Four false assumptions of Canadian Aboriginal policy

Posted on February 26, 2011


From the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 1996

Four false assumptions …

  1. The first held Aboriginal people to be inherently inferior and incapable of governing themselves.
  2. The second was that treaties and other agreements were, by and large, not covenants of trust and obligation but devices of statecraft, less expensive and more acceptable than armed conflict.  Treaties were seen as a form of bureaucratic memorandum of understanding, to be acknowledged formally but ignored frequently. …
  3. The third false assumption was that wardship was appropriate for Aboriginal peoples, so that actions deemed to be for their benefit could be taken without their consent or their involvement in design or implementation.
  4. The fourth was that concepts of development, whether for the individual or the community, could be defined by non-Aboriginal values alone. This assumption held whether progress was seen as Aboriginal people being civilized and assimilated or, in later times, as resource development and environmental exploitation.

The fact that many of these notions are no longer formally acknowledged does not lessen their contemporary influence. … they still significantly underpin the institutions that drive and constrain the federal Aboriginal policy process.