginal nations. According to Lajoie and Verville, the French claim to sovereignty over the land and its people

“was confined to their discourse, a discourse destined for their European competitors, recorded only in the accounts and petitions they sent to their principals in the mother country and that they took good care to withhold from the Aboriginal people. Nor was it revealed in their practices.” (p 119)

The European claim to sovereignty over the land and the people may have appeared in the written terms of the treaty, but it is not clear that this claim was communicated orally. To the contrary, it would appear that the Aboriginal signatories were unaware that such concepts were embodied in written treaties. Land use arrangements between European powers and Aboriginal nations in the early contact period were arrived at orally and, later, through written documents that the Aboriginal parties may not have comprehended fully at the time. (p 119)

As well, French-speakers in attendance at the treaty ratification indicated that the aspects of the treaty concerning political and legal submission were not articulated. Rather it was emphasized that the Aboriginal participants had “come to salute the English Governor to make peace with him and to renew the ancient friendship which had been between them before.” (p 119 – 120)

Canadians and their governments, however, are more likely to look on the treaties as ancient history. The treaties, to Canada, are often regarded as inconvenient and obsolete relics of the early days of this country. With respect to the early treaties in particular, which were made with the British or French Crown, Canadian governments dismiss them as having no relevance in the post-Confederation period. The fact remains, however, that Canada has inherited the treaties that were made and is the beneficiary of the lands and resources secured by those treaties and still enjoyed today by Canada’s citizens. ( p 120)

The apparent common ground was real, but under the surface the old differences in world view still existed, largely unarticulated. Fundamentally, the doctrine of discovery guided the European understanding of the treaties. They were to legitimize European possession of a land whose title was already vested in a European crown. The indigenous understanding was different. Indigenous territories were to be shared; peace was to be made and the separate but parallel paths of European and indigenous cultures were to be followed in a peaceful and mutually beneficial way. (p 122)


IN THE WANING DECADES of the 1700s and the early years of the 1800s, it became increasingly clear that a fundamental change was occurring in the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples …

The first was the rapid and dramatic increase in the non-Aboriginal population, owing to the massive influx of Loyalists after the American Revolution and swelling immigration, especially from the British Isles. Beginning in the 1780s, thousands of Loyalists poured into the Maritimes …

Lower Canada, with its long-established reserve land policy, was not drastically affected by in-migration. It was different in Upper Canada, however, where reserves were fewer and population pressures proportionately greater. It is estimated that by 1812 the nonAboriginal population of that colony outnumbered the Aboriginal population by as much as 10 to 1, with the ratio increasing further in the ensuing decades.

Illegal squatting occurred on Indian lands, as in the Maritimes, but it was more common for purchases of Indian lands to be made through the negotiation of treaties. Purchased lands were then made available by the Crown for non-Aboriginal settlement. ( p 130)

The fur trade was already declining in eastern Canada by the latter part of the 1700s. The 1821 merger of the two major rivals, the North West Company and the Hudson’s Bay Company, signalled the end of the Montreal-based fur trade and with it the relative prosperity of the Aboriginal nations dependent on it. The fur trade continued to be important in the north and west for many more decades — indeed, it did not begin in what became British Columbia until the late 1700s.

 But in eastern Canada, the fur trade — and the era of co-operative division of labour between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people it represented — were over. (p 130 – 131)

The normalization of relations between the United States and Great Britain following the War of 1812 was a third factor in the changed relationship that emerged at this time. No longer courted as military allies, a role they had enjoyed for two centuries, First Nations were forgotten for their major contributions … By 1830, in fact, responsibility for ‘Indian policy’ —formerly a quasi-diplomatic vocation — had been transferred from military to civil authorities. The preoccupation of policy makers turned to social rather than military concerns, and soon schemes were devised to begin the process of dismantling Aboriginal nations and integrating their populations into the burgeoning settler society around them. 

… To justify their actions, the non-Aboriginal settler society was well served by a belief system that judged Aboriginal people to be inferior. Based originally on religious and philosophical grounds, this sense of cultural and moral superiority would be buttressed by additional, pseudo-scientific theories, developed during the nineteenth century, that rested ultimately on ethnocentric and racist premises.(p 131)

In Canada, the period saw the end of most aspects of the formal nation-to-nation relationship of rough equality that had developed in the earlier stage of relations. Paradoxically, however, the negotiation of treaties continued, but side by side with legislated dispossession, through the Indian Act. Aboriginal peoples lost control and management of their own lands and resources, and their traditional customs and forms of organization were interfered with in the interest of remaking Aboriginal people in the image of the newcomers. This did not occur all at once across the country, but gradually even western and northern First Nations came under the influence of the new regime. (p 132)

Former enemies of the victorious British, the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet, were simply ignored, left to find their own way in the rapidly changing world. Dispossessed of much of their land, separated from resources and impoverished, they were also ravaged by disease, and in the early 1800s they seemed to be on the road to virtual extinction. (p 134)

In Upper Canada, however …  Aboriginal peoples were treated differently. Thus, the Indian affairs department consistently applied the principles of the Royal Proclamation of 1763, recognizing Aboriginal rights to land and self-government. This led to a series of treaties, signed between 1815 and 1825, that cleared the southern part of the colony for settlement. With the two Robinson Treaties in 1850, further territory north of the Great Lakes was opened for resource exploitation and, later, settlement. (p 134)

… Thus, the British imperial government, in association with protestant mission societies in the province of Upper Canada, embarked on the new policy of civilization with the willing assistance of many Aboriginal nations.

Communities in the southern part of Upper Canada were to be located on their reserves in serviced settlement sites, complete with houses, barns, churches and schools, and given training in agriculture and the other arts and crafts of settler life. (p 134)

Indian reserves were not a new factor in relations between the Aboriginal peoples and the newcomers to North America. The French had established the practice of setting aside lands for their Indian allies in New France, believing that a settled and secure environment would promote adoption of Christianity. The Jesuits established the first true reserve in this sense in New France, at Sillery, as early as 1637. Others soon followed. Thus, when the British embarked on their own program of attempting to convert and civilize the Indians of what is now southern Ontario, they had a precedent to draw upon. (p 134 – 135)

Throughout the nineteenth century and into the twentieth, first the British Crown and then the new dominion of Canada entered into treaties in Ontario, the prairie provinces and parts of the north, under which Indians agreed to the creation of reserves (along with other benefits) in exchange for their agreement to share their lands and resources with the newcomers. These treaties, described later in this volume, were modelled to a considerable extent on the Robinson treaties (also discussed later), were in written form, and were quite specific about the amount of land to be included in a reserve and the fact that traditional Indian hunting, fishing and trapping activities were not to be interfered with. (p 135)


Not all reserves in Canada were created by treaty, however. Those in Quebec were established by grants from the French Crown to missionary orders, on the theory that the Crown had all right and title to the lands in question. Some in Ontario were created by the purchase of lands outside the traditional territories of the Indian peoples for whom they were intended. The Six Nations reserve at Brantford falls into this category. Purchased originally from the Mississauga of the Credit in 1784, it was granted to the Six Nations by the Crown in 1788. Other reserves were created by order in council as circumstances required, and a few others were established by trust agreements with missionary societies, which were to hold the lands for the benefit of their Indian charges. There were even a few instances of Indian bands purchasing privately held lands using their own monies, with the reserves then being held by the Crown for their benefit.

In the Atlantic region there were no treaties under which reserves were created. On the cession of Acadia to Great Britain by France, the British view was that there was no requirement to treat with the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet nations for their lands. Never protected by imperial authorities to the same extent as the western First Nations, the relatively small remaining Aboriginal population in the Maritimes was scattered and isolated and, by the early 1800s, decimated by epidemics and considered to be headed for extinction. Indian administration was decentralized, and there was no imperial Indian department, so there was no regular allocation of imperial monies for Indian people and their needs.

Reserves were established by colonial authorities as a result of Indians’ petitions or their sorry circumstances, rather than the policy of a central authority. Accordingly, a few reserves were set aside in New Brunswick by licences of occupation granted to individual Indians on behalf of them and their families or the band they represented. These licences were then confirmed by order in council. In Nova Scotia, on the other hand, lands were set aside by order in council to be held in trust for Indians as if they were owned by them. In Prince Edward Island, a private benefactor allowed Indians to live on one reserve. Later, private land was purchased using government funds and other reserves were created.

No reserve was created in Newfoundland until 1984, because that province did not recognize the existence of status Indians within its boundaries following its entry into Confederation in 1949. (p 136)

Unlike the reserves in Ontario and western and northern Canada, however, imperial and colonial officials did not feel it necessary in Quebec and the Maritimes to follow the surrender requirements of the Royal Proclamation of 1763, so the local Indian commissioners appointed to protect and supervise Indian land transactions also had the power to dispose of reserve land without Indian consent. (136 – 137)

British Columbia presents an entirely different and still problematic situation. Between 1850 and 1854, William Douglas, governor of the Vancouver Island colony, entered into 14 treaties with the Indian peoples of southern Vancouver Island. Under these treaties, provision was made for the creation of reserves on terms similar to those in effect in Ontario and, later, western and northern Canada. A shortage of funds to compensate Indian peoples for their lands and a growing unwillingness among the settler population to recognize Indian rights to land hampered the reserve policy. Later, colonial authorities adopted a policy of allocating very small reserves to Indian bands. Pressured by the federal government to enlarge the reserves, after the province’s entry into Confederation in 1871, British Columbia refused … hearings led eventually to resolution of the issue in 1938. However, except for a portion of Vancouver Island (the Douglas treaties) and the northeastern corner of the province (Treaty 8), most of the land in British Columbia is not covered by treaties. (p 137)


In addition to creating reserves, in Upper Canada the policy to civilize the Indians was supplemented by legislation, the 1857 Act to Encourage the Gradual Civilization of the Indian Tribes in this Province. It provided for the voluntary enfranchisement — freedom from Indian status — of individuals of good character as determined by a board of examiners. (p 137)

The evident failure of the voluntary enfranchisement policy led the Indian affairs department to campaign throughout the remaining pre-Confederation period for an end to the independence of the Aboriginal governments that the Royal Proclamation of 1763 had apparently promised to protect. (p 138)


The first emergence of Métis people was not inadvertent. Intermarriage of newcomers with First Nations people was a deliberate strategy of seventeenth-century church and state officials in New France, as they intended to develop a powerful presence in North America to counter that of their European rivals, the Dutch and the English.  (p 138)

… Officially, France ceased to sanction intermarriage after the 1670s, but so long as a fur trade was promoted from Montreal, economic incentives encouraged the original dynamic. Because promotion of the fur trade continued until 1821, a large Métis population developed throughout the Great Lakes basin. (p 139)

Historians have not reached consensus on how much the two streams of migration — the French ‘Métis’ and the English ‘half-breeds’ — merged into one population over the next several decades. They do agree, however, that many paths led to Red River, and what developed there between 1820 and 1870 represented a florescence of distinct culture in which both streams participated. The new nation was not simply a population that happened to be of mixed European/Aboriginal ancestry; the Métis Nation was a population with its own language, Michif (though many dialects), a distinctive mode of dress, cuisine, vehicles of transport, modes of celebration in music and dance, and a completely democratic though quasi-military political organization, complete with national flag, bardic tradition and vibrant folklore of national history.  (p 141)

There was a compensatory promise of “fair and equitable” grants to people whose access to open prairie was expected to be restricted by future development. There was a positive affirmation of continuity, in the form of secure tenure of all occupied lands, and a promise of 1.4 million acres to benefit “the children of the half-breed heads of families”. Equally important, the negotiations leading to passage of the Manitoba Act and admission of the community to the Canadian federation as a province in its own right appeared to confirm the existence and importance of Métis self-government. The overall arrangement was so eminently satisfactory to the Métis provisional government that on 24 June 1870 its members ratified what many have since referred to as their ‘treaty’ without one dissenting voice. (p 142)

Further land was distributed, nominally at least, to Métis of the Northwest Territories, under a statute called the Dominion Lands Act, but the process was no more successful than the Manitoba process had been in terms of assuring satisfactory land-based Métis communities. In some areas, especially in the east, no attempt to recognize or deal with Métis Aboriginal rights was ever made. (p 143 – 144)

Both Métis and Plains Indians were deeply concerned by the relentless influx of newcomers to the prairies, the threat this posed to their lands and ways of life, and the sudden disappearance of the buffalo in the 1880s. While the federal government dithered in coming to grips with Métis and Indian grievances, Riel proceeded to form a provisional government. Under the leadership of Gabriel Dumont, a military force of plainsmen was also formed, but the federal government countered by sending a strong military expedition to the north-west in the spring of 1885. The Métis forces were crushed at Batoche, and Riel was hanged, after being convicted of treason, at Regina on 16 November 1885. Big Bear and Poundmaker, who had provided strong leadership to the Plains Indian forces, were arrested and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. (p 144)

Métis people of the same district would have the option as individuals to join treaties or receive ‘half-breed’ scrip redeemable in land or a cash gratuity — nothing more. All told there were 14 such commissions canvassing western Canada. The last operated in the Mackenzie River district in 1921.

.. Still, no other accommodation was contemplated. Canada did not recognize Métis communities as such. Canada defined Métis rights in purely individual terms, the one-time-only claim that certain ‘half-breeds’ might make for scrip. When they received that gratuity, any potential claim arising from their aboriginality was deemed to be ‘extinguished’. (p 144)

From 1815 to the 1850s, there were literally hundreds of land transactions, whereby First Nations, many of which had previously made treaties of alliance, peace and friendship with the Crown, transferred their land to the Crown.

In all these land transactions, the Crown’s purpose was to secure First Nations lands for settlement and development. In some, and perhaps many, of these transactions, the Indian nations thought they were conveying their land to the Crown for the limited purpose of authorizing the Crown to ‘protect’ their lands from incoming settlement … (p 145)

1836 Treaties

The treaty of 1836 made provision to set aside the Manitoulin Island area as a reserve, and some Indian people made the move … By the early 1860s, the demand for land from non-Aboriginal interests led to a further initiative to gain control of the Manitoulin Island lands. In the 1861-62 period, agents of the Crown and the government of the Province of Canada approached the Odawa and Ojibwa nations of Manitoulin, seeking to release the government from its 1836 promise to reserve the lands exclusively for Indian use. The agents of the Crown assumed that the 1836 agreement gave the Crown title to the island, a premise rejected by the Indian nations …

On the following Monday, he presented a revised proposal excluding from the negotiations and subsequent agreement the territory and inhabitants of the eastern portion of the island. Since a majority of the island’s Indian inhabitants resided in the east, the agreement to open the bulk of the island to non-Aboriginal settlement was struck with a minority of the Indian inhabitants. (p 146 – 147)

1850 Treaties

In 1841 Upper and Lower Canada joined together to become the Province of Canada and subsequently leases were issued to companies to explore and mine in Ojibwa territories…

In September 1850 negotiations for the Robinson Huron and Superior treaties were concluded . Ojibwa chiefs succeeded in obtaining reservations of land as well as a provision that would give them a share of revenues from the exploitation of resources in their territories. Annuities, or cash payments, were to increase as revenues increased. However, the provision for an increase in the extremely small annuities was adjusted only once in the 1870s. When the Ojibwa request a further increase to reflect the real profits, the federal government’s response is to rely on the English text of the treaty, which states that such further sums are limited to what “Her Majesty may be graciously pleased to order”. (p 147 – 148)

Numbered Treaties

In negotiating the numbered treaties that followed, the Crown followed the pattern of approaching First Nations to ‘surrender’ large tracts of land in return for annual cash payments and other ‘benefits’. These negotiations were conducted in the oral traditions of the Indian nations. Once agreement was reached, a text was produced that purported to represent the substance of the agreements. However, arrangements respecting land are one area where there was fundamental misunderstanding about what the parties thought or assumed they were doing when they made the treaties. The situation varied from one treaty to another, but in general the Indian nations, based on their cultural and oral traditions, understood they were sharing the land, not ‘surrendering’ it. While the surrender clauses of the early land sales in Ontario were included in the later written numbered treaties, it is questionable whether their implications were known to the Indian parties, since these legal and real estate concepts would have been incomprehensible to many Aboriginal people. Further, it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to translate the legal language expressing these concepts into the Indian languages.

Aboriginal people often understood that they were being compensated for the use of their lands and that they were not being asked to give up or surrender them, but to allow settlers to move onto their lands peaceably. (p 148)

Although the extent to which these basic differences and assumptions were communicated effectively and understood depended on the historical circumstances of those events in particular locales, on the whole the First Nations did not agree to having their lands taken over by the Crown, nor did they agree to come under the control of the Crown. Their understanding was that they would share their lands and resources in a treaty relationship that would respect their agreement to co-exist as separate nations but linked in a partnership with the Crown.

Other aspects of the treaty negotiations were also significant. The numbered treaties provided for tracts of land to be set apart and protected as reserves for the Indian parties. In the Robinson treaties, for example, the reserve lands were retained or reserved from the general surrender of Indian title. In the later numbered treaties, the texts were drafted to indicate that all Indian title was surrendered to the Crown, and from those tracts the Crown was obliged to set apart ‘Crown land’ for reserves on a population-based formula.

As the Indian parties in possession of these huge tracts of land demanded a fair and equitable exchange, the Crown not only offered cash payments upon signing and annually thereafter, but agreed to provide agricultural and economic assistance, schools and teachers, and other goods and benefits depending on the particular group they were negotiating with … (p 149)

Treaties 1871 (onward)

Traditional historical interpretations have tended to portray the treaty-making process as a Crown initiative, with a benevolent Crown extending its largesse to the less fortunate nations. However, the numbered treaties came about because First Nations demanded that special arrangements be made through treaties before the Crown could expect to use Indian lands and resources. They were not prepared to give up their lands, on which they depended for their livelihood, without a formal arrangement that would protect adequate lands and resources for their own use. (p 151)

Following an unsuccessful attempt to negotiate a treaty in the Fort Frances region in early 1871, treaty discussions were begun with the peoples of the Treaty 1 and 2 areas in the summer of the same year …

Archibald emphasized that they would not be compelled to settle on reserves and that they would be able to continue their traditional way of life and hunt as they always had.

… However, the written text did not include the guarantees that had been made respecting land, hunting and fishing, and the maintenance of their way of life, nor did it contain what were termed “outside” promises respecting agricultural implements, livestock, hunting equipment, and the other promises that had been extracted. In fact, the text was not that different from the Robinson Huron and Superior treaties, for it “surrendered” land in exchange for annuities, schools and reserves based on a formula of 160 acres per person.

In a subsequent inquiry into the matter, it was discovered that Commissioner Wemyss M.Simpson had neglected to include a record of the outside promises when he forwarded the text of the treaty to Ottawa… The matter of the outside promises was not settled until 1876. (p 151 – 152)

The negotiation of Treaty 3 was also long and difficult, but after two failed attempts a treaty was concluded in 1873. Throughout the negotiations the Ojibwa held fast to their terms, and Crown negotiators were forced to make concessions …

In the end, the Ojibwa succeeded in getting far more than the Crown had been willing to consider, including an increase in the size of reserves from a quarter-section to a full section. Provision was also made for domestic animals, farming equipment, annuities (compensation), clothing and education. Subsequent treaties generally included these provisions as a standard part of the agreement. In addition, those who were not present at treaty negotiations were asked to sign adhesions to the treaty for their traditional territories. (p 154)

Treaties with the First Nations of the plains, who were in possession of the western plains and who had to be dealt with if the new dominion was to extend its jurisdiction from east to west, were negotiated between 1874 and 1877 …

The rich agricultural plains were coveted by the Crown and had the greatest potential, aside from forest and mineral developments, to generate the economic prosperity that settlement would bring. This would not be easy, since the plains nations had military confederacies to guard their lands against encroachment…

In the end, and in part because of all the difficulties in negotiating the treaty, Morris offered and the chiefs present agreed to accept the terms of Treaty 3, the terms of which had already been communicated to them by the Ojibwa with whom they were in close communication. (154 – 155)

Treaty 5 was negotiated in September 1875 between the Swampy Cree and others and the Crown as represented by Commissioner Morris. A treaty in the vicinity of Lake Winnipeg was deemed necessary because of the requirements of navigation and the need to make arrangements for settlement and other developments so that “settlers and traders might have undisturbed access to its waters, shores, islands, inlets and tributary streams”. According to Morris’s report, the terms of Treaty 5 were similar to Treaties 3 and 4, except that reserved land would be provided on the basis of 160 acres for each family … The Cree were assured, however, that they would be able to retain lands in their traditional territories. (p 155-156)

A description of the unrest among Assiniboine and Cree: buffalo were disappearing, threat of starvation; fur-economy ruined by over hunting, settlers travelling west, etc. They demanded a treaty in order to establish their rights.

By the end of negotiations, the terms were similar to those of the other treaties, involving annuities, education, economic assistance and assistance with housing, but with added provisions for relief in the event of famine, help for the indigent, grain provisions for three years, and medical aid. (p 157)

In September 1877, Treaty 7 was made … between the Crown … and the Blood, Blackfoot, Peigan, Sarcee and Stoney nations of the Blackfoot Confederacy…

The Blackfoot Confederacy was feared because of its effectiveness in the defence of Blackfoot territory from outside encroachment. The Blackfoot were experiencing hardship as a result of the disappearance of the buffalo from their hunting grounds. Furthermore, up to 800 of their people had died from a smallpox epidemic in 1870…

Commissioner Laird offered inducements to get them to sign a treaty:

…But in a very few years the buffalo will probably be all destroyed, and for this reason the Queen wishes to help you to live in the future in some other way. She wishes you to allow her white children to come and live on your land and raise cattle, and should you agree to this she will assist you to raise cattle and grain… She will also pay you and your children money every year, which you can spend as you please. … The Queen wishes us to offer you the same as was accepted by the Crees.(p 157)

Negotiations consisted of the Crown offering annuities, goods and benefits, as they had in other treaties, in exchange for Blackfoot agreement to sign a treaty… In the record of treaty discussions prepared by the Crown, there appeared to be little discussion of the impending construction of the railroad or the surrender of Blackfoot territory. (p 158)

Treaties 8 and 11 were driven by economic pressures — gold was discovered in the Klondike in the spring of 1897, and prospectors, gold diggers and settlers flooded into Indian lands … in June 1898, nations in the Fort St. John area refused to allow police and miners to enter their territories until a treaty was made. (p 158)

As a result, in 1899 treaty commissioners travelled with a sense of urgency to meet the Cree and Dene nations in possession of a northern territory comprising 324,900 square miles, an area from northern Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia and south of the Hay River and Great Slave Lake in the North West Territories. In Treaty 8, the Crown continued its policy of offering benefits if the Indian nations would allow settlers into their territories.

… The treaty also included the usual ‘cede, surrender and yield up’ clause, although this was not discussed by commissioners… It was only after the commissioners solemnly pledged their word, in the name of Queen Victoria, that the Indians agreed to sign the treaty. However, the full content of the discussion was not reflected in the written treaty. (p 158 – 159)

Treaty 11 was to follow the same path, since the Privy Council had noted in 1891 that immense quantities of petroleum and other valuable minerals existed in the Mackenzie River country and that “a treaty or treaties should be made with the Indians who claim these regions as their hunting grounds”. The economic implications were staggering to politicians in Ottawa. After oil was discovered at Norman Wells, treaty commissioners were again dispatched with urgency when the Dene threatened to refuse entry to their lands.

Commissioners were received with suspicion and mistrust, since the Dene had learned that guarantees negotiated in Treaty 8 were not being respected. Throughout the negotiations, the Dene repeated their conditions for making a treaty … 

Commissioner Conroy did not table the commitments and guarantees made to the Dene in the oral negotiations. All that was tabled was a written text almost identical to the predrafted treaty that had been proposed in the Treaty 8 negotiations.

Throughout the negotiation of the numbered treaties the commissioners did not clearly convey to First Nations the implications of the surrender and cession language in treaty documents. (p 159)

Differing Assumptions and Understandings

Early treaties were made for peace, trade, alliance, neutrality and military support. When settlement grew, treaties were made to establish relationships, as a way of living together in peaceful co-existence, and to acquire Aboriginal lands and resources. Canada continues to enter into treaty agreements with Aboriginal nations to acquire title to Aboriginal lands and resources.

Over time, treaties became more complex and difficult to negotiate … In many cases, it is questionable whether the Indian parties understood the legal and political implications of the land conveyance documents they were asked to sign. Many of these transactions are the subject of land claims today.

It is also doubtful in many cases that the First Nations participating in the numbered treaties knew that the written texts they signed differed from the oral agreements they concluded. In fact, it was not evident to them until some years after treaties were made that the Crown was not honouring its treaty commitments or was acting in a way that violated treaty agreements. Their reaction to the imposition of government laws and restrictions upon them was seen as a violation of the Queen’s promise to protect their way of life and not subject them to the Queen’s laws (the Indian Act) or the Queen’s servants (the Indian agent)…

The fact that in most cases the Indian parties were unable to verify the implications of the written text against the oral agreement … must be given consideration when interpreting their meaning. (p 160 – 161)

In most, if not all the treaties, the Crown promised not to interfere with their way of life, including their hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering practices.

… The Indian parties understood they would continue to maintain their traditional governments, their laws and their customs and to co-operate as necessary with the Crown. There was substantive agreement that the treaties established an economic partnership from which both parties would benefit … First Nations were promised compensation in the form of annual payments or annuities, social and economic benefits, and the continued use of their lands and resources. (p 161)

First Nations were assured orally that their way of life would not change unless they wished it to. They understood that their governing structures and authorities would continue undisturbed by the treaty relationship. They also assumed, and were assured, that the Crown would respect and honour the treaty agreements in perpetuity and that they would not suffer — but only benefit — from making treaties with the Crown. They were not asked, and they did not agree, to adopt non-Aboriginal ways and laws for themselves. (p 161)

Non-fulfillment of Treaties

One of the fundamental flaws in the treaty-making process was that only the Crown’s version of treaty negotiations and agreements was recorded in accounts of negotiations and in the written texts. Little or no attention was paid to how First Nations understood the treaties or consideration given to the fact that they might have had a completely different understanding of what had transpired.

Another fundamental problem was the Crown’s failure to establish the necessary laws to uphold the treaties it signed. Unlike the modern treaties of today, which have provisions for implementation, implementation of the historical treaties was virtually overlooked. Once treaties were negotiated, the texts were tabled in Ottawa and the commissioners who had negotiated them moved on to other activities. After 1867, the new dominion was occupied with immigration, settlement and nation building, and its treaties with the Indian nations were largely buried and forgotten in succeeding decades. Since the Indian department was located initially in the department of the interior, immigration and settlement took precedence in the corridors of power.

… The eclipse of treaties and the absenting of Indian people from decision making was pervasive, reinforced by Indian Act provisions that restricted Indian people to reserves and forbade them to pursue legitimate complaints about the non-fulfilment of treaties.

Additionally, no effective office in government was ever given responsibility for fulfilling Crown treaty commitments. Implementation was left to a small group of civil servants without the knowledge, power or authority to act for the Crown in meeting treaty obligations or to hold off other government departments and the private sector if they had conflicting agendas. For example, treaties promised that reserve lands would never be taken away without the consent of the Indian signatories, but statute law provided that reserve lands could be expropriated from 1850 on. Thus federal statutes overrode treaty promises that Indian nations would never lose their lands. (p 163-164)

Many of the rights and promises recognized and affirmed by the treaties could be upheld only by an act of the legislature. But treaties were not sanctioned by legislation; they were executive actions of the Crown…

In the absence of effective laws to implement treaties, the federal Indian administration fell back on the Indian Act. As time went on, basic treaty provisions such as annuities were provided for in the Indian Act to enable the federal government to deliver them. Although it does not recognize, affirm or otherwise acknowledge treaties, the Indian Act continues to be the only federal statute administering to Indians generally, including those with historical treaty agreements. This is despite the fact that, as of 1982, the constitution recognizes and affirms the Aboriginal and treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada. (p 164)

Extending measures of Control and Assimilation

The nation of Canada was born on 1 July 1867. Within a federal political structure, a modern transcontinental society was to be fashioned and, as empire became nation, a new beginning was to be made…

The first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, soon informed Parliament that it would be Canada’s goal “to do away with the tribal system and assimilate the Indian people in all respects with the inhabitants of the Dominion.” …

Parliament was moved to action. Though rarely consulting Aboriginal communities, it translated that duty into federal legislation such as the Indian Act and periodic amendments to it. It crafted educational systems, social policies and economic development plans designed to extinguish Aboriginal rights and assimilate Aboriginal people.

The process began with the blueprint of Confederation, the British North America Act of 1867. It provided in section 91 that the “exclusive Legislative Authority of the Parliament of Canada extends to all matters within the class of subjects next herein-after enumerated” among which was section 24, “Indians, and Lands reserved for the Indians.”

Enfranchisement Act of 1869… the act was conditioned by the Indian department’s resolute insistence on enfranchisement. It brought forward the enfranchisement provisions of the act of 1857 and added … the goal of assimilation.

In the act, traditional governments were replaced by ‘municipal government’, giving minor and circumscribed powers to the band while extensive control of reserves was assigned to the federal government and its representative, the Indian affairs department.

In subsequent legislation — the Indian Acts of 1876 and 1880 and the Indian Advancement Act of 1884 — the federal government took for itself the power … every aspect of life on reserves and to create whatever infrastructure it deemed necessary to achieve the desired end — assimilation through enfranchisement and, as a consequence, the eventual disappearance of Indians as distinct peoples. It could, for example, and did in the ensuing years, control elections and the conduct of band councils, the management of reserve resources and the expenditure of revenues, impose individual land holding through a ‘ticket of location’ system, and determine the education of Indian children.

For Aboriginal people, however, there was even further division — yet more separate paths. Federal legislative responsibility was restricted to Indians. The Métis people were disavowed, and Inuit were not recognized as a federal constitutional responsibility until 1939 and then were exempted explicitly from the Indian Act in 1951. (p 165 – 167)

While ‘status’ Indian men could not lose their status except by enfranchisement, the act of 1869 added the proviso that “any Indian woman marrying any other than an Indian shall cease to be an Indian…nor shall the children issue of such a marriage be considered as Indians”. Over the course of Canada’s first century, therefore, an ever growing number of Indian women and their children were lost to their communities and saw their existence as Aboriginal persons simply denied by the federal government. (p 167)

In 1884 and 1885, the potlatch and the sundance, two of the most visible and spiritually significant aspects of coastal and plains culture respectively, were outlawed … Participation in the potlatch was made a criminal offence, and it was also illegal to appear in traditional costume or dance at festivals. (p 169)

The pass system allowed the department to regulate all economic activity among communities, including adjacent non-Aboriginal ones. No one who had not obtained an agent’s leave would be allowed, on an Indian reserve, to barter, directly or indirectly, with any Indian, or sell to him any goods or supplies, cattle or other animals, without the special licence in writing. (p 169)

… That was changed in 1930, however, with passage of the natural resources transfer agreements with the three prairie provinces. In these the federal government failed to take “any precaution, apparently, to safeguard the sacred trusts which had been guaranteed to the Indians by treaty.” Thereafter, Aboriginal access to off-reserve resources was controlled across the country by provinces — which, of course, had no responsibility for First Nations. (p 170)

Those who failed to comply with any of the myriad social and economic regulations faced fines or imprisonment …Indian agents were made justices of the peace. The department then had the power to make and to enforce regulations, which had the force of law, with regard to the full spectrum of public and private life in communities. (p 171)

Residential Schools

By far the most ambitious and tragic initiative, however, was the joint government and church residential school program. Introduced originally for Indian children, the system would eventually draw children from almost every Aboriginal community — Indian, Métis and Inuit — across the country. Beginning in 1849, the program developed to include boarding schools, built close to the reserves for children between the ages of 8 and 14, and industrial schools, placed near non-Aboriginal urban centres to train older children in a range of trades. The schools — 80 of them at the high point — were the centrepiece of the assimilation strategy…

Bad management, unsanitary conditions and abuse of the children were more than occasional exceptions to the rule. Parents, and indeed many local agents, were reluctant to send children to the schools … The department, unable to get adequate funding from Parliament or contributions from the churches, abandoned the ambitious industrial school model by 1920. Thereafter, the emphasis was placed on the boarding schools which, while less expensive, were judged by accepted standards of child care and education to be a dismal failure, leaving deep scars across communities and the conscience of a nation. 

The removal of children from their homes and the denial of their identity through attacks on their language and spiritual beliefs were cruel. But these practices were compounded by the too frequent lack of basic care — the failure to provide adequate food, clothing, medical services and a healthful environment, and the failure to ensure that the children were safe from teachers and staff who abused them physically, sexually and emotionally (p 172)

As early as 1918, F.O. Loft declared, when organizing the League of Indians, the
first attempt at a national organization:

… The first aim of the League then is to claim and protect the rights of all Indians in Canada by legitimate and just means; second, absolute control in retaining possession or disposition of our lands; that all questions and matters relative to individual and national wellbeing of Indians shall rest with the people and the dealings with the Government shall be by and through their respective band Councils. (p 173)

Thus, the Indian Act of 1927 contained stronger measures to intervene in and control the affairs of Aboriginal societies, including further efforts to develop an agricultural economy in the expectation that social and cultural change would follow in its wake. That act was also notable for its response to Aboriginal political organizations pursuing land issues, especially in British Columbia. An amendment was added making “raising a fund or providing money for the prosecution of any claim” a crime unless permission was obtained. (p 176)

The “Statement of the Government of Canada on Indian Policy, 1969” ignored the consultations that accompanied the policy review and proceeded to recommend measures designed to achieve integration and equality: Indian people were to be allowed to retain their cultures, much as other Canadians do in a multicultural society, but they were to give up the other features that make them distinct — elements such as treaties, Aboriginal rights, exclusive federal responsibility, and the department of Indian affairs. The overwhelmingly hostile response to this policy initiative on the part of Aboriginal people, and subsequent court decisions that recognize the validity of Aboriginal and treaty rights, marked an important turning point in the relationship. (p 176)


To be continued … this summary will be updated periodically, when I have the time.

Indigenous Survivors: “Our people were experimented on”

From the CBC:

“Florence Genaille was just a little girl in a Brandon, Man., sanatorium when she says doctors bound her to a gurney, pumped her body with electric currents and then took notes as her fingers curled, her arms shook and her neck strained backwards.

It was 1953. The Ojibway girl from Rolling River First Nation was at the sanatorium to be treated for tuberculosis.

Today, she believes it was no treatment. It was, she says, a medical experiment and she was their “guinea pig” — an assessment that Genaille shares with hundreds of survivors of the sanatoriums, which have been closed for decades.

They’re allegations that historians are now investigating.

“I’m telling you, my fingers were beginning to twist sideways, it was so incredibly painful,” said Genaille, now 72. “And now to come to the conclusion our people were experimented on — it’s an awful thing to think about.”

No evidence of tuberculosis

Genaille still does not know why doctors performed the electroconvulsive therapy. She still does not know why she was sent to the Brandon sanatorium.

At the time, she was attending residential school outside Brandon. She had bad leg pain with no known cause. Finally, the nuns decided to send her to the sanatorium, saying she might have tuberculosis in her bones.

She didn’t. In fact, years later, a doctor told her she had no evidence of tuberculosis at all.

But that didn’t stop doctors from ordering extreme bed rest for six months, so strict that she was not allowed to get off the mattress, even when they changed the bedding.

That didn’t stop doctors from slicing open the back of her thigh to explore her bone, only to sew it back up, scarring her for life and leaving her with a permanent limp. 

She had been, in the doctor’s opinion, experimented on — maybe in good faith, but without merit and without consent.

‘A lot of power in the hands of doctors’

Mary Jane McCallum is studying this theory.

McCallum, an associate professor with the University of Winnipeg, is researching what went on in Indian hospitals, as some were called then, and sanatoriums.

She has heard stories similar to Genaille’s from other sanatorium survivors and does know this: Indian hospitals were long the training ground for medical students.

Parents of young patients were often hundreds of kilometres away in remote reserves, unaware of the procedures and therefore unable to give consent.

“That meant that there were a lot of unanswered questions and a lot of power in the hands of doctors,” McCallum wrote in an email to the CBC.

Gerald McIvor agrees. Back in 1952, his brother Michael was just a child when he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and sent to the sanatorium in Ninette, Man.

Decades later, he bore the scars — disabling, disfiguring markers where doctors surgically removed a back rib and the lung behind it as a theoretical treatment for the tuberculosis.

“He always wondered, ‘Why? Why did they do that?'” McIvor said, adding his brother, who died in 2000, remembered the searing pain and little else.

Years later, Dr. A.L. Paine, a pre-eminent physician who was previously the medical superintendent of the Ninette sanatorium, explained he performed these surgeries with just a local anesthetic.

In a January 1979 paper published in the journal Canadian Family Physician titled Tuberculosis: Past, present and future, he wrote local anesthetic was used “to avoid spread of the disease during general anesthesia,” and that patients willingly agreed to it.

“Looking back, one must regret the frequent use of chest surgery attended at times by some deformity or reduced respiratory function,” Dr. Paine wrote, while arguing “many patients would have died without surgical aid.”

Taken from residential schools to sanatoriums

Today, there are other answers, though some are hidden in the history books.

In the first half of the 20th century, tuberculosis on reserves was a significant problem. The thinking at the time was that it was because Indigenous people lived in the wild.

According to an article in the August 1939 Canadian Medical Association Journal, “the Indian is still a wandering wigwam dweller at heart and adapts himself poorly to living in houses” and has “a native stubbornness and intolerance to interference that makes clinic work difficult.”

But under the Indian Act, it was legal to seize kids suspected of having tuberculosis and send them to sanatoriums — sometimes directly from their residential school, as in Genaille’s case.

It was also seen at the time as a financial win-win, medical historians say. The practice kept numbers up in both residential schools and sanatoriums where funding was tied, in part, to quotas.

So by the 1950s, even though there were better therapies available for tuberculosis patients and therapies that could let them heal at home, Indigenous patients continued to be detained longer — sometimes years longer — than the rest of the population.

McIvor, Genaille and historians don’t yet know the full extent or intentions behind what went on in Canada’s Indian hospitals and sanatoriums.

But they want to get some answers.

“I think a lot of these doctors learned from experimenting on us,” Genaille said. “Why else would just my kind of people be in there and exposed to this?”

See also:

Former sanatorium patient searches for answers, validation

B.C. author tells the horrific story of so-called ‘Indian hospitals’

Aboriginal children used in medical tests, commissioner says

Canadian government withheld food from hungry aboriginal kids in 1940s nutritional experiments, researcher finds

Researcher calls for public inquiry into medical experimentation on students not compensated in settlement agreement


We know they performed experiments on Aboriginal children with nutrition and vaccines, now it seems only a matter of time until the rest of the accusations of medical experiments come spilling out. (Some already have!)

Unless of course the government can cover it up. One successful avenue has been the “reconciliation process” – giving abuse victims payoffs and then essentially shutting them up. One would think if you want “reconciliation” and “healing” you’d have massive investigations into things, clear up the truth and make everything public – enabling the country to move on. They appear to want to pay people to shut up and stifle anything from becoming public. We can’t change the past but we could learn from it. But why would cakers do that? Have to focus on the number one priority: making Canada look “good” to the world and feeling superior to Americans!

See post: Canadians aren’t sorry for genocide: ‘Intentions were good’

Canada’s Forgotten Slaves: Two Hundred Years of Bondage

To help elaborate on the topic of slavery in Canada, I am quoting some excerpts from Marcel Trudel’s book ‘Canada’s Forgotten Slaves: Two Hundred Years of Bondage’. It’s an interesting book and worth reading. (The topic has been virtually ignored and suppressed in Canada.)

Points to note:

Between 1632 and 1834 there were over 4000 slaves in New France/Canada. They were both black and aboriginal. A black was worth 900 livres, and an Amerindian slave worth 400 livres. There were more Amerindian slaves than blacks: this tended to be because they were cheaper, which was in part a result of the fact they were nearby and easier to obtain. (Amerindian slaves were known as ‘Panis’ – a generic term to describe a slave of any tribe.)

Slavery here never reached the heights of the southern colonies or Caribbean – but not through lack of effort. Citizens attempted to import shipments of slaves but were prevented by wars, transportation costs, company changes and a lack of interest from slavers.

While slavery was an economic imperative for southern colonies, slavery here had no real economic basis and was merely a status symbol, conveying wealth and prestige. While attempts to ship slaves were requested for “cost effective” measures, and assistance in “working the land” (agriculture), in fact very few slaves were rural and most existed in the city, purchased by the upper classes.


The slavery timeline begins in ‘New France’ (a colony of France), and continues under the British military regime (after the conquest of 1760). It carries on in the province of Quebec (1774-1791) and Lower Canada (1791 – 1834).


“Canadians have long seen slavery in terms, above all, of the Underground Railway, that clandestine network of forest and waterside paths by which Quakers, black freedmen and other human rights advocates smuggled runaway American slaves northwards to liberty in the early nineteenth century. As many as a hundred thousand slaves escaped to Canada. But for some strange reason, while congratulating Canadians for offering refuge to these fugitives, generations of historians maintained a virtual conspiracy of silence about slaves owned and exploited, bought and sold, by Canadians themselves.”

p 7

“… when did slavery begin here? The first slaves were few and far between, and the practice of slave-holding only became a common practice starting in the 1680s. A few individual slaves appeared first of all. Gradually servitude became a recognized institution in the society of New France, and it remained so up to the first quarter of the nineteenth century.”

p 15

“The first slave we can positively identify in New France was a Negro boy brought here by David Kirke in 1629 … ” 

p 15, 16

 “When the Negro Olivier Le Jeune died in 1654, we believe he was the only one of his kind in Canada, and the next black slave only turned up a quarter of a century later. Elsewhere in the Americas, however, slave traders preyed on native Amerindians…”

p 18

This was ‘justified’ by the fact that Native American tribes practiced slavery themselves, by taking war captives.

“But starting in 1671, the French settlers of Canada began to acquire Amerindian slaves. It is true that once the French acquired these Amerindians, they do not always seem to have formally regarded them as slaves. What matters is that these slaves were given to the French as slaves, and that the French accepted them as such, at least for a time.”

p 21

The first two Amerindian slaves to come to Quebec were Pottawatomie girls in 1671,  who were later given to nuns and raised. Some would come from as far as Mississippi. (p 22, 23)

“Trafficking of Amerindian slaves truly began in earnest in 1687: it was on a modest scale at first, but then became more and more generalized and continued until the early nineteenth century.   

… How long had these slaves been living among the French? It is impossible to say. It is clear however that they only appeared in the civil registry after arriving in the colony. The Panis Louis, for example, must have been living in French society for a fairly long time because he could not be confirmed before learning adequate French as well as the catechism.   

By the end of the seventeenth century, Amerindian slaves turn up almost each year in historical records.”

p 23, 24

“If we bring together a list of the Amerindian slaves who lived among the French population at the end of the seventeenth century, we find twenty-nine Amerindian slaves over a twenty-nine year period …

Our list of seventeenth-century slave owners in Canada thus includes colonial officials, military officers, explorers and fur traders: indeed, these are the key groups that defined the heyday of slave-owning, and they were also the groups most intimately involved with Native Amerindian nations.  

We are talking about slaves. Aside from men, women, and children explicitly identified as slaves or said to belong to an owner, it is not certain that the other Amerindians who entered New France as slaves actually appear as such in historical documents.”

p 26

“For example, before 1790, when Intendant Raudot intervened to provide a legal basis for slavery, civil registries rarely used the word “slave”; in the fifteen civil acts of this period relating to slaves, only one directly used the word “slave” … This was the first time prior to 1700 that civil registries used the word slave; up till then, those maintaining records had usually written “savage belonging to …” a specific free person.”

p 27, 28

“Give Us Negroes!”  (Chapter One)

“Blacks were needed to harvest sugar cane in the Carribbean, and the labour supply argument was also put forward in Canada. In 1688, the governor of New France Brisay de Denonville and Intendant Bochart de Champigny wrote to the king that workers and servants were so hard to find in the colony, and so expensive, that they ruined anyone engaged in any enterprise: the best way to remedy this situation would be to introduce black slaves.”

p 29

In 1689 the king would grant authorization for slave shipments, but wrote of his concerns about blacks and their sustainability in the “climate” of Canada.

On May 17, 1689 war broke out between France and England. Under the League of Augsburg, [a coalition of countries and colonies against France and Louis XIV] slaves could only be sent to Quebec from trading posts in Guinea when the war was over. (p 33)

The war would last eight years, preventing black slaves from coming to Canada; only four are confirmed during that period.

“With the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697, the war came to an end after eight long years. Did this mean prospective slave owners could finally take advantage of the royal authorization granted in 1689? The next mention in the royal mail of the problem of sending blacks to Canada was in 1701 … “His Majesty has no objection to granting the people of Canada permission to own Blacks, but as the only way to effect this is to bring in a ship laden with Blacks, they must give assurances they will pay the costs of transportation…”

p 34

“To minimize any losses, it had to be made clear first of all whether Canadians were actually in a position to pay for goods from abroad, and the authorities of New France had to ensure “that precautions are taken to make this happen.” There was no question of a ship bearing Negroes to Quebec for the time being. In any case, war broke out again … This incurred further delays, and it would be eleven years before a new peace treaty was signed.”

p 34

“Given the uncertain supply of black slaves, prospective owners naturally turned to Amerindians, who continued arriving in the country as slaves, slowly at first, but then at an even greater pace from 1700 …  

Amerindian slavery stood at a relatively high level from 1710 onwards, largely because of an ordinance issued by Intendant Raudot in 1709, to the effect that people who bought Panis and blacks as slaves owned them outright. Given the proximity to the Amerindian slave market, this ordinance was likely to encourage people who needed slaves, but it could do nothing for the prospective owners who preferred blacks. Canadians who preferred ebony slaves had to wait till the war was over: added delays came when metropolitan authorities in France had to figure out how to ship slaves to Quebec.” 

p 35, 36

Generally speaking, most average citizens couldn’t afford slaves personally, or the colony as a whole to pay for shipments outright. 

“Taking up the same arguments that had worked in the past, he wrote: “There are few inhabitants in Canada, and many enterprises suffer from the difficulty of finding workers and day laborers whose wages are excessively high.” Importing blacks would “lead to an increase in the colony and its trade.” Why not use this resource profitably, the way the English colonies did? …  

Word from the French government came back: “it does not seem appropriate at present to send Negroes to Canada.” … it is worth noting that the government refused to send a shipment of blacks to Canada, while continuing to allow Canadians to own slaves.”

p 38

The Regent demanded full payment from Canadians before any slaves were sent. Intendant Begon then compiled a list of proposed purchasers and their requests. He continued to urge for black slaves citing many reasons, including: working the land, as well as caring for widows and the elderly.

Begon submitted his arguments in January 1721, and a shipment of black slaves was agreed to. The shipment was postponed for a year, and then never fulfilled (due to the company’s loss of its monopoly among other factors). (p 38 – 41)

Despite receiving authorizations in 1689, 1701, and 1721, no slave shipment could be bothered to make the longer and more expensive trip to Quebec, so the wholesale buying of black slaves was avoided. (p 42)

Legalization  (Chapter Two)

Prior to 1709, there was no document outlining the legality of slavery.

“However, starting in 1689, owners of blacks could rest easy: Louis XIV had authorized Canadians to import blacks for the purposes of working and clearing the land. This royal authorization served as a guarantee of ownership of blacks, but could not be applied to Amerindians held in bondage, even though most slaves in New France were actually Amerindians.”

p 44

On April 13, 1709 – Intendant Raudot issued an ordinance, which included in part:

“We, at His Majesty’s pleasure, order that all Panis and Negroes who have been bought and who shall be bought hereafter shall belong in full ownership to those who bought them as their slaves; and we hereby forbid the said Panis and Negroes to leave their masters, and anyone else to tempt them away, under a penalty of a fine of fifty livres.”

p 46

The tribes allied with the French (Algonquins, Montagnais, Abenakis, Iroquois) were left alone and for the most part not seized as slaves.

In 1733 a civil lawsuit brought up a dispute: a slave had been obtained as ‘payment’ for owed debts; the first owner argued that as his slave had been baptized the seizure of a “Christian” was unlawful, but the judge ruled against him and upheld the sale. (p 48, 49)

The King was petitioned to clarify statutes on Amerindian slaves, but refused to do so, simply recommending that colonists follow “customary practice”. This seems to have been a way to sidestep delicate issues regarding alliances with certain Amerindian tribes; and France’s hopes for further expansion and cooperation.  (p 50, 51)

When contacted regarding the sale of Amerindian slaves outside the colony (to the Carribean for example), Intendant Raudot decided they could not be transported elsewhere, since their slavery was to “benefit” the colony itself. (p 52)

However this ordinance was ignored, and slaves that proved troublesome or were needed for cash were in fact sent to the Caribbean. Amerindians particularly were noted for running away and being disobedient.

“This practice of sending slaves of unhappy masters to the Carribbean became so popular that… proposed to the king that it be done systemically.   

… In 1747, Canadian authorities therefore proposed to the king that owners should not keep these Amerindians beyond the age of sixteen or seventeen years, after which they should be sold in the Caribbean, where they obviously had no means of escape.”

p 54

There is no further record regarding the matter; no formal dictates, it was simply done in practice. Some slaves were transported to France, where they could legally be brought over on certain conditions, despite slavery being “illegal” in the country itself (while legal in its colonies).

According to English and French custom: “A black is a slave wherever he may be found.” Black slaves could not be “free” in France or its colonies, nor having fled from another nation, unless they had been formally emancipated. (p 56, 57)

So while slavery was illegal in France, slaves could be sent there or could travel there with their masters, provided they were from the colonies. Slaves which escaped to France hoping for emancipation by reaching it, were not entitled to their freedom by virtue of living in the country proper. 

After the British takeover:

“When the Articles of Capitulation were signed in Montreal in September 1760, they reasserted the legal character of Amerindian and black slavery, and extended it under British rule. Governor Vaudreuil-Cavagnial made a special request relating to slavery which became Article 47:   

The Negroes and Panis of both sexes shall remain in their qualify of slaves in the possession of the French and Canadians to whom they belong; they shall be at liberty to keep them in their service in the colony or to sell them; and they may also continue to bring them up in the Roman Religion.  

… And so the institution of slavery in Canada was first recognized and amply protected by French law, and was then extended under the British regime by another statute, the Articles of Capitulation of 1760.”

p 57

Nearly 4200 Slaves in Quebec  (Chapter Three)

The author had issues with finding full records and documentation. His slave sourcing came from Catholic and Protestant records: civil registries, patient and death records, census roles, notarial records, wills, inventories, etc. They counted only the slaves they could formally confirm, 2700 of which were Amerindians, and 1443 blacks.

“But of 4200 slaves, we found that only 456 Amerindians and 228 blacks were either indicated as slaves or were subject to a commercial transaction. In Quebec, people were reluctant to use the term “slavery” although the reality was there for all to see. The priest making entries in the civil registry hesitated to use the word “slave” or could not be bothered to use it. We repeatedly found cases where an Amerindian or black was baptized and had been acquired by purchase, but was nonetheless still not specifically referred to as a slave. In most cases, the record-keeper merely noted that a given Amerindian or black belonged to a given owner.”

p 61

“There had been petitions in New France calling for shiploads of black slaves, but nothing of the sort ever took place. Instead, black slaves were obtained in the Thirteen Colonies as war booty or through smuggling.”   

p 73

“The number of new slaves appearing in the historical record only begins to be significant after 1709, the year in which Intendant Raudot legalized slavery. Then, in the last two decades of French rule, the total number of slaves reached 400 and 500, due to the importance of the fur trade, which made it easier to acquire Amerindian slaves. With the decline of the fur trade, the number of Amerindian slaves then quickly fell off, whereas the number of blacks rose suddenly to well over 600 as Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution brought their black slaves up to Canada.”

p 76

“Of this grand total of 4185 slaves, 2683 Amerindians make up 65.1% or two-thirds of the 4124 slaves whose origins are known, whereas 1443 blacks account for 34.9% or just over a third.  

We are convinced that our seventeenth-and eighteenth-century Canadian ancestors had more slaves than the 4185 identified in the Dictionnaire. We say this because, from the eighteenth-century onwards, owners complained how hard it was to hold onto their Amerindian slaves; moreover, given that Amerindian slaves were often baptized later in life … it follows that many of these slaves died before being baptized and therefore do not appear in the civil registry.”

p 77

The Slave Market  (Chapter Four)

“There was practically an equal number of male and female slaves: males represented 1973 slaves (47.8%), while females represented 2151 slaves (52.2%). However, if we break down each of these two groups separately, the result is not so evenly matched. There were more women than men among Amerindian slaves (1543 or 57.7% were women), whereas there were fewer women than men among black slaves (608 or 42.2% were women).”

p 84

“Was there a public slave market in Canada the way there was in the Thirteen Colonies and Caribbean? And if there was such a market, was it in continuous operation, or only occasionally? The historical record does not enable us to provide a satisfactory answer to these questions …  

Public sales of slaves at auction definitely occurred in Canada. We only know of one such case under the French regime, when in 1733 the merchant … bought a Paducah on the market square … Several more public slave sales took place under the British regime. In Quebec City in 1778, Captain Thomas VEnture offered his mulatto slave Isabella at auction …”

p 90, 91

“Moreover, these public sales and auctions were regularly advertised in newspapers. Between 1767, when the first slave sale ad appeared, and 1798, when the last such ad came out, there were at least 137 advertisements for thirty different slaves…”

p 91

“It is clear that slaves were indeed put up for auction in Quebec and Montreal, and sold to the highest bidder. Slavery was legal in Canada, so why would slaves not have been sold at auction here, as they were in other colonies?  

We know of an oral tradition concerning the slave market. In his memoirs … Dandurand wrote: “I can state quite definitely that in my early childhood, a full-fledged slave market existed in Montreal…”

p 92

“The average Amerindian cost only 400 livres, whereas the average black cost 900. Another way of putting this is to say a black slave was worth twice as much as an Amerindian slave. This should come as no surprise, since New France was close to the market in “savages”, but far from the market in black ebony, and the additional cost of acquiring black slaves was passed on to the purchaser.”

p 97

While most owners were wealthy or relatively well off, some citizens went into debt to purchase slaves. 

Owners at All Levels of Society  (Chapter Five)

“Our history of slavery can conveniently be divided into two traditional periods, the French regime and the British regime.   

… Our study of Quebec slavery … has enabled us to establish that owners of French origin were the leading slave owners, given that they accounted for 2858 or 86.6% of all known owners. Even more significant is the fact that these slave owners of French origin owned 79.1% of all Amerindian slaves. Evidently, once the British settled in Quebec following the Conquest, it was much harder for them to acquire Amerindian slaves than it had been for the French prior to 1760, given the rapid decline of the fur trade.  

During the colonial period, French-speaking owners held almost all the Amerindian slaves we have identified in official records, and they even held 596 black slaves, far outnumbering the 301 black slaves held by English-speaking owners.” 

p 103, 104)

Slaves were held by the highest authorities of the French regime, and senior British officials. Generally speaking however, French Canadians had more slaves than British Canadians.

“It cost an average of 900 livres to buy a black slave, and 400 livres to buy an Amerindian one…” Merchants were leading slave owners, then military officers; other owners included physicians, surgeons, followed by notaries and then tradesmen.

“Printers also owned slaves. The first printers operating in Quebec were William Brown and Thomas Gilmore, who printed the Quebec Gazette: they owned black slaves, at least from 1767.  

… Fleury Mesplet had at least one black slave when he published the Gazette de Montreal (now the Montreal Gazette).”

p 110

Other owners included: bishops, priests, religious orders (including nuns) and the State itself.

“In fact, slavery in Quebec was not some economic imperative, but rather a form of public extravagance which conferred prestige on to members of high society but also on to all other levels of society indulging in it.”

p 118

The Living Conditions of Slaves  (Chapter Six)

In March 1685, Louis XIV issued an edict of sixty articles, the Code Noir, instructing on issues dealing with ‘the condition and quality’ of slaves. These included stipulations on marriage, religion, cohabitation, slave children, penalties and punishments, etc. One example:

“… the slave who has drawn the blood of his master, mistress or their children, shall be punished by death; slaves who assault free persons, and also some cases of robbery, shall be subject to severe penalties or even the death penalty. The fugitive slave shall have his ears cut off, and shall be branded with the fleur de lys on the shoulder; if he commits the same infraction a second time, he shall have his hamstring cut; the third time, he shall be put to death.”

p 121

The Code did have some “humane provisions” such as: demanding minimum living conditions, instruction in religion, families could not be separated by sale, and old slaves could not be abandoned.

The Code Noir was specifically written for the Caribbean, and later amended slightly to apply to Louisiana. No specific code was ever written for, or legally binding in Canada, although colonists followed the Code generally in most matters.

“As a result, we do not need to ask whether a slave owner was complying with a law of Canada, in granting a particular privilege to his slave, or in imposing a condition: in fact, no such law existed in Canada. It is interesting to note however that slave owners generally complied with provisions of the Code Noir of the Caribbean or Louisiana, even when not required to do so.”

p 122

Punishments in the colony appear to have been ‘lighter’ than suggested (by the Code) in most cases. Main punishments (confirmed) included: flogging, imprisonment, hanging, branding with fleur de lys, deportation to the galleys, and in the case of Marie-Joseph-Angelique – torture. This can be attributed to the relatively small percentage of slaves: limiting fear of an uprising or reprisals, which could take place in areas such as the Caribbean. (Chapter 8: p 161 – 178)

Some slaves were able to take part in civil cases and legal proceedings, since the Code Noir  was not followed to the letter or formally implemented. (Chapter 9: p 179-200)

Canadian men slept with both Amerindian and black female slaves, having many illegitimate children out of wedlock. Children of female slaves were automatically considered slaves, even when the father was a free man.

Slaves were allowed to marry, on the condition they had the permission of their owners. (Chapter 10: p 201 – 219)

Marriages (Chapter Eleven)

“Charlevoix noted that many white Canadian men had a pronounced liking for “savage women”, and while many such men were quite content to have sexual relations with “savage women”, some nonetheless felt the need to marry such women before God; some Amerindian men also formed permanent unions with white Canadian women.”

p 220

 In 1648, Jesuit Pierre de Semaisons recommended to the Pope that the men of New France be allowed to marry ‘savage women’:

“This will diminish the number of savages while increasing the number of Christians… These marriages will greatly promote the peopling of this great country where God is not [currently] well served, since French men will marry here, and will no longer return to France in order to take wives, which in turn hinders them shortly afterwards from coming back to the colony … These reasons seem pressing enough to incite His Holiness to allow the French who live in New France to marry savage girls …” 

p 220, 221

 The minister Colbert advocated a policy of mixing. In a letter to Intendant Talon in 1667:

“You have started to address this long-standing neglect, and you must try to attract these [Amerindian] people to those who have embraced Christianity in the vicinity of our homes, and if possible to mix them together so that over time, living under only one master and one system of law, they will form only one people and one blood.”

p 221

“But these marriages were not without serious drawbacks … French men were likelier to become “savage” than “savage” women to become French. Husbands had to be prevented from giving themselves up to the savage lifestyle …”

p 222

In 1706 Governor Vaudreuil ordered that French men be prevented from marrying Amerindian women:

“as he is convinced that bad blood should never be mixed with good, given the experience we have in this country, where all French men who married savage women have become lazy libertines, and unbearably independent, and the resulting children have proved just as lazy as the Amerindians themselves, and we must not allow these kinds of marriages to take place.”

p 223

Slaves Disappeared One by One  (Chapter Twelve)

“Already by 1787, it was clear owners feared the more or less imminent abolition of slavery. Was the Legislative Council of Quebec serious about abolishing slavery or was it only rumored to be concerned about the matter? We found no documentary evidence either in or before 1787 that would help answer this question… By 1787, there had been no public campaign in Quebec against slavery: newspapers were silent on the issue.”

p 233

In April 1791 a debate was held in the British House of Commons, but the majority of MPs voted against abolition. The next year on April 2, 1792 MPs in the House of Commons voted for gradual abolition of the slave trade.

“… but the Canadian press campaign was of an episodic character. Coverage depended on events taking place in Europe: the subject of slavery could disappear from the press for months, then suddenly regain importance before retreating from public view once again. We should note there was nothing original about the anti-slavery press campaign, nothing relating explicitly to slavery in Canada: newspapers reprinted the text of debates taking place in London as foreign news, without any accompanying comment relating these debates to the practice of slavery in Canada itself.”

p 235

On January 28, 1793  Pierre-Louis Panet asked to bring in a bill to abolish slavery in Lower Canada, which was approved, but later killed off by Debonne and McBeath.

“The vote on April 19, 1793 showed that a large majority of members of the House of Assembly favored maintaining slavery. Of these proponents of slavery, we know that at least twelve were then, or were about to become, slave owners …”

p 237

“The Consitutional Act of 1791 divided Canada into two distinct provinces: Upper Canada and Lower Canada. Upper Canada, which eventually became Ontario, was the first of these provinces to adopt legislation specifically on slavery…”

p 238

Upper Canada adopted The Act Against Slavery bill in 1793 ‘to prevent the importation of slaves to the province, and to determine the conditions needed to bring an end to slavery‘. Slaves already in the province would continue to be enslaved, and children of slave mothers would continue in enslavement until the age of twenty-five. Those born before the Act had passed would continue to be slaves indefinitely. (p 239)

“But the Act also had the longer-term effect of turning Upper Canada into a “land of liberty” for runaway slaves. Indeed, the Act of 1793 prohibited that any black or Indian slave entering the province of Upper Canada should be treated as a slave: as a result, any fugitive slave seeking asylum in the province would be released from bondage….  

Fugitive slaves reaching the province saw Upper Canada as an international place of refuge, but slaves already established before 1793 continued to toil in servitude.”

p 239, 240

Meanwhile in Lower Canada, the status quo continued. By 1794, a Court Justice in Montreal would set precedent by allowing runaway slaves seeking refuge to not be prosecuted or returned. “Still no law in Lower Canada explicitly prohibited slavery: existing legislation remained in force.” (p 244)

In April 1799, a group of Montrealers had Joseph Papineau (House Assembly member) put forth a petition on their behalf extolling the legality of slavery as according to French and British laws previously established. Since opinions varied by judge and citizen, they asked that a clear decision be applied: either the continuation of slavery, or formal abolition so that the legal limbo many found themselves in would be halted.

A second petition was put forth on April 18, 1800 which quoted the Raudot Ordinance of 1709 which was “never altered or repealed”. This resulted in the creation of a five member committee to oversee the matter. Yet nothing was accomplished and decisions were deferred several times.

“Indeed, after all these unsuccessful attempts to get the House of Assembly of Lower Canada to enact legislation on slavery, nothing further was done: after 1803 the question of slavery never appeared in the agenda of the House of Assembly. Ultimately, no Act specifically addressing the condition of slaves was ever adopted in Lower Canada.”

p 250

“Historical records indicate the presence of a few slaves every year until 1808, but then there is a gap of thirteen years until 1821, when the last historical document mentions an individual slave.”

p 251

“It is hard to say exactly how slavery ended in French Canada … Did the history of slavery in Lower Canada end because of a law enacted in Britain? On August 28, 1833, the British government voted to put an end to slavery throughout the British Empire. The Slavery Abolition Act came into force in 1834 …   

Were there any remaining slaves in Lower Canada to take advantage of this legal emancipation?”… 

It appears there were no Amerindian slaves left to be emancipated by this time, and very few blacks, many of whom were aged. And so:

“Suffice it to say that in Quebec, slavery withered away on its own, and no date can be assigned to its final disappearance.”

p 252, 253


“Throughout this work we have been dealing with a historical territory which does not quite occupy the same space as present-day Canada. Our study establishes that slavery had an official, legal existence over two centuries, that is between 1632 and 1834…  

However, slavery here remained on a relatively small scale… it was not until the last years of the seventeenth century that slave ownership in New France, whether Amerindians or blacks, became a regular feature of society …   

The original colonists of Quebec wanted to import massive numbers of black slaves into the colony…. No massive importation of black slaves took place, but Canadians were able to draw off a few black slaves while warring against the Thirteen Colonies, and to exploit increasing numbers of Amerindian slaves who were brought back from the Midwest to Montreal as a result of the fur trade.” 

p 254, 255

“Slavery was an economic imperative in colonies where sugar and tobacco were grown, whereas in French Canada no economic activity required the presence of slave labour..”

p 257

“How can slavery in Canada have been virtually forgotten? Historians are surely to blame, whether because they did not examine slavery or because they failed to even notice it. Despite the fact the historian Francois-Xavier Garneau was born in 1809, when slavery still existed in Lower Canada, he completely misinformed his readers about slavery … Garneau dug himself deeper into a hole by claiming that “the government and Canadian clergy should be honored for consistently opposing the introduction of Blacks into Canada.”

p 268, 269

Writing about slavery was nearly non-existent, aside from a handful of authors over a century. As a result:

“And yet, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the phenomenon of Quebec slavery seems still relatively unknown … Although we have put a lot of energy into establishing rigorous historical facts about slavery, we are still met with surprise and especially disbelief: “What! Do you mean slavery actually existed in Quebec?” … in point of fact, our colonial past can be likened to the Thirteen Colonies of America.

p 270, 271

There you have it folks … the hidden history of slavery in Canada. This issue is so little known, that I have angry Canadians writing in to me claiming that there WAS NO SLAVERY in Canada!

The Pass System (Canadian segregation)

From the CBC regarding the documentary ‘The Pass System’:

“Canadians are becoming increasingly aware of residential schools and their impacts on First Nations people. But many have not yet heard about another system of segregation — one that often kept First Nations confined to their communities

The pass system was in effect for 60 years on reserves across western Canada. Any First Nations person who wanted to leave their community, for any reason, had to have a pass approved by the reserve’s Indian agent that they would carry with them, stipulating the leave’s purpose and duration.   

… Williams said the pass system came into effect after the North-West Rebellion in 1885. 

“It was an illegal… system that was put in place as a temporary ‘security measure’ after the events of 1885 that stuck around for over 60 years,” he said. 

Williams said although the pass system is believed to have ended around 1941, it may have continued in different ways after that. 

“Indian agents were judges, and First Nations weren’t citizens until 1960 so official means of resistance were very difficult.” 

As Williams dug deeper into the topic, he discovered why so few people have heard of the pass system. He found a letter from 1941, “in which the director of Indian Affairs at that time said, ‘Send us all your passbooks and they may be destroyed.'” 

While doing research for the film, Williams spent time in the National Archives looking for documentation, but only found two passes. 

“So there’s enormous questions about the record-keeping process,” he said. “Also, I think we have to take into account, that many people were not interested to understand the emotional impact of these and other systems on First Nations people.”

“Passes” to come and go is disturbingly reminiscent of slave passes for leaving plantations. It’s not surprising that the corrupt Canadian government tried to destroy all evidence. No doubt if it weren’t for a few pieces which slipped through the cracks, cakers today would try and claim that it ‘never happened’ and is an ‘urban myth’.

Further information:

“No rebel Indians should be allowed off the Reserves without a pass signed by an I.D. official.The dangers of complications with white men will thus be lessened & by preserving a knowledge of individual movements any inclination to petty depredations may be checked by the facility of apprehending those who commit such offences.”

(Public Archives of Canada, RG 10, Vol. 37 10, file 19,550-3) The “justification” for the system.

“In 1885, the Department of Indian Affairs instituted a pass system. No outsider could come onto a reserve to do business with an Aboriginal resident without permission from the Indian agent. In many places, the directives were interpreted to mean that no Aboriginal person could leave the reserve without permission from the Indian agent. Reserves were beginning to resemble prisons.” 

(Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples)

According to the Royal Commission a few people “interpreted” the pass system incorrectly and it was all just a “misunderstanding”, eh?

“Parents required passes to visit their children interned at residential schools. Controlling parents’ access to their children aided and abetted the government’s policy of removing “the Indian from the child”. Agents were encouraged to only provide a pass to visit children in school no more frequently than four times a year; if a child were ill, and that information shared with the parents, additional passes might be issued.”

“Study of Passes” by B. Bennett

More from the CBC:

“Very little is known about the pass system. It was a troubling piece of Canadian policy, put in place in 1885 to control the movements of First Nation people, and enforced until the 1940s.  

It required all First Nation people living on reserve to get written permission from an Indian agent when they needed to leave their community If caught without a pass, they were either incarcerated or returned to the reserve.  

Introduced on the cusp of the North West Rebellion, led by Louis Riel, the policy was supposed to be temporary, used to prevent another uprising. In fact, the policy remained in effect for nearly 60 years. 

… Williams was researching the mistreatment of First Nation people when he stumbled upon information about the policy, with roots in his home province of Saskatchewan.  

He told CBC he was shocked to find out that the policy stood in direct conflict with the promises made under the treaties, and decided to take it upon himself to piece together as much information as he could.”

In 1893 the North-West Mounted Police protested the pass system, likely because they were partly responsible for enforcing it when it had no legal basis in law. Indian Affairs commissioner Hayter Reed overruled the police, even after admitting the policy was not legal.

For the most part Natives didn’t resist, because the Indian Agents essentially controlled their lives and to make trouble was to risk their business, livelihood and even freedom.

“One of the biggest hurdles Williams faced when making the documentary was finding proof that the pass system actually happened.  

According to Williams, in the 1950s there was an attempt to destroy all records of the pass system, held at the Battleford, Sask. Indian Affairs office. The few remaining documents were suppose to be sent to the dump, but were saved by brothers Don and Doug Light.  

“It’s plausible that this sort of thing was widespread, so when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission talks about missing documents, that’s in part what they’re talking about — where are these records?” 

…  And because little is being done to uncover these policies, and prove their existence, their damage to people and communities has yet to be uncovered. “To me the economic impacts are incalculable … the impact to people’s dignity is of course the most important thing” said Williams.”

It sure makes you wonder what other evidence the Canadian government has hidden or destroyed, and what myriad of sins go unknown.

From the Leader Post:

“According to Statistics Canada, in 1941, 67 per cent of Saskatchewan residents lived in rural areas. The Second World War was raging and although First Nations could volunteer to serve they were not allowed to leave the reserve without a pass issued by the local Indian agent. 

“It was segregation,” said Alex Williams a documentary filmmaker and a former Saskatoon resident. “Reserves were open-air prisons.“ 

He spent five years researching and compiling information for his film, The Pass System. 

… The pass system was implemented shortly after the North West Rebellion of 1885 and remained in place until 1941 when it was replaced by the permit system which remained in place until the 1960s. 

“It came about in a package of recommendations that were made for the — and I am quoting here — ‘the future management of Indians,’ ” said Williams. “It was proposed by Hayter Reed and then signed off by Edgar Dewdney and went up to his boss and went all the way up to (the prime minister John A.) MacDonald. I mention MacDonald because he says, ‘It’s in the highest degree desirable to adopt it’ even though he knows the system is not legal and has no basis in law.”

 Those caught off-reserve without a pass could be jailed up to 60 days, said Williams. 

He said people may wonder why First Nations would adhere to the restriction, but it must be all put into context. 

“They had their children,” said Williams. 

During this time period, the Indian residential school system was in full swing and there were no social programs so many were dependent on rations to survive, which were controlled by the Indian agent. 

Shauneen, said it’s important to tell this story because it sheds light on an entire system that was designed to exclude First Nations people from participating in Canadian society and that oppressive system is the root of today’s social issues that plague First Nations and First Nations people.”

Underneath the article is a comment by Barry Lester Ryder:

“I remember as a child living on the Reserve during this time period. We were totally dependant on the Indian Agent who lived on our Reserve. He controlled every aspect of our lives and we became wards of the govt. A simple journey into town was difficult and was viewed as a highlight. I grew to admire the the outside world and what they had. Things have sure changed today but the past is still ingrained in my mind and affects the way I look at life. Reconciliation is needed by everyone and that provides hope to the lingering difficulties facing First Nations.”

Website for the documentary: The Pass System

I tip my hat to you, sir – and to all others than expose the rot, hypocrisy and corruption of Canada, past and present!

Highway of Tears

This is a CBS piece on the missing women from the “Highway of Tears” (Highway 16) in British Columbia. In 40 years authorities have only solved a handful of murders. Although it’s tempting to picture a lone diabolical killer, in all practical reality there are multiple serial killers at work. The police list the number of official cases at just under 20 victims, but advocate groups say it’s double that number or more.

More fun in British Columbia. I’ve lived in northern B.C. and it’s a hell hole full of pedophiles, rapists, hillbillies and other general weirdoes, to put it generously. (Don’t forget the Mennonites.)

I’ve been on this highway plenty of times, and once got a ride with a trucker who I could’ve sworn was one of the killers (I say that based on his general demeanor and the way he talked about missing women). Nothing, and I mean nothing about the north or this shit hole country would surprise me any more.

For all the moaning and gasping about “dangerous America”, you’ll note that most crime, and violent crime at that – happens in Canada’s smallest cities and communities.

RCMP Overview: Missing & Murdered Aboriginal Women

I would like access to the full report (not just the overview) but this will have to do for now.

LINK / PDF  (Quotes below)


“Police-recorded incidents of Aboriginal female homicides and unresolved missing Aboriginal females in this review total 1,181 – 164 missing and 1,017 homicide victims.

There are 225 unsolved cases of either missing or murdered Aboriginal females: 105 missing for more than 30 days as of November 4, 2013, whose cause of disappearance was categorized at the time as “unknown” or “foul play suspected” and 120 unsolved homicides between 1980 and 2012.

The total indicates that Aboriginal women are over-represented among Canada’s murdered and missing women.

There are similarities across all female homicides. Most homicides were committed by men and most of the perpetrators knew their victims — whether as an acquaintance or a spouse.

The majority of all female homicides are solved (close to 90%) and there is little difference in solve rates between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal victims.”

Information sourcing:

“What this project did differently was to supplement publicly available data with a comprehensive extract of information from law enforcement holdings from across all police jurisdictions in Canada. This fills a significant gap.”

“The RCMP has almost completed cross-referencing the data it collected from police records with NWAC and Dr. Pearce’s research. Reconciliation to date has been valuable in establishing these findings and improving police record data quality.”

“The total of missing Aboriginal females was based primarily on a report of all women listed as missing for more than 30 days across all police jurisdictions on the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) system as of November 4, 2013.”

Violence against Aboriginal women:

“They are at a higher risk of being victims of violence than non-Aboriginal females … 

The rate of victimization among Aboriginal females was close to three times higher than that of non-Aboriginal females.”

 “… there were 164 missing Aboriginal females as of November 4, 2013. They make up approximately 11.3% of the total number of missing females (1,455 total).”

[4.3% of female population = 11.3% of missing females]

Police estimates for the missing women:

Uknown = 61 / Foul Play = 44 / Accident = 45 / Lost or wandered off = 12 / Runaway = 2

Between 1980 – 2012:

“There were 1,017 Aboriginal female victims of homicide during this period, which represents roughly 16% of all female homicides — far greater than their representation in Canada’s female population as described above.”


“The number of Aboriginal female victims of homicide has remained relatively constant while the number of non-Aboriginal female victims has been declining.”

 “Aboriginal women accounted for 8% of female victims in 1984 as compared to 23% in 2012.” (They attribute this to the decrease of non-aboriginal female homicides)

“The Aboriginal female homicide rate per 100,000 population dropped from 7.60 to 4.45 between 1996 and 2011.”

Cause of Death:

Beating: Aboriginal women, approximately one-third 32% / Non-Aboriginal: 17%

Stabbing: Aboriginal 31%, / Non-Aboriginal: 27%

Shooting: Aboriginal 16% /Non-Aboriginal 26%

Strangled/Suffocated/Drowned: Aboriginal 13% / Non-Aboriginal: 22%

(They say further research needs to be done to understand differences.)

Location of killing is relatively the same except non-Aboriginal women are more likely to be killed at home, while Aboriginal women are twice as likely to be killed in an ‘open area’.

Related Criminality:

“Other assault” and “sexual assault” offences more likely to occur in Aboriginal murders.


“It should be noted that only a small proportion of Aboriginal female homicides (approximately 2%) were described by investigators as linked to the drug trade or gang or organized crime activity.”


Relationship stats are generally the same, except non-Aboriginal women are more likely to be killed by a spouse, and Aboriginal women are more likely to be killed by an acquaintance. 

89% of the women’s killers (all groups) were male, no surprise there.

Offenders killing Aboriginal women more likely to have a criminal record, less likely to be employed and more likely to be on social assistance or disability. They were also more likely to have consumed some intoxicant substance.

They are less likely to have a mental disorder (10%) compared to NAF offenders (20%).

“The most frequent motive in Aboriginal female homicides was “argument or quarrel” representing 40% of all incidents (compared to 23% for non-Aboriginal females).”

“The data collected indicates that police solve almost 9 of every 10 female homicides, regardless of victim origin (88% for Aboriginal female homicides, 89% for non-Aboriginal female homicides). Other factors, such as victim involvement in certain occupations, may reduce the chance their murder will be solved.”

Risk Factors

Aboriginal women are less likely to be employed, more likely to be on a form of assistance, and more likely to support themselves through ‘illegal means’ (by 10%).

Aboriginal women are more likely to have consumed an intoxicating substance before death (63% to 20% for NAF).

Sex trade:

“Aboriginal female homicide victims involved was slightly higher than that of non-Aboriginal female homicide victims — 12% versus 5% respectively — which are both relatively small components of the available population.  

As a result, it would be inappropriate to suggest any significant difference in the prevalence of sex trade workers among Aboriginal female homicide victims as compared to non-Aboriginal female homicide victims.”

(How disappointing for all the rednecks who claimed the vast majority of these women were prostitutes and therefore ‘did it to themselves’!)

Aboriginal women being slightly double NAF in the sex trade is worth noting, but hardly significant in terms of overall missing and murdered indigenous women. (There’s also no indication of the general number of NAF in prostitution). Even if we account for offenders being Johns, what of the others?

Then we come to the RCMP “efforts” to be implemented, to summarize:

–  Partnering with local and municipal forces for unresolved cases
– “Prevention efforts” aka targeting high risk communities
– “Increasing public awareness”

Here’s my favorite bit for ‘Strengthening the Data’:

“To continue to ensure there is solid data available for operational decision-making and to ensure RCMP members record the most relevant information possible for Statistics Canada, the RCMP will roll out changes to how it collects data on homicides and missing persons. As a result of this project, the RCMP will ensure that Aboriginal origin is captured as part of Homicide Surveys.”

You mean it hasn’t been up to this time? 

Another gold bit:

“Second, the use of the term “Aboriginal” as a descriptor has different definitions in the different data sources that make up this research project. For example, CPIC captures Aboriginal as an “ethnicity” whereas Statistics Canada’s official position is that “Aboriginal” is not an ethnicity but rather an origin. Where possible, the above report attempts to use Statistics Canada compliant language.”

And that’s it. That is the end of the overview. Here is what I take away from this:

1) I basically learned nothing and the five minutes I spent reading a quick Statistics Canada page (for the last post on this topic) was just as enlightening in much less time.

2) We still don’t know why Aboriginal women are being killed at a higher rate, and there’s no real attempt to pinpoint a cause. With such a small percentage in the sex trade, what about the others?

3) I am left with the same conclusion as my last post: are the “acquaintances” Aboriginal or not? That will explain the discrepancy.

4) The only thing you can really gather from this overview is that a bunch of drunk, unemployed losers, on welfare and disability, are getting pissed off and into “arguments” with Aboriginal women and then beating them to death.

Really? That’s it? A bunch of pathetic slobs getting drunk and killing Native women?

Here is what cakers have said: it’s their own family members killing them (not true). That turned into: it’s their own boyfriends and husbands (turns out less than NAFs). Then: they were all prostitutes (again not true).

How can they be 4% of the female population yet over 10% of the missing women? How can they be 4% of the population, yet account for 10-16% of the murders (up to 23%)? Especially when they are less likely to be killed by a spouse or family member than NAF? Why are they most likely to be killed in Yukon or Saskatchewan (with a white majority population)?

Does it all boil down to some loser leeches who feel big by treading on their “inferiors”? Who are these fat grease-stained slobs anyway? Aboriginal? White? Other?

I really don’t feel that I’ve come away with any answers from this. I did get to read some stats and look at some fancy charts though.

Post Script:

Why won’t the RCMP answer The Toronto Star’s questions?

RCMP won’t comment on discrepancies in the Missing Database (Globe & Mail)