Everybody tends to refer to 1876 as the benchmark of Canada’s legacy of colonialism. But the intent to terminate Indigenous rights began 103 years prior to the Indian Act.
Here’s the timeline:
1763: The Royal Proclamation. Proclaimed as the “Indian Magna Carta“. It guaranteed certain rights and protections. It established how Britain could acquire lands.
1850: An Act for the better protection of the Lands and Property of the Indians in Lower Canada. Included are all descendants of such people, non-Indians who “intermarried with such Indians,” people whose parents were considered Indians, and “all persons adopted by them”
1857: An Act to Encourage the Gradual Civilization of the Indian Tribes in the Province was passed by the fifth Parliament of the Province of Canada. Any Indian who can read or speak English or French, has no debts and is of good character becomes considered as a “legal Person” and “civilized” in the eyes of the British government.
1869: An Act for the Gradual Enfranchisement of Indians, the Better Management of Indian Affairs, and to Extend the Provisions of the Act. This further restricted definition of who was regarded a Indian. Only persons of one quarter Indian blood could be acknowledged Indian.
1870: The Manitoba Act. Individuals residing in the vicinity of present-day Winnipeg were offered Scrip, a promissory note giving each individual a private ownership of 64 hectares in exchange of their Indian land title.
1876: The Indian Act. Meant to consolidate all the previous ordinances aiming to terminate First Nations culture in favour of assimilation into Euro-Canadian society. Much of the Act pertaining to identity and the exclusions based on gender have since been repealed and the act has gone through several amendments.
Any descendants of the people who became excluded by any of these laws remain victims of historic injustices as a result their colonization. We are prevented from exercising, in particular, our right to development in accordance with our own needs and interests and denied our right to self-determination.