n. & adj. — Aboriginal, especially First Nations, Politics
the policy and practice of encouraging or forcing Aboriginal people to integrate into mainstream Canadian society.
Type: 6. Memorial — Policies of assimilation were based on widespread notions that that white European-descended people were biologically and culturally superior to all other so-called "races." Assimilation connects to the aims of Christian missionaries (see the 1914 quotation), who attempted to "bring British 'civilization' to the Empire's Indigenous people" (see AANDC reference). The policy underpinned the imposition of the Indian Act (1876) and of removing children from their families to residential schools where they were ill-educated and frequently physically and sexually abused (Walker 2009: 1). The policy continued even after the 1951 revision of the Act granted status Indians the right to vote without losing status (see Canadian Encyclopedia, s.v. "Enfranchisement") and removed some of the bans on cultural practices such as the potlatch. Although most residential schools were closed by the 1970s, recognition of the terrible damage done to Aboriginal languages (now almost all endangered) and communities only began to take hold in the 1990s when Phil Fontaine, then heading the Association of Manitoba Chiefs, and other leaders revealed that they had been sexually abused in the schools. The residential schools have been described as a form of "aggressive assimilation" (see CBC reference). It was not until the late 1990s that significant steps were taken in an attempt to repair the decades of damage (see the 2008 quotation), including a formal apology from the federal government (see reconciliation). Assimilation also aimed to alienate Aboriginal people from their traditional territories. The 1951 revision of the Indian Act also lifted a 1926 restriction on hiring lawyers, aimed at preventing any legal moves to redress broken treaty promises or to claim land (see CUPE reference).
See also: enfranchisement Indian Act potlatch ((n.)) (def. 2a) residential school potlatch ban status reconciliation Aboriginal (meaning 1) Aboriginal language
- 1880  The best solution of the Indian question -- at least so far as Ontario was concerned -- was to give the Indians the franchise and to encourage their assimilation with the white population. But our present Indian system tended in the opposite direction and entailed the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep the Indians in the low and degraded position they occupied at the present time.
- 1914  To bring the Indian to the point where he will be able to accept greater responsbilities in Canadian citizenship, this was the purpose of a resolution passed by the Methodist Mission Board yesterday to ask the Dominion Government to call a conference of all Government agents and the mission workers among the Indians, with a view to the general uplifting of all the Indian wards of the Government in western Canada. Rev. J. A. Doyle of Princt Albert, Sask., was set apart to make a thorough survey of the non-English speaking people in the west and to recommend to the board a wise and progressive policy that would facilitate the assimilation of these people into the citizenship of the country.
- 1920  ACT AIMS AT ASSIMILATION OF REDSKINS: Proposed Amendment Provides for Enfranchisement of Indians [...] The act to amend the Indian Act, now seen for the first time in its printed form, shows provisions so sweeping that the act, if it passes, will sweep away in the course of a generation all the legal distinction now existing between Indians and those now citizens of Canada.
- 1946  Mr. Arneil said there was some intermarriage between Indians and whites after the Indians left the reserve. Indians did not object to ultimate assimilation provided it meant they received treatment equal to the whites. Merely enfranchisement did not appeal to them.
- 1960  The immediate and hasty acceptance of the vote could be used against the Indian on the grounds that he is ready and anxious to forfeit his heritage, accept integration, and surrender to complete assimilation. Then the land he loves so dearly, that which holds his community and village together, could be sold from under his feet.
- 1980  The prophecies said nothing, however, about how one man would prompt the Indians to action. Chief Christian accused Mr. Trudeau of plotting the assimilation of Indians into white society with the introduction of restrictive policies in 1969. "It's clear he hasn't changed since then," he said. "Trudeau introduced the term 'land claims.' He wanted the public to think we're claiming something from them."
- 2008  BY the end of January, $1.9 billion should be in the hands of people who had to attend residential schools set up for status Indians. Aboriginal leaders say children who were forced into the schools under federal law were also systematically stripped of their aboriginal identities, languages and culture under a misguided government assimilation policy. Hundreds of survivors reported sexual, physical and emotional abuse in the institutions. The court-supervised compensation is the first official recognition of the toll the schools exacted on the aboriginal population in Canada. It's also believed to be the largest compensation package ever to First Nations.
- 2015  Canada declared an end to its policies of forced Aboriginal assimilation. Unfortunately, through forced assimilation policies already embedded throughout Canada’s infrastructure, Canadian federal, provincial and territorial government programs still withhold funds and expertise that prevent Aboriginal rights from being realized. First Nation, Inuit and Métis communities have no funds to finance, and no infrastructure to facilitate, rebuilding what Canada destroyed.