Human rights in Canada became a major topic of discussion after an investigation found that cultural genocide had been committed against Native Canadians. The Canadian government has vowed to reconcile with aboriginal Canadians, who also have the support of several advocacy groups.
In June 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission published a report that found the Canadian government guilty of cultural genocide following a detailed investigation into its former practice of sending Canadian aboriginal children to attend state-funded residential schools.
The report’s introduction explains that cultural genocide is “the destruction of those structures and practices that allow the group to continue as a group. States that engage in cultural genocide set out to destroy the political and social institutions of the targeted group. Land is seized, and populations are forcibly transferred and their movement is restricted. Languages are banned. Spiritual leaders are persecuted, spiritual practices are forbidden and objects of spiritual value are confiscated and destroyed. And, most significantly to the issue at hand, families are disrupted to prevent the transmission of cultural values and identity from one generation to the next.”
“In its dealing with Aboriginal people,” the report states, “Canada did all these things.”
Six years of research was conducted in order to compile the report, which reveals that between the 19th century and the 1970s, 150,000 children from aboriginal families were forced to attend over 130 Christian boarding schools with the purported intention of integrating them into Canadian society. Native languages, religions and cultures were suppressed and many First Nation children faced physical and sexual abuse. The report estimates that at least 4,000 aboriginal children died in the schools, many buried in unmarked graves.
Since the report was initially published, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has expressed the Canadian government’s solidarity with aboriginal people and his commitment to improve human rights in Canada for all. To that end, this year Trudeau invited Pope Francis to visit Canada and issue a formal apology on behalf of the Catholic Church, which directed many of the schools.
In addition to the government’s pledged efforts, several nonprofit organizations are working to advocate for the reconciliation and inclusion of aboriginal peoples in Canada after being denied basic human rights, excluded from society and, as affirmed by the report, suffering cultural genocide. Here are three of organizations you can support in their mission to create a better tomorrow for Native Canadians and defend human rights in Canada for all of its citizens.
- Assembly of First Nations: “The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is a national advocacy organization representing First Nation citizens in Canada, which includes more than 900,000 people living in 634 First Nation communities and in cities and towns across the country.”
- Canadian Human Rights Commission: A key site for annual reports, updates on related public policy and its outcomes, and related campaigns. Opportunities to support advocacy endeavors also disseminated.
- The Native Women’s Association of Canada: “founded on the collective goal to enhance, promote, and foster the social, economic, cultural and political well-being of First Nations and Métis women within First Nation, Métis and Canadian societies.”
– Savannah Bequeaith