9 nov 2009

Aboriginal People and Canada’s Conscience by Russel Lawrence Barsh (a summary)

As any other nation that has been created in the last couple of centuries, Canadians have always struggled to find common roots and identity. And also as any other nation of the new world, this search for identity has never taken into account the Aboriginal people. There has always been a gap between Canadians and the Native Canadians, even to the point that it seems as though Canadian’s society has receive the Aboriginals to this land and not the way around. Nevertheless, it is impossible to understand this country expect as a product of immigrants’ encounter with aboriginal people.

Today’s Canada is not as different as any other free nation. They have independence, symbols that represent them as a nation, a flag and a sense of unity and togetherness which does not collide with multiculturalism and bilingualism. Yet there is always this perception that real Canadians are only WASPs which paradoxically fails to distinguish them from Britons or Americans. Yet Canadians have tried to identify themselves as tolerant, abstained themselves from slavery, imperialism or racism. At the same time, they have created a new “black (or white) legend”, labeling their southern neighbors with all these vices.

However, Canadian history has turned out to be not so different from American history and there is ambivalence toward the treatment of minorities. On the one hand, Canadian history has been about multiculturalism, bilingualism, aboriginal handicraft symbols; Indian and Inuit art occupy most of Canada’s public spaces. On the other hand, its history has been about intolerance and segregation just as bad as their neighbors in the south. This ambivalence can be exemplified in the use of Aboriginal culture as a way to attract tourism.

Canadian conscience gives rise to both love and hate for Aboriginal peoples. They are part of Canadian idiosyncrasy yet many white Canadians consider that Aboriginal people will be better off assimilating their values and lifestyle.

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