Over the past decades, Aboriginal people (the original people or indigenous occupants of a particular country), have been oppressed by the Canadian society and continue to live under racism resulting in gender/ class oppression. The history of Colonialism, and Capitalism has played a significant role in the construction and impact of how Aborignal people are treated and viewed presently in the Canadian society. The struggles, injustices, prejudice, and discrimination that have plagued Aboriginal peoples for more than three centuries are still grim realities today.
The failures of Canada’s racist policies toward Aboriginal peoples are reflected in the high levels of unemployment and poor education. Presently, the state shapes the construction and social reproduction of racism, racialization, and sexism as experienced by Aboriginal people in Canada. Colonialism is a process by which European power takes control over and dominates and exploits an indigenous group by appropriating their land and resources, extracting their wealth, and using them as cheap labor. In Canada, the British evaded the Aboriginals (indigenous people), with their vision of creating a capitalist society.
The vision was to have Aboriginal people produce commodities off their own land in return for goods. -Thus began slavery in Canada. Sometimes, merchant capital often had to use force to transform pre- capitalist societies in order to introduce commodity relations and production. “ It was important to merchant capital that the existing pre-capitalist relations of production be reinforced and perpetuated in order to guarantee the required production of goods. Traditional relations of production continued, not in their independent form, but as a new form of relations of production incorporated into capitalist relations of exploitation. (Bourgeault, 43).
The British were interested in the production and circulation of fur as a commodity in the world market and were in need of labor. The Indians were the only available source of skilled labor, so they became part of the production process. From Colonialization, Capitalism came which resulted in the disintegration of communal and egalitarian societies that the indigenous created, which in turn, became the exploited labor force in the commodity production. European ethnocentrism and racism also affected patterns of Aboriginal socialization.
Since most whites viewed all aspects of indigenous life to be culturally and morally inferior, missionaries made efforts to eliminate the egalitarianism customs of Aboriginal societies and to promote the norms of the dominant European patriarchal society. The perceived differences between men and women led to cultural genocide. Capitalism is an economic and social system that focuses on pursuit of profit. It has also involved the presence of exchange of goods for money or other goods, and the organization of production and distribution of goods .
One example of this is the Hudson’s Bay fur trade. “ The fur trade of the Hudson’s Bay basin initially transformed the indigenous communal societies in order to exploit Indian labor in the commodity production of fur” (Bourgeault, 41). Capitalism uses market relations (including class relationship) “…Capitalism centered in the Red River Colony, class and race divisions established intensified. The conflict between the indigenous bourgeoisie aligned with other Indian and Metis producing classes and the British merchant class over the accumulation of capital .. Bourgeault, 42)”. Capitalism could be seen as the dawn of active racism and segregation. When British colonies invaded in Native people of Canada, the classification of humans into race types was begun causing the exploitation of the indigenous.
The Aboriginal people were eventually turned into slaves so that the colonies would gain more profit. They were also segregated and put into their own communities to learn their new patriarchal life. Racialization is the idea that race relations do not exist, but focuses on why ertain relations between groups become defined by reference to race. Racialization refers to patterns of interaction that reflect perceptions of biological differences to account for differences and similarities. It also entails the idea that certain ideas or activities become linked with race. Aboriginals are racialized by Canadians, in that they are invested with negative biologically determined attributes that are seen as creating problems, posing a threat to society, and providing unwanted competition for scarce resources.
In the seventeenth century, fur and land would be considered to be a threat to wanted scarcities by the British and their colonies. An example of a more current involvement of the Canadian government over land would be the dispute of the Meech Lake Accord in Oka, Quebec. Presently, Canadians are fighting for sacred land that belongs to the Aboriginals. Racism can be traced to the mercantilist period of European capitalist development, as well as gender oppression. Both origins can be traced to pre-capitalist societies and the rise of class divisions.
Proceeding the exploitation of relations of class and oppression, racial oppression began. “ Racism is an ideology and as such it operates on the level of the extra-economic. The nationalist ideology as it became tightly meshed with the social and economic interests of rising capitalism” (Bourgeault, 45). As the communal society slowly faded by British domination, women began to feel the gender oppression. A lack of egalitarianism made many women severely disadvantaged. Negative images make it difficult to recognize the positive contributions of Aboriginal women to community life and social change.
Those who lost status because of marriage to non-Aboriginal males have been penalized through the deprivation of Indian rights. As a result, women lost the decision-making powers they had over their labor and the use if the goods they produced. Today, Aboriginal women are the most victimized group in Canadian society. These women had to confront all forms of discrimination (gender, race, and class). Law established by sexist white men, determined the new patriarchal identity of native women.
Economically, native women are more vulnerable than non- Aboriginal women are, and aboriginal men in relation to levels of income and employment opportunities. The religious organizations entering Canada had two primary goals: One was to Christianize the Natives and the other, to educate the Natives. “Protestantism, with its emphasis on work as well as faith, was much more destructive of Native culture. Since the Protestant missionaries focal point was Western Canada, there were repeated attempts to agriculturalize the Natives and force them to settle into established Native communities” (Frideres, 88).
By doing this, the Natives were forced to assimilate into European culture, which caused oppression and the disintegration of their culture and society. The state has a great impact on society and norms because it influences public opinion through policy and legislative procedures. Membership is defined on the basis of birthright and descent from a common ancestry. Through the Canadian Charter of rights, the state is supposed to represent, support, and protect communities that suffer from racial discrimination by giving them access and equity.
Although the state is said to protect everyone equally, and not to discriminate on the basis of race, equal rights should mean equal opportunity. It also defines ideologies of social constructs, which can be used as a means to cause intentional racialzed and class. The state is a powerful tool used in the Canadian government. It can be utilized to oppress others (such as Aboriginal people), by carrying institutional and systematic racism throughout the Canadian society. This would explain the unequal balance of resources and opportunity that Native Canadians have.
Native people occupy a low socio-economic position in Canadian society: “…the average income of Natives is less than one-fourth the average income of non-Natives…Estimates of unemployment rates for Native people job run between 35-77 percent” (Friederes, 80). One major cause of poverty is lack of education, which is due to the fact that most educated Natives do not find a well paying job after graduation thus, starting a learned helplessness among the community. Aboriginal people living in Canada have a vastly different worldview from the typical Canadians surrounding them.
Given the cultural genocide that took place by the British colonies, Canadians are unlikely to increase their understanding of Aboriginal culture. The problem is that non-Native people too often control Aboriginal identity and the state reinforce their cultural oppression by allowing society to discriminate. For the past three centuries, Aboriginal people have been oppressed by the Canadian society and continue to live under racism resulting in oppression. As discussed above, the histories of Colonialism, and Capitalism has played a significant role in the construction and impact of how Native people are treated in modern Canadian society.
As a result of the British invasion of Canada, the colonies that forced in the Aboriginal people into assimilation gave much grief that is reflected in their lives today. Presently, the state continues to shape the construction and social reproduction of racism, Racialization, and sexism as experienced by Aboriginal people in Canada through institutional and systematic racism. Today the failures of Canada’s racist policies toward Aboriginal peoples are reflected in the high levels poor education, unemployment, and culture oppression. Which poses the question: Canada: Whose home and native land?