Cultural genocide is a term used to describe the deliberate destruction of the cultural heritage of a people or nation for political, military, religious, ideological, ethnical, or racial reasons.
In the early years of Canada, such atrocities were committed to the aboriginal peoples residing there. Today I am here to discuss how and why Canada committed cultural genocide.
When it came to committing genocidal acts, there are no shortage of examples. To commit cultural genocide, one must not only disrupt the traditions of the people, they must ensure that the children do not practice the traditions of, or even think like their predecessors. This was accomplished by displacing communities, forbidding certain languages and practices, and enforcing mandatory enrollment for aboriginal children in what Canada called “Residential Schools”.
Each of these acts are horrible and inhumane, but thankfully some of their culture survived, and the government is no longer intentionally committing such acts. Now while these are just a few examples of Canada’s actions, it is more than sufficient to say that Canada certainly attempted to commit cultural genocide. With that being said, it’s time to ask ourselves “why?”.
Early European settlers interacted with the aboriginals, and while under the crown few of the initial interactions were peaceful. The settlers wanted land from the “savages”, and the aboriginals merely wanted to leave in peace. The concept of land ownership was alien to them, so for it to be introduced and strictly enforced was brutal.
After Confederation, Canada once again expanded over aboriginal land. However this time it was for a tactical advantage against the United States of America, instead of just greed and the thrill of exploration. However, it was not only the land they took, but at this time residential schools began to exist.
When the school is on the reserve, the child lives with its parents, who are savages, and though he may learn to read and write, his habits and training mode of thought are Indian. He is simply a savage who can read and write. It has been strongly impressed upon myself, as head of the Department, that Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence, and the only way to do that would be to put them in central training industrial schools where they will acquire the habits and modes of thought of white men.” – John A. Macdonald 1879
At this point one can clearly determine that aboriginal culture was inferior to the European based culture the settlers had developed. It was this thought that they were lesser that allowed the government to commit such horrible acts for what they saw as the greater good, without any admission of wrongdoing.
Ultimately when it came Cultural Genocide, it is no longer a secret to how many horrible acts Canada committed. While now the actions taken and reasons behind them seem horrid, hopefully we all can learn from the mistakes of the past to ensure a brighter future.