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Social Policy & Aboriginal Peoples of Canada
Self-government has come to be particularly important when considering Aboriginal people in Canada. This concept is perceived as presenting indigenous people with the freedom of controlling their community without being affected by outside factors. Even with the fact that self-government dominated affairs in Aboriginal Canadian communities long before they interacted with Europeans, contemporary natives are more determined than ever to be autonomous. Self-sufficiency is in reality meant to guarantee that indigenous people preserve their cultural values and that they regain control over their lands and customs. Moreover, aboriginal nations are not concerned about the Canadian government providing them with self-government, as they actually want the authorities to acknowledge their rights and to allow them to function independently. Although they do not have full authority over their enterprises, the Mi'kmaq First Nations People have managed to exploit their autonomy and to effectively control their affairs.
A community is very likely to come across numerous impediments when being presented with self-government. These respective impediments can be the result of inexperienced leadership, lack of resources, or lack of cooperation between the community's members. In order for them to be able to get actively involved in the self-government process, the members in a community have to focus on information regarding the principle of autonomy. It would be unproductive for the community to simply promote self-government to its members, as it actually has to explain the concept (Miawpukek First Nation Self-Government).
One of the principal measures that self-government was expected to take was to prevent the Canadian government from trying to assimilate Aboriginal nations into the larger, non-Aboriginal group. Although natives have not been officially recognized as having the right to self-govern their community until the recent decades, they struggled to emphasis their position in regard to the government ever since their early encounters with Europeans. It was during the early 1970s that matters changed when concerning Indian status in Canada. One of the principal factors that influenced natives in wanting to attain self-government was their culture and their relationship with non-natives. The 1969 White Paper on Indian Policy along with the anti-discrimination movements in the 1960s and 1970s were very important in influencing natives to unite against the government. Conversely, it was the federal government that actually convinced Aboriginal Canadians that it was only natural for them to be interested in gaining self-sufficiency. The Constitution Act of 1982 contained aboriginal demands regarding the right to self-government. In spite of the fact that the Canadian government granted the right to self-sufficiency to indigenous people, many were unable to understand what self-government means. Aboriginal people mainly wanted to partake in Constitution-related discussions and to be recognized as an active part of Canada.
International law in regard to human rights played an essential role in assisting First Nation tribes as they struggled to achieve independence. "Aboriginal organizations have argued that the inherent right of self-government is an aspect of the right of self-determination recognized in the United Nations Charter and in the Draft Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples" (Wherret, 4). This came as a consequence to a series of reformed Constitutions meant to discriminate natives and was intended to have the general public acknowledge that there is actually a problem concerning the way that native people are treated in Canada.
The continuous struggle to achieve self-government that indigenous people in Canada had gone through materialized in Gathering Strenght -- Canada's Aboriginal Action Plan. "Gathering Strength noted that the federal government had recognized the right of self-government as an existing inherent Aboriginal right within section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and outlined self-government processes that are ongoing" (Wherret, 7). A series of Aboriginal governments emerged consequent to this plan and First Nations people were finally recognized as being an active part of Canada. Self-governance enables aboriginal tribes to direct finances more effectively and to organize indigenous-related matters more efficiently. Tribe leaders are better prepared to deal with issues that emerge in the community, especially given that they understand the needs of natives and that they can intervene exactly where an intervention is needed. Particular Canadian officials are apparently against the concept of self-governance for indigenous tribes. They are generally motivated by the belief that encouraging self-governance is likely to lead to serious complications and divergences that can severely affect the nation (Belanger, 4).
Whereas finances meant to guarantee well-being in native tribes were previously handled dubiously by the government, contemporary plans are more likely to ensure that each dollar directed to assist indigenous people achieves its purpose. Moreover, the government now has the ability to present tribe chiefs with the opportunity to personally manage the funds meant to improve conditions in the community. Conservative officials have found it difficult to accept this, especially given that they expressed indifference in regard to issues that prevent certain native communities from providing their members with high living standards. As the 2006 elections represented a shift in power because the government had turned from Liberal to Conservative, conditions started to be less comforting for native groups. Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed his firm lack of support for the aboriginal community when he decided to withdraw the $5.1 billion proposed by the previous administration. These funds were meant "to improve education, housing, economic development, health, and water services" (Belanger, 5). The Mi'kmaq community has already had the opportunity to control government funds that were meant to improve living standards for its members. The Mi'kmaq have successfully understood how they can best exploit self-governance and have gotten actively involved in affairs concerning their community and the country as a whole.
The fact that aboriginal people were previously considered to be no different from ordinary Canadians did not succeed in creating a connection between the First Nations people, as it actually widened the gap between Indians and the authorities. By being recognized as independent bodies, indigenous communities have managed to identify with Canada and with the territories that they inhabit. Canadian indigenous communities have experienced a graduate devolution when considering their ability to self-govern themselves in the recent centuries. The fact that they are now allowed to self-govern their people and provinces practically means that their relations with the government have experienced an evolution. First Nations chiefs are well-aware that the concept of self-government is not new. They are certain that it is simply an older concept brought back into public attention and the reason for which they are once again able to control their community as they did before Europeans came and occupied their lands (Belanger, 3).
In spite of the fact that they all have similar rights, most aboriginal tribes have adopted a custom approach at using self-governance. The Canadian government, however, needs to allow each community to act independently, without influencing it from a political point-of-view. Considering the many types of self-governance displayed by indigenous Canadian tribes, one might come to accept the fact that the concept of self-governance is very complex and that people can understand it differently.
Although Aboriginal Canadians have benefited greatly as a result of being granted self-governance, it is still difficult for them to fully exploit their rights. A series of Canadian laws prevent natives from being able to exercise their power to self-govern. While some might consider that indigenous people simply want to display an air of arrogance by wanting to self-govern, reality is completely different. Surely, self-governance has came as a response to the ignorance with which native Canadians were treated for the last centuries and it did not actually change much in some communities. However, what people tend to ignore is the fact that aboriginals have expressed their concern about self-governance mainly because they wanted to prevent the Canadian government from ever being able to oppress them (Montour, 1).
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