A Primer On Canada’s Indian Act

A post by Jamie

There seems to be a lot of misinformation and possibly wilful ignorance perpetually circulating around about Canada’s—quite frankly genocidal—140-year-old Indian Act. Internet trolls and eugenicists alike declare that it has so many “benefits” for First Nations. Special emphasis is placed on the two separate events in Canada’s history that a proposal for putting The Indian Act through the shredder was shouted down by a majority of indigenous peoples. This, in turn, is declared as evidence of how beneficial the Act is to the people over whom it legislates. I disagreed that the Act had any benefit to indigenous peoples at all, before actually committing to sitting down and reading the entire length of its current revision on Monday. I even disagreed that it had any utility before finding a handy list of all the revisions that have been made since it was written, because I’ve heard plenty from indigenous peoples, of what a piece of work this thing really is. And I still think it’s the work of a eugenicist scumbag now, after reading its entire length in the current revision (no wonder all the eugenicists agree with each other!), and this post is going to be about every reason why I came to that conclusion years ago.

(Just Some) Historic Problems With The Indian Act

In the beginning of the legacy of The Indian Act, “Indians” were legally non-persons. They were also considered British subjects whose mental capacities were comparable to that of a small child, and thus, the Act has a long legacy of being both extremely patronizing and paternalistic. But what’s really important here is why The Indian Act came to be in the first place, and the answer was “to kill the Indian in the Indian”. The Act replaces all prior forms of indigenous self-governance and law, which were thought to be primitive and therefore in desperate need of being eradicated. The Act also explicitly banned cultural traditions such as the sundance (from what I’m able to determine, still banned); and the potlatch ceremony (from 1885 to 1951), in which the host family would give gifts and feed their guests for up to ten consecutive days while the host family created music, sang, and danced to retell their creation stories and traditional knowledge. This might sound familiar, because where most of us come from, it’s fucking Christmas and Boxing Day (which gets its namesake from the tradition of packing up what remained of one’s Christmas feast, to give to the poor the morning after). Penalties for observing or helping organize a potlatch or Tamanawas dance were two to six months in prison — meaning even Christmas dinner on a reserve could result in incarceration. Later amendments banned other forms of dance and required status Aboriginal communities to request permits in advance of a pow wow or, in the case of Western provinces, any public display of their traditional regalia.

Furthermore, about that regalia from Western communities. Though the Act explicitly banned anyone from taking traditional items such as carvings from reserves, Christian missionaries who set up churches in various West Coast communities did just that. Since the potlatch and Tamanawas dances were banned, Christian missionaries in their infinite wisdom said “Well, we’ll just store these costumes for you in our church, since you won’t be using them.” Within a couple of decades, the traditional West Coast regalia was scattered all over the world into private art collections (some has yet to be recovered).

Tlinglit Raven dancer

Tlinglit Raven dancer, Gene Tagaban (image from Facebook)

For two years, the Act also required all children of status Aboriginal parents to be placed in residential schools, which for those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, were extremely abusive and hostile religio-cultural brain-washing centres that now fulfil criteria for genocide. And in fact, for 48 years after the United Nations defined genocide as everything just short of invading another country for the purposes of supplanting a new government, they continued to operate. Canada also made up its own definition of genocide, which is suspiciously narrower than that of the United Nations. Hmmmmm. Something fishy is going on here, and it’s not the smoked salmon.

The “Queen of Canada”

Yes, she did say that. So did the Prime Minister’s office. But what it seems most Canadians either don’t realize or don’t want to, is that <initiate snark here> Her Majesty the Queen of Canada </snark> owns the whole fucking country. This is explicitly stated in the Indian Act. She owns every square inch of land except for those lands that were legally purchased by indigenous peoples in 1880 and passed down through inheritance to its present-day title holders (more on that momentarily). So, not only is Queen E just benevolently “giving” Canada’s First Nations reserves to inhabit and use, but nobody else in the country owns their own non-reserve property either. If I had a mortgage, this is the kind of information that, had I not known this at any time previous, would make me furious right about now. I suppose instead that anyone with a mortgage, who doesn’t yet know that this is what the Act literally states about the land they think they are buying, is probably looking at reserve lands and thinking “Why don’t I get free land? Ohh, I suppose it’s because I’m not Indian! That’s racist!” Cue mechanically useless flailing and optional ranting about “special rights” at any time in the predictable unravelling of this tired discourse.

Well, the reason why reserves are discussed at all in The Indian Act is because reserve lands are one of the many promises made to indigenous peoples during the formation of the 11 Crown Treaties. But a multitude of other related matters are also discussed in the Act — primarily, who has status under the Act; who is entitled to apply for status; and inheritance laws and rules pertaining to land, money, and personal property for descendants of status “Indians”. For instance, from 1951 to 1985, if a status woman married a non-status man (i.e., a non-status Aboriginal man, an Inuit man, a Metis man, or a Settler), or had one or more children with a non-status man, she lost her status. That meant that her children and grandchildren were stripped of their inherited Treaty rights. Children of status women who were stripped of their status through marriage, child-bearing, or adoption, were only able to apply for status after the 1985 amendment, and grandchildren of those same women were only able to apply for status after the 2011 amendment, which changed the 1985 amendment from all about blood quantum to simply who your grandmother is. If you’re paying attention at this point, you may find yourself thinking about how much land title was lost due to the legal disruption of inheritances.

But that’s not the only way reserve lands were “surrendered”. In most cases, surrendered land went to the Crown, especially during several decades of strategically implemented outbreaks of smallpox, tuberculosis, and forced sterilizations (one of these things is not like the others). Amendments were also made specifically for the express purpose of making reserve lands extractable. By this, I mean that not only was a band required to develop the land or forfeit it to farmers, but a band can be convinced through meetings set by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to surrender their reserves for a settlement. This was done by majority vote among band council members (one for every one hundred band members) and the elected chief, with only one opportunity for appeal. The Minister gave himself the power to cast the tie-breaking vote in the event that the decision was split right down the middle. Now it only takes agreement between three band council members (thanks, Harper?), care of Bill C-45.

Normally the Minister calling a meeting to talk a band out of its reserve is called a conflict of interest, but not in the case of reserves! And that’s not all — if a band did not wish to surrender their reserve lands to the Crown, the Minister could approve the construction of a railway, highway, or other public infrastructure, straight through the middle of the reserve anyway, for which the band is held responsible for its maintenance and punishable with fines and/or three months in prison for interfering with construction in any way. Imagine a bank doing the same to a private citizen who owns a farm. Oh, wait! That actually happens too and now you know why! And it gets even more rich, because early amendments to the act allowed entire communities to be forcibly displaced from their reserves if the adjacent city was growing really fast-like. Many of those former reserves have been turned into today’s middle class suburbs.

So what does all this information about inheritance, title, and status mean? Well, it means that The Indian Act actually produced permanent loss of reserve lands that were supposed to be protected by the Crown Treaties. That is, for those people who retained their treaty rights from 1920-1961, despite an amendment being added that gave the Minister the power to arbitrarily pick individual people or even entire bands, and simply strip them of their status. It also means that the purpose of the Act, which was to assimilate indigenous peoples entirely, was very nearly successful.

The Consolidated Revenue Fund

The Indian Act explicitly states that all the money owed to indigenous peoples for the development of non-reserve lands and extraction of resources — for which they are entitled to a 40% share by virtue of the Crown Treaties — is deposited into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. If you’re Canadian, this probably sounds familiar, and it should, because it’s where all of Canada’s tax payer dollars are consolidated as well. It’s where all of our funding for social services, healthcare, and education comes from. It was also used to build the Canadian Pacific Railway on Chinese slave labour, and continues to pay for the construction and maintenance of all of Canada’s public infrastructure. It’s where our Prime Minister’s pay cheque comes from. It’s where the pay-outs to political parties come from when a party is dissolved by our “democratic elections”. You know the ones. Where 35% of the country somehow constitutes a majority because the other 65% of the country either couldn’t decide on who else to vote for or were targeted for robocalls that directed them to the wrong location to vote. I bet, if anyone bothers to look, it’ll turn out that our Consolidated Revenue Fund paid for those phone calls too.

What this means is that indigenous peoples are subsidizing Canada’s entire economy, and Canadian Parliament. Take all the time you need to think about that. Meanwhile, to get anything done at all other than grocery shopping, status First Nations are required by The Indian Act to ask permission from the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development first. The Minister must be consulted before any financial decisions at all are made by any First Nation band. The Minister may make a loan to a particular nation or band, say to build a school on a reserve because the government has failed in this duty, but only if there’s money left in his $6.05 million loan budget — which covers the maximum sum of loans to any/all First Nations bands in the entire country at any given time. If someone dies and there is an inheritance, it’s handled through the Minister. When Attawapiskat declared a state of emergency, that was handled through the Minister. And when emergency relief was finally sent to Attawapiskat, through the Minister, the band was required to lay out a budget for the Minister’s approval, then ask for permission to spend the money according to the already-approved budget.I don’t know whether the Receiver General or the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development is the worse accountant between the two of them.

More Problems Still In Effect Today

Did you know that a First Nation band can create by-laws for their own reserve, but that these by-laws must be approved by the Minister first, and also have set maximum penalties pre-ordained for them? If, say, a corporation is putting pressure on the Minister to make room for a pipeline, the Minister can deny the passing of that by-law and anyone who attempts to enforce it can face a three-month prison sentence.

Did you know that the RCMP have the power to remove a parent from the home of any child living on a reserve aged seven to sixteen, and put them in jail for ten days, if their child has been repeatedly late for or absent from school? That also means putting that child into the child services system while the parent is incarcerated if, say, the other parent was away at work or is estranged and does not have custody rights. Oh yeah, and schools on reserves are either Protestant- or Catholic-run, and the Minister gets the final say on whether or not any schools are ever built that centre curriculum and instruction around either indigenous culture or secularism.

Did you know that a status Aboriginal person living on a reserve can create a will that, at the whim and fancy of either the Minister or the courts, can just be over-turned at any time after death, even where legally inherited property (with title dating as far back as 1880) is concerned? Reasons cited can include that the will was “contravening public interest” or “contravening the band’s interests”. The Minister also refuses the family or band members’ rights to help any individual who has been declared mentally incompetent (by the Minister of course!), to draft a will. I think that’s usually called a conflict of interest too. Seems to me that for anybody else, either the family or an appointed legal guardian has that right.

Did you know that if an elder should, say, take a vial of reserve soil to a press conference, that he is in violation of The Indian Act and can be put in prison for three months for removing soil or organic material from the reserve? Interestingly, the Minister can order or approve removal of the same in mass quantities from the reserve for just about any reason, either from a pile sitting on the reserve or from directly underneath it (i.e., though a reserve is land protected by Crown Treaties, you can mine right under it). And anyone who attempts to interfere with this extraction of resources faces a three-month prison sentence.

Did you know that the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development can even lease reserve land for which privately owned title is held, without the consent of the Aboriginal person or family that owns it?

Did you know that the government can pass legislation that protects against the spread of illness (even non-contagious illness) on a reserve, but historically (even as recently as within the past ten years) has used this power to deliberately spread as much fatal illness as possible among indigenous peoples living on reserves?

What To Do About It?

As mentioned earlier, at two separate instances, it has been proposed that the entire Act is abolished in one fell swoop. It should be fairly self-evident if you’ve read this far, exactly why this is so fraught with problems that a majority of indigenous people would shout this suggestion down with all they can muster. There is no way to simply put the 80-page piece of legislation through the shredder in a single act, and abolish this blatantly racist and colonial, genocidal piece of garbage. It needs to be phased out, one issue at a time, with consultation with the people whose lives it so far has prescribed every waking moment of, for the past 140 years.

The question you should be asking yourself right now is why, of all people, Stephen Harper is the second Prime Minister to have made the suggestion to totally abolish the Act, and why he is passing legislation hidden within omnibus bills — without the consent of those communities, even though this is in violation of the Crown Treaties — that makes enormous changes to certain sections of The Indian Act that pertain to privatization of reserve lands when he can’t just do away with the whole thing.

The answer is profit. As indigenous wealth is already subsidizing the entire economy and political organization of Canada, abolishing The Indian Act in one swoop without consultation with First Nations would effectively abolish all Crown Treaties by erasing the very meaning of Aboriginal status, title, and associated treaty rights. As virtually all of those treaty rights have yet to be fulfilled for the first time since the ink dried, this would mean the extinction of indigenous peoples and their cultures in Canada (which, in case you weren’t keeping track, was the entire founding principle for The Indian Act too). Stephen Harper didn’t suggest abolishing The Indian Act out of benevolence towards First Nations people, any more than it was benevolence that established it into written law in the first place.


  1. says

    Jamie, this post is crying out for quotes and citations, because while I generally share your analysis, you make a lot of very specific claims that make explicit reference to articles within the Act. Including at least some paragraph citations (with a link to the original legislation) would strengthen this piece dramatically.

  2. says

    I’m fine with that and will post that information when I’m back on my computer. The article is really long already, that’s pretty much the only reason I left it until it is requested.

  3. says

    I’m even impressed it was so easy to find the entire length using Google. It’s on the govt of Canada website to download (plus four previous revisions which would include those in which blood quantum was required and described for inherited status). This is a lot harder to do on a tablet, even though that made it easier to read the Act.

  4. says

    I think it’s required for all legislation to be available online for public DL/scrutiny. I think judicial decisions (at least Supreme Court ones) are that way too. It’s good that the historical ones were accessible too.

  5. says

    Only the most recent five are on the website. Information about dozens of other revisions including one about wasting time in pool halls carrying a one month prison sentence for the owner of said billiards room are listed on a wikipedia article about the Act. Which I will also be sure to include.

  6. says

    Here’s a direct link to the current revision of The Indian Act:

    Here’s a link to a handy Wikipedia article dealing with changes that have been detailed in this post as well as many more that I haven’t addressed, and none of which are listed in the appendix to the Act which says “not in force” or some such skin-crawly language:

    You’ll find that detail about the RCMP taking kids away from their parents for being late for or absent from school in section 114, which is the last section of the Act itself.

  7. says

    Yes, because any attempt to sincerely engage the long, costly, and still ongoing legacy of colonialism in Canada is exactly like ranting about the Da Vinci code.

  8. says

    That isn’t what I said at all. I’m talking about passages like ” It’s where the pay-outs to political parties come from when a party is dissolved by our “democratic elections”. You know the ones. Where 35% of the country somehow constitutes a majority because the other 65% of the country either couldn’t decide on who else to vote for or were targeted for robocalls that directed them to the wrong location to vote. I bet, if anyone bothers to look, it’ll turn out that our Consolidated Revenue Fund paid for those phone calls too.”

    You’re making wild assertions without backing it up with citations.

  9. says

    I’m not ignoring the fact that there were issues with robocalls and various other weirdnesses, but you can’t assume that everyone knows what you’re talking about. If its easier to mock me for ignoring facts than it is to cite sources for your claims then fine but that’s pretty poor skeptical blogging.

  10. says

    I smell a concern troll.

    There’s nothing quite as profoundly self-contradictory as refusing to acknowledge basic facts, refusing to state transparently in the event you are lacking knowledge of where to find this information (or awareness of the issue at all) so that I might illuminate you (like when Crommunist commented above and I replied with links as requested), then accusing me of being unskeptical and talking like a conspiracy theorist.

    I’m sure you’re concern is exactly as genuine as your effort to probe the matter (a shiny detail unrelated in any way to the entire remaining sum of this very long article about a whole other matter).

  11. says

    I’m taking one place in this post that specifically cries “conspiracy theorist ramblings” to me and pointing it out. I guess the point I’m making is that while I enjoy the topics of your posts and pretty much agree with you, you could benefit from some editing and focus so there aren’t quite so many uncited accusations in one piece? I’m not sure how this constitutes concern trolling, but since you are hostile and obviously not interested in having this conversation in any case I’ll stop commenting.

  12. says

    Offs, a statement of fact is an accusation now? Excuse me while I cry a river of tears for Stephen Harper in that case. And here I was busy getting upset about… Wait for it… Genocide.

  13. ubique says

    There seems to be a lot of misinformation and possibly wilful ignorance perpetually circulating around about Canada’s—quite frankly genocidal—140-year-old Indian Act.

    Certainly true. Unfortunately, this article appears to be more of the same. I wrote a much longer reply, but FTB ate it, so I’ll just point this out. From your own citation, s. 114 of the Indian Act reads:

    Marginal note:Agreements with provinces, etc.

    114. (1) The Governor in Council may authorize the Minister, in accordance with this Act, to enter into agreements on behalf of Her Majesty for the education in accordance with this Act of Indian children, with

    (a) the government of a province;

    (b) the Commissioner of Yukon;

    (c) the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories;

    (c.1) the Commissioner of Nunavut;

    (d) a public or separate school board; and

    (e) a religious or charitable organization.
    Marginal note:Schools

    (2) The Minister may, in accordance with this Act, establish, operate and maintain schools for Indian children.

    R.S., 1985, c. I-5, s. 114; 1993, c. 28, s. 78; 2002, c. 7, s. 184.

    This does NOT support your claim that:

    You’ll find that detail about the RCMP taking kids away from their parents for being late for or absent from school in section 114, which is the last section of the Act itself.

    You will find what you are referring to in section 117. Wherein it sets out a penalty for parents who permit their children not to attend school, after being served with a notice under the act and with a warrant. It would be helpful if you referenced any provincial school act to see how the government compels persons not on reserves to ensure their children receive an education. Please consider that a child is entitled to an education, and parents that prevent their child from recieving one should be, in some fashion at least, punished if they willfully interfere with their child’s rights.

    Please note before you reply that the Indian Act sets out several relevant exceptions to the law, including children recieving satisfactory education outside of school (homeschooling, etc), children required to assist in husbandry or other household duties, and children who are ill. Oddly, you didn’t mention those exceptions in your article.

    You made several other, incredible, unsupported claims. I will quote them below:

    Did you know that the government can pass legislation that protects against the spread of illness (even non-contagious illness) on a reserve, but historically (even as recently as within the past ten years) has used this power to deliberately spread as much fatal illness as possible among indigenous peoples living on reserves?

    This requires not only proof that the government has the power to regulate disease on reserves, but also evidence of how they have used that power. The first part might have been present in your link to the legislation, but neither of your references explains the second. I think that anyone affected by deliberate government intervention to spread fatal illness on reserves would appreciate some evidence, for their inevitable lawsuit if nothing else.

    Oh yeah, and schools on reserves are either Protestant- or Catholic-run, and the Minister gets the final say on whether or not any schools are ever built that centre curriculum and instruction around either indigenous culture or secularism.

    There are several sections dealing with religion in reserve schools. ss. 118, 120, 121 in particular. None of these sections mandates that either religion you mentioned be involved.

    s. 118 states that, notwithstanding the requirement that reserve children attend school, no child of protestant parents must attend a catholic school, and vice versa. It does not establish what type of school is allowed.

    s. 120(1) states that a teacher in a reserve school should be of the same religion as the majority of band members.

    s. 120(s) states that if a meeting is held to vote on the above matter, the religion of the majority of the electors in attendance is the one to which the teacher should belong, notwithstanding the religion of the majority of the band as a whole. Honestly, I cannot see why this bizarre and undemocratic clause is included. However neither subsection of s.120 specifies catholic, protestant, animist, traditional or athiest religions. It leaves the matter entirely in the hands of the band.

    s.121 states that a member of a protestant or catholic group on a reserve may have another school set up in their own religion, unless the minister decides there are not enough children.

    These sections are odd, and from a secular point of view are both unnecessary and indefensible. A student of law would probably point out that under the Charter of Rights, the religious discrimination portions would probably result in the reading of these sections as violations of charter rights, and unenforceable. However, they do not support your claims.

    Our Country’s treatment of First Nations peoples is an important issue for discussion. Your post, however, does nothing to advance that discussion. When you inject opinion as fact, and make exaggerated claims, you hurt whatever cause you seek to advance. When you react with ad hominim attacks if your claims are challenged, you weaken any appearance of legitimacy in your arguments.

  14. says

    Ubique – when you say “FTB ate it (your first comment)”, can you describe what happened? It’s neither in moderation nor is it in my spam folder, so I’m not sure if I can recover it, but I will try if I can get more info.

  15. ubique says


    My fault. I wrote it unlogged in, using the Ubique handle and associated e-mail. It sent me to a ‘possible impersonation’ page or some such, and when I backtracked it was gone.

    I should know better than to type long comments into a webform anyways. Use notepad, copy-and-paste.

  16. says

    ubique – yes, that is an unfortunately necessary evil of our filters. You can thank the wonderful anti-FTB trolls for that one, I guess. Sorry your comment got chomped.

  17. says

    Did you actually read the Act, or have you just come to nit-pick over how I’ve written this piece, finding a convenient few parts of the Act to copy/paste from the end of it?

    With the notable exception of the last thing someone came to nit-pick about, everything I’ve written about is (or was) written in the Act. It’s not in order. In fact, I organized my thoughts here by virtue of connected issues. But it’s all there.

    I didn’t just manufacture my reasons out of thin air. I took notes as I read the entire document, and referred back to those notes while I was writing this piece. Maybe you should refer back to this piece of writing while you’re actually reading the Act yourself, if you are so concerned about the legitimacy of what I’ve stated here.

    Boy, there sure is a lot of “concern” in these comments, over exactly how accurate my argument, that the explicit purpose of the Act is to financially micro-manage all First Nations to the point of disability (if not simply legislate them out of existence), is or is not. In other words, “concern” over my credibility. Well, where have I ever argued about my credibility?

    So I guessed instead of looking for the third time, after everything else I’m doing to occupy my time, to give an example of where I got one statement from. But you found it anyway, Hail Satan. Here’s a cookie.

    As for your other sentiments, you sure put a lot of trust into a government that sits on its hands while the people over whom this very piece of legislation governs struggle in third world conditions, often without adequate nutrition or access to clean drinking water. It’s time to pick a side on this one, instead of nit-picking about how exactly one voice on one side expressed itself. You think you can do so much better? Then do it.

    I am going to have to say this AGAIN. I am not Crommunist. If you’re expecting his writing from my keyboard, too fucking bad.

    You also might think about how any time someone comments on my writing, it’s for nit-picking, or just trolling, before you go off on me for being “defensive”. Especially when you’re accusing me of ad hominem attacks in then name line. Is it ironic in here, or is it just you?

    I write about ETHNIC CLEANSING and your “concern” is about my credibility. Your priorities are completely backwards.

  18. ubique says

    I enjoy reading Crommunist because, as a white male working in public service, I feel that I need an outside perspective on issues of privilege and race, in order to avoid being too blind in my dealings with people whose experience of our culture and society differ from mine in ways I cannot understand. While I do not always agree with his conclusions, I rarely regard the time spent reading his posts to be less than productive. Yours, on the other hand can occasionally rise to the level of amusingly shrill, and in this case is so wildly inaccurate that I felt the need to assist you (or your readers) in your understanding of the issues you have addressed.

    You’re right, though, that I’m not particularly concerned about your credibility. As someone who works with first nations people, on and off reserve, on a nearly daily basis, I don’t think you have any. Your article, as passionate as it is, is essentially a screed, devoid of fact checking or any understanding of the issues beyond what you read in one reference,. Since you apparently lack any meaningful knowledge of the way that legislation interacts with people, government and the courts, your commentary on that legislation is vapid and nonsensical. You attack any criticism of your analysis as illegitimate, even when you are unable to address the substance of that criticism. Above, Crommunist mentioned that your article would benefit from citations to the sources used, and you said that you intended to wait until they were requested. I am apparently the third person to take the time to request them. You have provided one citation, and it was wrong, based on a ‘guess’ on your part. How much of the rest of your piece is based research of that calibre? Your response when your ‘citation’ was shown to be false is equally illuminating, I will enjoy the cookie, in Satan’s name if you insist.

    It appears that your reading and note-taking was something of a fevered and hasty affair, if you were unable to take the time to accurately record the section numbers where the offending sections of the legislation occur. Is it not possible that your conclusions are somewhat over-reaching the material you have reviewed? If you have a hard time reading and evaluating legislation, I would suggest that you perhaps take a course, or read a textbook on the foundations of law. Discussing bare legislation without reference to the context (particularly the common-law and practice of the court system or ministerial system) in which it operates is the height of foolishness. It does not provide meaningful insight into how things actually work in reality. While legislation is important, it is in some ways less important than the decisions made by our courts (many of which can be found archived at canlii.org, along with pretty much all Canadian legislation)

    Just because, for example, legislation gives a minister power to do something does not mean that the power is ever used. Just because an offense is defined in legislation, does not mean that it is ever prosecuted. For example, the Criminal Code contains an offense of ‘Blasphemous Libel’. You will never see anyone prosecuted under that section, it is anachronistic, and the practice notes included in most annotated Criminal Codes explicitly state that if someone should attempt a prosecution under that section, the section would likely be struck out as unconstitutional.

    You reference that the legislation includes a provision whereby a parent who permits or requires their child to be absent from school. My experience (and as I am only one person, this is anecdotal and not evidential) with absenteeism in reserve schools is that one of the reasons that even a child who actively seeks education may be prevented from receiving one because her parents frequently take off for days at a time, leaving her in a position where she has to care for infant/toddler siblings. My understanding of the legislation you impugn is that it is intended to prevent parents from using their children as labour or free babysitters, to the detriment of their ability to educate themselves. I’ve never heard of anyone being prosecuted under that section, and if you were able to locate such a prosecution, I would be shocked.

    I could go on, virtually every time you reference the act, you display an ignorance about how laws are made, what their purposes are, and how they are actually used in practice. You are shocked and dismayed that “Her Majesty the Queen Of Canada” asserts a claim to all land within Canada’s borders. This is the historically ornate way in which the law expresses it’s authority to control the land within it’s borders. If the law had, for example, said that a strip of land eight miles wide between Canada and the United States was NOT the property of Her Majesty, that it would rapidly become the property of the United States. This is simply how countries define themselves and assert their sovereignty. If this surprises you, you have not done enough reading. HMTQ is a common shorthand way of referencing the Government of Canada (federal). If you read case law on canlii.org, you will see that all criminal cases are titled R. v. [whoever], or HMTQ v. [whoever]. A little tip to help you in your reading: the Queen does not in fact participate in Criminal prosecutions.

    Lastly, you write about ETHNIC CLEANSING, but you do not support your own argument. You present ‘facts’ to support your claims, and when questioned about the source of those facts, become very concerned with the intentions of the questioners. To me, this speaks to either laziness or dishonesty, and nothing you’ve posted in the comments since has changed this impression.

    With the notable exception of the last thing someone came to nit-pick about, everything I’ve written about is (or was) written in the Act.

    If your point is to discuss ETHNIC CLEANSING, which is so important that it apparently requires all capitalization, perhaps you would be kind enough to show where in the Act it mentions a deliberate policy of spreading fatal infection on reserves, in the last ten years? Surely, this is your single best piece of evidence. Any serious discussion of ETHNIC CLEANSING would surely lead with it’s evidence of a deliberate policy of what would have to amount to biological warfare, committed within recent memory! This should inspire court hearings, tribunals, those involved could be sentenced to substantial prison terms.

    You will note that I have not addressed whether ethnic cleansing is occurring, or has occurred. This is a good area for detailed historical and sociopolitical study. I think it is uncontroversial that the Canadian government did in fact attempt to eradicate indigenous culture and language, and to forcibly assimilate our First Nations population, where they could not be simply marginalized out of existence. Exactly what is occurring now between the Government and the First Nations is something that requires a little more careful evaluation than you have given it. I do not disagree with you that the Indian Act is largely a Colonial and patronizing document, it treats first nations people as if they were children, incapable of managing their own affairs without government intervention. I just believe that your assertions about the act’s provisions, made without any meaningful understanding of the actual function of law (and in some cases, without any apparent factual basis in the Act) contribute to misunderstanding of these issues.

  19. says

    Oh, great. Another white person who “works with First Nations youth” and so somehow magically understands everything. A bleeding heart liberal who thinks they can save all the poor colour folks children by working against any white person who doesn’t flash the same credit to their apparent reputation.

    I’ll tell you what. If you have a direct request, I’ll consider putting the work into looking again for where this specific information appeared in the Act. Until then, I don’t have the time for nit-picking and bickering. I’ve got other shit to do.

    It may surprise you to know this, but first of all, First Nations people don’t exist as a hive mind. They may disagree about what needs to be done, or may not even know where the problems they see (if they see them at all) in their communities came from. This is especially true for youth. Secondly, the issue of how well the Act is enforced or not is not an alien concept to me. This played a significant role in the 1951 repeals, in fact. But finally, and most importantly, your entire lecture about how I don’t know how this legislation impacts peoples’ lives is a fantasy you’ve generated entirely on your own, built on the assumption that I’ve never spoken to anyone else about this. You’d be wrong, but unlike you, I don’t feel a need to declare my involvement with the communities impacted by this legislation in order to back my argument.

    Seems to me that most people living in Canada and ranting about how Chief Spence doesn’t have receipts for a single land deal, don’t have even the slightest clue what’s really going on at Attawapiskat. They just prefer to think that they’ve done it to themselves. Well they haven’t, as anyone who has read then piece of legislation in question here would plainly see. It if your entire argument is “you’re wrong and the reason why is because of my anecdotal experience with FN youth”, then I’m going to say you probably don’t have anything more educated to say on the subject than most Canadians who haven’t read the Act. I really do not have the time or energy to invest in this conversation.

  20. says


    Swine flu. 3.5 years ago. First Nations left to drown in their own lungs for nearly a month while a debate about whether they’ll drink hand sanitizer persisted. State of emergency declaration denied, contributing to further delays.

    I guess you must have only been working with your FN youth in the last year or so, like every other white person who works with FN youth and thinks anything I say about FN issues is wrong because I’m a white person so what the fuck could I know about it?

    You’re hardly the first person to try to shut me down using this exact same formula of response. It’s old.

  21. osmosis says

    I don’t have the time for nit-picking and bickering. I’ve got other shit to do.

    These criticisms are completely relevant, and you dismiss them as “nit-picking.” Yes, of course you’ve got shit to do, other than cite your claims. Don’t we all. But you need to be providing evidence when there’s a dispute, not pretending that others are being bitches for asking for evidence.

    Frankly, I too am not impressed:

    1) The criticisms of the original post are spot-on and you’ve yet to adequately address them.
    2) You’ve chosen instead to attack your critics and brand them as concern trolls.
    3) Your rebuttal(s) don’t prove your case.
    4) Your attitude stinks.

  22. says

    The criticisms of the post have been (as per usual) about my credibility, not about my writing.

    P.s. it may or may not have occurred to you that my housing is unstable and I continue to deal with that. That kind of takes priority over random people on the internet typing out essays about my “credibility” as a writer, especially when not a single one of them is willing to do the work to self-educate about the subject they are sharing their gripes with me about. Thank you very fucking much.

    Try being transient some time and then come talk to me about how much fucking time I’m supposed to invest in educating you.

  23. osmosis says

    Right, you have the time to crank out a piece of shit article (screed) but when people start calling you on it, you don’t have the time to back it up.
    Right, this dispute is caused by you being more educated than we, and the solution is for us to educate ourselves until we see things your way.

  24. says

    How long exactly do you think I spend every week, writing on this blog? How long do you think you are entitled to my time and energy, spoon-feeding you resources that you could fairly easily find yourself if you weren’t so automatically resistant to the ideas presented in my arguments?

    How hard am I supposed to try to be nice to you in the hopes that you’ll finally think of my voice as valuable enough to learn from, when your default position is that I’m untrustworthy, that everything I write about is invalid by default, and that if I don’t redirect every resource I have to proving myself by your as-of-yet unstated standards it must be simply because I can’t — and who can?

    Where’s my motivation?

    Maybe instead you can try to educate yourself on the subject matter first, and instead of launching attacks about “concern” or “credibility”, you can attempt to engage in an honest conversation that isn’t an automatic waste of my time and energy.

    I actually do expect that people who comment have some basic self-education and agree on some fairly basic points of unity on the subject, and when they don’t? Where’s my motivation? I’m not writing to gently coax people to think of their world in a new way, as if teaching a lamb to walk. That should be self-evident from the fact that I’m addressing multiple waves of attempted genocide.

  25. ubique says

    The criticisms in this thread have been entirely about your writing, my concerns about your credibility stem entirely from your writing, since i know nothing about you other than your words, the other challenges to your post have also been about the words you wrote, not about you personally. I suspect that no-one here knows much, nor cares, about your personal status. I don’t give a damn about your ethnicity, it’s not relevant to the quality of your ideas and argument. That you believe it to be is telling.

    Try being transient some time and then come talk to me about how much fucking time I’m supposed to invest in educating you.

    You are not ‘supposed’ to educate me, or anyone else. No-one here is attempting to impose some sort of moral obligation upon you. If you are indeed too distracted by your personal situation to present a well-researched and thought out arguement, perhaps you should not have posted one at all. I will reiterate that I do not disagree with large segments of your post, some of it I do agree with entirely, and much of it is outside of my personal areas of expertise. However, there are substantial areas that I take issue with, legislation and it’s direct effect on the populace are my area of employment, and I believe that you have substantially misrepresented the actual effect of the Indian Act on the population it covers.

    You are the one who undertook to educate others, I’m just asking what you propose to base this education upon. If this is too much for you, given your current lack of housing, I apologize, and suggest that you simply concede that you cannot defend the argument you gave above, at the present time.

    Oh, great. Another white person who “works with First Nations youth” and so somehow magically understands everything.

    You’re using quote marks, surely you are quoting something? Please, I invite you to locate the portion of my or any other reply in this post and find the area where your quote fits. Unable to do so? How do you think this reflects on the as-yet uncited claims you made in your original article? If you resort to making up positions to assign to your opponents in this discussion, how should we evaluate the other claims you have made and for which you refuse to cite evidence?

    As it happens, I do work with First Nations youth, although it is tangential to my profession, which requires me to provide services to both on and off reserve first nations people, as well as to non-status people in my community. I certainly have never said that I understand everything, merely pointed out things that YOU apparently do not understand. The fact that I claim (and I think demonstrate) a greater understanding than you of your chosen topic certainly does not mean that I think that I understand everything.

    First Nations relationship with the government of Canada is a seriously complicated topic, I suspect that there are people whose entire lives are devoted to this area that don’t “magically understand everything”. I certainly never claimed to do so, do you?


    Swine flu. 3.5 years ago. First Nations left to drown in their own lungs for nearly a month while a debate about whether they’ll drink hand sanitizer persisted. State of emergency declaration denied, contributing to further delays.


    It’s really not hard to find evidence if you’ve been listening to virtually any elders at all.

    The articles you posted, which I assume to be the best evidence you possess to support your claim that the Quarantine provisions of the Indian Act are being deliberately used to spread fatal disease on reserves, are rather silent on the Indian Act itself. Instead, the articles focus on the delays in Health Canada sending alcohol based sanitizer to dry reserves in the northern prairie provinces, and that body-bags were sent to reserves during a flu pandemic.

    You also made comment about a state of emergency being denied, which seems odd, since your articles mention nothing about that. They mention that the Manitoba First Nations declared their own state of emergency, but both the provincial health ministry and Health Canada said they were already at their own highest state of readiness, and had been for some time. What denial?

    This is the best evidence you can present that the Indian Act is used to deliberately spread disease? A 2 and 1/2 week delay in the distribution of sanitizer. This article actually gives a better view of the topic, and does mention the Indian Act:
    Strangely, it doesn’t mention how the Act prevented the distribution of sanitizer, which appears (from the article) to have been a decision made by Health Canada because of concerns raised both from within Health Canad, and from the bands themselves about the problem of high-alcohol products being widely distributed on reserves with such severe alcohol problems that they chose to ban alcohol entirely within their communities.


    This article mentions comments made by a chief who himself had concerns about the distribution of sanitizer in his own community. If you think this issue is simple, you are deluding yourself. Many isolated reserve communities have determined that alcohol abuse is such a severe problem for their citizens that it requires special legislative measures to combat it, and you think that distributing large quantities of what amounts to highly concentrated foul tasting vodka is a simple decision to make?

    Certainly, it would have been better for Health Canada to have a plan in place whereby non-alcohol based products could be sent to communities with concerns about alcohol abuse, and it seems incompetent that they did not, but to claim that this oversight is equivalent to deliberate genocide by biological warfare seems a stretch.

    As far as body bags go, you appear to be as ignorant of the realities of epidemiology and isolated rural communities as you are of legislation. People die when they get sick, at least some do, and bodies need to be disposed of in a safe, respectful and sanitary fashion. I am personally aware of one fly-in only reserve which possesses only a nursing station, with one to three body bags on hand, replenished whenever there is a death. What would you suggest that they do if more people die before they can replace the supply? Burn them in stacks? Bury them in pits? Tell me there would not have been an outcry had either measure been employed. The hard reality of epidemiology is simply that people get sick, and people die. Epidemiologists will do what they can to prevent disease, but unlike you, they must also plan for what to do if the worst happens. To do otherwise would be negligence.

    I do not think that you have made your case for a deliberate policy (under the Indian Act) of spreading fatal diseases on reserves. At best, you have pointed out (and rightly) some issues with Health Canada’s poor planning for epidemic diseases on isolated reserves in Canada. I suspect that no-one realized that isolated communities would so rapidly acquire and spread epidemic disease, and that this issue will be addressed faster next time. You point out problems in a system which appears to be intended to prevent disease nationally, where it has failed people on reserves, or delayed them receiving necessary services. You still need to show that this is intentional, that the agencies and people involved intended that this happen. Alternately, you could simply admit that your comments in the original post were intended to be inflammatory rhetoric, and not a statement of fact.

    You seem to be offended by the idea that people disagree with you, and take repeated offense at the idea that you be asked to cite your sources. You claim that you lack the time to ‘spoon feed’ us the information you have, since you have so many more important things to do with your time. So do them, abandon this thread. No-one is forcing you to read the comments and post your, inadequate, responses.

    I have not seen anyone in this thread deny that First Nations groups have legitimate complaints against the government, nor have I seen anyone argue that there is not a long history of colonialism, racism and oppression.

    What people in this thread have been saying, including myself, is that your article contains questionable claims which you have not supported with evidence. your attempt to derail this discussion into broader issues of First Nations rights notwithstanding, you titled this article “A primer on Canada’s Indian Act”, so perhaps you would like to address that topic? If this post were titled “Genocide against Canada’s First Nations” or some such, I could see how you might regard this as focusing on a tiny part of a large overall arguement. I will sum up my reasons for posting below:

    (1) You posted an article which purported to give basic education (a primer) about Canada’s Indian Act
    (2) I read your article, and believed that it contained both unsupported allegations and comments which were seriously misleading without context
    (3) I posted a response requesting clarification of those points.
    (4) Other than two links to news articles, and one (mistaken) reference to the Act itself, you have refused to address those concerns, preferring to spend your plainly valuable time on invective and empty rhetoric.

  26. says


    Here’s your argument, in a nutshell…

    “I agree with you, but I completely disagree with you. And though I have all the time I need to punch out a nauseatingly self-congratulatory essay about my credentials, which have no bearing at all on whether or not I really am ignorant about the subject at hand or any other, I don’t feel inclined to specifically cite anything about my concerns over what you haven’t cited directly that I also won’t be direct about. Oh, and I expect you to be as specific as fucking Heisenberg.”

    Here’s my standpoint again, in case it wasn’t clear the first half a dozen times…

    “I don’t have time for this shit.”

    You can bet every penny to your name that what I do or do not have time or energy for is directly proportional to my personal situation. That I have received these same, tired, empty critiques almost entirely from white men is also no small matter of coincidence. That they all seem to come from white men who trust the government despite the entire world learning about how poorly First Nations are treated and left to live in squalor without clean drinking water, or are sent body bags instead of hand sanitizer, and deny that this legislation has had the impact (or even still has the potential impact) of what amounts to genocide against the First Nations people, leads me to believe I’m wasting my time trying to convince any of them.

    The fact that you can read an article or two in the news in which it is explicitly stated that a community declared a state of emergency so that certain protocols would be removed from the procedure of getting them their much-needed medical supplies, while some hand-waving explanation you are so conveniently able to quote is offered as a reason for holding up life-saving shit during a fucking pandemic, is even more telling of how much time I do not care to waste with your comments. That you can even read an article that states that some communities were sent body bags and never received the requested medical supplies, and somehow come up with “two and a half weeks’ delay” is just more evidence that anyone reading what you have to contribute here is just wasting their fucking time too.

    Go ahead and write your own blog about it if you’re so right and so much more educated about the subject than I am. Look at all the fucks I give.

    I don’t have the time to deal with you or your denials of virtually everything contained in the Act and written explicitly (though in “Legalese”), and like it or not, that’s not a valid reason for me to just not write at all. So take your advice — your “if you don’t have time to answer everything I throw at you, maybe you shouldn’t publish anything at all” — and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine.

  27. ubique says

    “I agree with you, but I completely disagree with you.

    Nope, didn’t say that either. I agree with many of your conclusions, but I posted to inquire about specific areas of your arguement which I felt were not supported with facts. That you have so far been unable, and in fact hostile to the idea of, presenting the facts from which you drew your conclusions suggests that you either made them up out of whole cloth, or recieved them sometime in the past, believe them, but are unwilling to do the research to support them.

    This is why I asked you the questions, your articles in the past have been, while passionate, less then well sourced. When you have commented on issues that I knew little or nothing about, I left your screeds uncriticized, figuring that someone with more knowledge than I would respond, which they generally do.

    The fact that you can read an article or two in the news in which it is explicitly stated that a community declared a state of emergency so that certain protocols would be removed from the procedure of getting them their much-needed medical supplies, while some hand-waving explanation you are so conveniently able to quote is offered as a reason for holding up life-saving shit during a fucking pandemic, is even more telling of how much time I do not care to waste with your comments.

    Inarticulate, and hard to understand. Do you take the time to wipe the spittle off of your keyboard between posts, or do you let it accumulate until it begins to obstruct the keys? You linked to a single article on the issue of bodybags, from which you drew the premise that reserve communities were sent bodybags instead of medical supplies. This is not the case, a (very) little more research came up with this article:


    The body bags that so offend you were not shipped, as you state, instead of other medical supplies. They were shipped to the communities with other medical supplies, including hand sanitizer. If you are unable to understand why people planning a response to an epidemic which was (thankfully wrongly) predicted to be widely fatal, then you should perhaps do a little research and ‘educate yourself’ about mass-disaster preparation. Do you honestly believe that non-reserve communities were not also planning ways to deal with the possibility of an increase in deaths due to the epidemic? If people had died en masse on the reserves, and there were no methods of safetly storing or disposing of the bodies, would you not now be accusing the government of failing to plan properly? Perhaps you think that Health Canada should have shipped them puppies and sunshine instead? Medical supplies, sanitizer and masks WERE sent, if people were disturbed that these shipments included body bags, it is unsuprising that they were not medical people.

    Chief Harper’s quote in the article i linked to is very illustrative of the point here: “”It’s very insensitive,” said Harper. “It’s like sending body bags to soldiers in Afghanistan.”” we do send body bags to Afghanistan, because we acknowledge the reality that people may die, and if they do, we would like to be able to transport and store them in a dignified and sanitary fashion, as opposed to burying them where they fall in open pits.

    “if you don’t have time to answer everything I throw at you, maybe you shouldn’t publish anything at all”

    You’ve certainly spent a lot more time on invective and rage than you have on actual research for this piece. Congratulations, you ‘read’ the Indian Act, and are able to quote piece of legislation that you think tell a meaningful story about the First Nation experience in Canada, both historically and today. I asked you a few simple questions, and not only do you refuse to answer them, you piss and moan about how your tragic personal circumstances have prevented you from responding, but post relatively long responses about how unfair and illegitimate it is for anyone even to ask you to do so.

    Make no mistake, I emphaisze with anyone who is homeless or unstably housed, but what I may or may not think of your personal situation has absolutely no bearing on the quality of your arguments. If you are unable to source or defend your ‘primer’, then admit it and move on. Leave the execrable mess where it is, or delete it if you feel like a spot of revisionism, but at least have the intellectual honesty to admit that you didn’t and don’t understand the context or meaning of pretty much any of the legislation you quoted, and your personal circumstances prevent you from educating yourself about the issue.

    Incidentally, education in legal matters should probably take more than just a quick google search and watching a youtube video or two. Perhaps some time spent with a few textbooks would avail you more than watching other equally uneducated people prattle about issues they don’t comprehend in any great detail.

    I raised questions about a few small parts of a quite large article that you ‘had time’ to write and claimed was supposed to serve as a ‘primer’ about the Indian Act. If your situation has deteriorated so severely that you no longer have time to address the issue, I will understand, it still leaves your work at best unsupported and speculative, and at worst plainly wrong.

    Ok, you don’t have a lot of time, I get it. So do me a favour and support just one of your arguements:

    Did you know that the government can pass legislation that protects against the spread of illness (even non-contagious illness) on a reserve, but historically (even as recently as within the past ten years) has used this power to deliberately spread as much fatal illness as possible among indigenous peoples living on reserves?

    At this point your entire evidence to back this up consists of two news articles, one saying that there were delays in shipping hand sanitizer to reserves, and one saying that bodybags were sent to reserves, both during and epidemic. Personally, I don’t see how this supports your contention that the power of government to legislate has been used to ‘deliberately spread as much fatal illness as possible among indigenous people….’.

    Even assuming that the articles you posted are comprehensive and balanced in their reporting (which they are not), they do not suggest any deliberate effort to contaminate people with disease, at best, they support a bumbling incompetence mixed with paternalism. You still have all your work before you with regard to supporting a ‘deliberate’ effort to spread illness. Supplies were sent, including sanitizer, which does not support your contention that the government intends to spread as much fatal illness as possible.

    Moreover, none of this even addresses the issue of sanitizer being an appropriate response to the flu. The Wikipedia article on hand santizier(never a source, but a good link to primary sources) mentions and links to studies that show that Hand Sanitization is only minimally effective at preventing the spread of flu, since the primary transmission vector is airborne.

    You’ve suggested that I start my own blog, and it’s a valid suggestion. However, you chose to write an article in public forum, and you either chose to enable comments or to post on a blog that enables them. If all you wanted in response to your article was fawning adoration and unquestioning acceptance of your unsupported assertions, you should have indicated as such in the original post. That you don’t have the time to defend your article is not, itself, a defence. That you think my motives or ethnicity make my criticisms invalid is intellectually dishonest. You can either answer the criticisms, or you cannot.


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