A Canadian explores the many misconceptions about her country’s indigenous citizens.
There are about 1.4 million aboriginal people in Canada, representing about 4 percent of its population. Although the country has an official policy of multiculturalism, these citizens still face discrimination, poverty, high unemployment, and stereotypes portraying them as lazy and unsuited to the modern world. In this book, Vowel, a lawyer and member of the Métis Nation of Alberta, explores aboriginal issues from almost every conceivable angle, challenging “myths that have become so rooted in the Canadian consciousness, they are taken as fact and rarely examined” and suggesting alternatives to the policy failures of the past. “So many of what are suggested today as ‘solutions’ have been tried—not only failing, but causing horrific damage along the way,” she argues. The book is essentially a collection of essays about various indigenous-related topics, a polemical approach that can be somewhat dense and wonkish but is leavened by the author’s caustic style and astute insights. For example, an adoption program for indigenous children that began in the 1960s, Vowel writes, “picked up where residential schools left off, removing children from their homes, and producing cultural amputees.” Among the “widespread and pernicious” myths that she addresses are that First Nations people don’t pay taxes (“most Indigenous peoples don’t get tax exemptions”) and are more prone to alcoholism. The author also brings alive the tragedy of the relocation of Inuit families in the 1950s and the killing of their sled dogs by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The Inuit saw the slaughter as a way for authorities to force them “to remain in permanent settlements, without the possibility of returning to their traditional way of life,” she explains. Some readers may get lost in the policy details and legal nuances here, but Vowel makes a solid argument in this book.
A convincing case for rejecting the prevailing policies of “assimilation, control, intrusion and coercion” regarding aboriginal people.