Note: Please keep in mind the nature of this blog…Experiences of an Aboriginal Female in Canadian Society. I write from my point of view, and I still realize that there are other groups that still face troubles. I do not make an effort to say that I have it worse off or that I deserve better treatment. I just write about my experiences.
First, my experiences at The University of Western Ontario have been great. I have been involved and wanting to be even more involved. I have met great people, both Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal. I have met some great people who are/were on Social Science Students Council. I met some great friends in class. I also met some great people through volunteering at various events and with various committees around the school. These experiences and these people, along with the understanding and supportive professors, are what make my UWO experience enjoyable.
Second, below is an article that was sent to me by another student at UWO. This article made me sick to my stomach. This article reminded me of this one incident class. In this incident in class, we were talking about Human Rights and if we should be concerned about Human Rights or lack thereof in other countries, those outside of North America. This made my stomach turn because of what some of my peers were saying. I then raised my hand and I asked the class:
Why do we care about Human Rights issues/violations in other countries when we have Human Rights violations here in Canada? Like that of lack of clean water, or education not available to everyone.
I paid special attention to make sure this discussion in class did not go into the direction I was afraid it might go into: First Nations issues. I made sure that I never mentioned First Nations, Aboriginal, or Indians or any reference to this group. I did this because the issues that surround First Nations are complex. Nevertheless, the discussion went from Human Rights in Canada, to clean water, to First Nations. Someone responded to my question or concern with this statement:
….We should not be giving the Chiefs hand outs….
My stomach literally turned over in class. I wanted to respond but I knew if I were to respond, the “right” thing would not come out. I didn’t respond to that comment. What I did I wish I had said was this: That Chiefs of each First Nation don’t get the “money” directly. The money actually goes through layers of organizations before it ever reaches the citizens of Canada that actually need it: the members of First Nations (excluding Chief and councils).
I did not say that. I wish I did. Rather, I just say there in my seat, quiet, anxious, wanting to bolt. After class was let out, I cried. I didn’t know how to handle this. I was angry. If it weren’t for Indigenous Services and the people there that day, I don’t know what would have happened? A panic attack? I don’t know I can’t predict what would have or could have happened and I don’t think I want to now.
When I read this article that was forwarded to me, the same feelings went through me. These feelings existed because literally the same thing was being read, when it was said in class, but this was written AND published in the school newspaper. Here is the article:
I know everyone has a right to their own opinion. I do not deny anyone’s opinion in any situation. However, it amazes me that some people who attend such a well-known university, can actually be thought of as “higher learners” when things like this are said. I know these statements are filled with ignorance, in other words lack of education. So what is the solution? I am not sure. I do know that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission suggests putting the REAL Canadian history in school curriculums.
I emphasize this: Not all Aboriginals choose to live and stay on reserve–if they do want to leave some of them don’t even have the resources to leave. Like I said before, the issues that surround First Nations people, are very complex.
But to read this article dated 2005, and to be in class in 2011, there seems to be no change in thought from two very different students. The only thing that alarms me is that, one opinion was actually published! That is what concerns me most.
It makes you wonder why and where people get the idea that Aboriginals get everything for free or that we have it better off, or that we can just get up and leave our reserves (reserves that were created in an effort to “get rid of the Native problem”).
Finally, here are some present statistics about the current state of Aboriginals in Canada:
- 2010: Infant mortality rate amongst Canadians 5.3 live births per 1000 versus 19 live births per 1000 amongst Aboriginals
- Number 1 cause of death of Aboriginals between ages 1 and 44: Suicide
- Suicide rate amongst Aboriginal youth is 5 to 6 times higher
- 98% of residential school survivors have a mental illness
- Rates of suicide in Aboriginal communities where no protective factors (Control over land/Band controlled schools/Cultural facilities/Control over health care, fire, police) are present: 137.5 per 100,000 (where the national average is 14 per 100,000)
These statistics are not from the 1960s or the 1970s. These numbers are from 2009 onwards.
It makes you wonder why this group experiences these situations at a much higher rate when compared to the rest of a country, a country that is supposed to be credited with its level of equality, human rights, justice…. Well, it may not make you wonder but it makes me wonder. To read a different viewpoint on this issue of Aboriginals, check out my post titled, It’s Not All About You.
In the end, I hope that one day people can stop making ignorant statements against Aboriginals, and other marginalized groups as well. I plan to work towards this equality and educating non-Aboriginals about situations that Aboriginals still face today in present-day Canada.
You can read other posts I have written about Aboriginal youth, Suicide amongst Aboriginals, and another post concerning The Gazette by clicking on the tags below.