Canada: Culture, Religion, and Aboriginals

I write this post after hearing again this week that Aboriginals should just assimilate into society. Canadian society that is.

After thinking about this comment for some time, I am going to give the person the benefit of the doubt and say that she probably meant no harm in saying it. There is, however, harm in saying such a thing. Especially to an Aboriginal person. Why is that? Well it was the very same act *assimilation* that has put Aboriginals in the state that they are in today. Unhealthy: mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

I am then reminded of a comment my Irish friend made me to me one day. He said, “I am proud to be Canadian.” And I told him, “That I don’t think there is enough of that.” He asked what I meant and I said “proud Canadians.” I then gave the example to him that a lot of people that I know (besides him) don’t ever say: “I am a proud Canadian.” They usually say, “I am proud to be Italian…” or German or Korean or Mexican and so on. I told him in comparison to the states, Canada doesn’t really have it’s own “culture.” And it’s true about Canada, it is rather a mixture of cultures than rather a country that possesses it’s own culture.

Saying that to him I was reminded of some younger people’s lack of faith in religion. Perhaps today religion is not as strong as it once used to be. Especially in Canada. I think that religion creates a lot of difficulties especially in regards to creating divisions (and by religion I mean Christianity/Catholicism..the very 2 religions that attempted to assimilate Aboriginals into Canadian society). Even in past history, conflict and violence erupted because of people’s different views on the church and religion of the past. Sometimes people ask me what my religion is and I always answer “I don’t have a religion.” They usually look puzzled and stumped at the same time after hearing my answer. I then explain to them that my culture is not a religion and that it is my values, beliefs, and way of life. When I think of religion (mostly Christianity/Catholicism), I think of conflict, divisions, violence. I do not want to be associated to that. Most certainly I do not want someone thinking the same thing as me to associate those descriptive words with the thought or idea of practicing Aboriginal culture.

But what I am really trying to get at in writing this post and sharing these views and stories is that I believe Canada does not have it’s own culture and that it rather has a mixture of cultures. Also religion is not the same as Aboriginal culture. And that religion is not valued as much as it once was in Canada. But most importantly in regards to the comment relating to Aboriginals assimilating into Canadian society–just because Canada does not have it’s own distinct culture and that just because it does not think highly of the values of it’s own existing religions within… Aboriginals shouldn’t have to be one in the same—lacking culture and devaluing their beliefs.

I’ve never been to Egypt but….

I’ve never been to Egypt but apparently pyramids are built on the west side of the Nile River, which is where the sunsets (west side). This is also apparently, to the Egyptians, the side that signifies where life ends. I remember this from elementary school. The only reason I remember this because in the Native Culture, as I was raised, the western side of the earth indicates the “spirit world” where all the spirits go to rest after their life on earth has ended.

I was raised to pray towards the east, the sun rise, and not the west because that means you are praying to those spirits. I know these teachings and traditions differ amongst First Nations cultures/traditions because I was told by another person in Southwestern ON to pray to the west. I felt weird praying to the west (ultimately, I did pray after that person told me to pray, but I did not pray to the west…I prayed to the east, as I was taught/raised).

This is why I find my culture so confusing, yet so amazing.

How can two different cultures, from two different geographical regions have somewhat similar beliefs (That is that the west signifies the end of life or that the west is where spirits go after life on earth)?

I think that is neat…

London Free Press and First Nations Youth

This post is in response to an article titled Siblings Jailed After Fatal Stabbing..

When I first read this article, I was thinking to myself, “Why would a news source announce that these youth were First Nations?” Then I read the readers’ comments, and it made more sense to me now.

A bit of background information (This information is available through the LF press news articles): This occurred last year in August. Both offenders are First Nations. One is a 22 year old mother of three, the other is 18 years old. Both pretty young. One received 2 years (the mother) and the other sentenced to 17 months.

In the Criminal Code of Canada, Section 718.2(e) states the following:

718.2 A court that imposes a sentence shall also take into consideration the following principles:

(e) all available sanctions other than imprisonment that are reasonable in the circumstances should be considered for all offenders, with particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal offenders.

The interpretation of this section was conducted during an Appeal to the decision made in R. v. Gladue. That decision can be read HERE.

It must be highlighted that this section of the Criminal Code of Canada does not give special consideration to Aboriginal peoples but in reality acknowledges the fact that many of them occupy prison systems. Harper’s Truth in Sentencing Act was seen as a step back because it failed to acknowledge this state of Aboriginal peoples in Canada. This Act removed the 2-4-1 sentencing, where time already served would not be acknowledged in final sentencing. Further exacerbating the rate at which Aboriginals populate prison systems.

Now, I won’t comment on the sentencing and the length that they received but it must be highlighted some of the factors that court’s consider when sentencing.

Some of these include:

  • First Time Offender?
  • Present Situation: education, family, employment
  • Social background: family life, childhood, etc.

In the case of these two individuals, they were both young, one was obviously drinking underage, and one already had three children before reaching the age of 25. This is what life is like in Canada for most Aboriginals. There is alcohol abuse, young parenthood, violent environments (Wasn’t one already carrying a knife…who carries a knife around if they are in a “safe” environment).

I am not promoting bad behaviour or violent behaviour among Aboriginal youth in any way. I am just attempting to address the comments some of the readers had in the article which can be read HERE.

They ask why was the term First Nations used? Why did that have to be mentioned? And one even states that using this term contributes to stereotypes in society. I thought the same thing.

But then I read a comment that said:

Look at the bright side, if you’re a white male, you’ll get at least 15 years for the same crime.

Hmmm, but race is not the case here. What is the case is that Aboriginals are over-represented in the Criminal Court system, including prisons. You say that still is dealing with race. No, it is dealing with the social situation that Aboriginals presently face. The decision in the appeal in R. v. Gladue highlights this.

Within this decision, it states:

  1. This section does not mean that judges should pay more attention to Aboriginal offenders, but attention to their unique characteristics.
  2. That Aboriginals are over-represented in prison systems.
  3. “The unbalanced ratio of imprisonment for aboriginal offenders flows from a number of sources, including poverty, substance abuse, lack of education, and the lack of employment opportunities for Aboriginal people. quoted @ para. 65.
  4. “It arises also from bias against Aboriginal people and from an unfortunate institutional approach that is more inclined to refuse bail and to impose more and longer prison terms for Aboriginal offenders.” quoted @ para. 65.
  5. Aboriginal people who suffer from systemic and direct discrimination are then both offenders to society and fall victim to society.

With the above, I tried my best to grasp the most important points, although this case is significantly important in every which way as it pertains to Aboriginals who enter the criminal court system. I guess by mentioning that the two offenders were First Nations, the news source may have been acknowledging the fact that Aboriginal people still face great disparities when it comes to society.

Relating to this LFpress article, this situation is nothing new to Aboriginal people in Canadian Society–violence amongst its young or its young going to jail, leaving behind futures and children. The thing that I am most annoyed with in this article is the fact that the comments just focus on “First Nations” and fails to acknowledge that some Aboriginal people face huge disparities in comparison to other groups within Canada. Not one comment, showed concern for the 3 children left behind or showed concern for young person who chose to throw their life away.

In the end, some people might respond to this post and say, “Well, who cares? That is their fault.” No, this isn’t their fault. Some Aboriginal people lag behind in education, employment, and some even live in poverty… despite having social supports. These are the inter-generational effects of colonialism, displacement of culture, loss of identity, and most importantly the effects of the Residential School system.

I hope more people begin to understand that Aboriginal people do not have it the best in Canada, and that we don’t get everything “for free.”

Read my post titled I get everything for free! and also my post titled Tax Exemption.

I hope this post changes one individual after reading it. Not everyone. I am content with one 🙂

Intelligence & Cultural Assimilation

The textbook being quoted in this post is titled Psychology Frontiers and Applications, 3rd Edition, with appropriate page numbers in brackets following quote.

I had to get this post out and published before I head to bed.

I am currently studying for my psychology test in two weeks. I just finished reading a chapter on Intelligence. In this chapter, various factors that contribute to a person’s intelligence. Some of these factors include, genes, biology, environment and culture.

I am going to go out on a limb when I write this post, but I have to write it!

In this chapter it talked about Italian immigrants were a “danger to the [USA] gene pool.” (393) This quote obviously represents an old and out-dated view that tried to use Darwin’s theory of evolution to create superior and inferior species and animals. These dangers were because Italian American students achieved much lower test scores, which was on the same average as African-Americans. It further states, “cultural assimilation and educational and economic opportunity seem much more reasonable explanations for this pronounced increase in test scores.” (393) The test score increases were only discussed in Italian American students, not the African American student.

I was kind of not impressed with this particular reading for two reasons:

  1. The African American student was never discussed in the second part of the reading, which stated only the increase in Italian American Test scores could be possibly explained as part of “cultural assimilation.”
  2. This first reason leads into my second reason:

  3. It suggests that a particular ethnic group can only be successful on intelligence scores if they “learn” to assimilate into the larger culture.

This makes me quite angry with the fact that Aboriginals were one of the many groups that were supposed to be assimilated into Canadian society. Could it be this attempted assimilation be due to in part to the particular thought during the time? Sure why not. Unfortunately, this is 2010 and readings like this suggesting that a more reasonable explanation behind higher test scores for one particular ethnic group could possibly be because of “cultural assimilation” continue to force assimilation, not just onto one ethnic group but to any group that isn’t part of the “dominate” or “more western” culture.

  • Please read my post on “Extinction” regarding Aboriginals.
  • Read my response, titled Intelligence and Aboriginals, to this “reasonable explanation” of “cultural assimilation” in increased intelligence test scores.

Culture & Heritage

A very cool site about to be launched in London ON. Thank you, London ON.

Click here to see LFpress online article.

Text taken right from article regarding event includes:
If you go

What: Heritage Portal Launch

When: Thursday, 5 to 8 p.m.

Where: County of Middlesex Administration Building,

399 Ridout St. N.

Who: All welcome

How much: Free

What’s included: Tours of historic county jail, appetizers and cash bar.

To find the portal

Log on to after Thursday’s launch


Well, I am working on my second essay for my intro to sociology class.

This would be my second essay in five years! CRAZY!

This topic of this essay is: lack of cultural identity leads to increased suicide rates for Canadian Aboriginals.

It is a sensitive topic, but maybe more of a personal journey for me. I have attempted suicide many times. Ended up in ICU a couple of times, and in the hospital many times, and the longest stay I had was a month long stay in a psychiatric hospital for children.

Everything that lacked in receiving help: nobody listened to what I was saying; lack of cultural approaches/understanding.

I guess I kind of already know the answer to why the suicide rate is so much higher amongst Aboriginal youth (5-6x higher) than the rest of Canada from a personal level. The answer being: I was afraid to be Aboriginal and afraid to become a “True Aboriginal” when living off the reserve. Being an Aboriginal is having a culture. Having a culture is having a cultural identity. An Aboriginal Cultural Identity is something that has been oppressed for many years, especially since the Indian Act in Canada.

Also, I guess I am writing this essay as to wanting to know more about it and get a clearer understanding of why I did what I did.

Shall report later on the outcome of this essay! So excited to be writing this!