For over a century, the
central goals of Canada’s Aboriginal policy were to eliminate Aboriginal
governments; ignore Aboriginal rights; terminate the Treaties; and,
through a process of assimilation, cause Aboriginal peoples to cease to
exist as distinct legal, social, cultural, religious, and racial
entities in Canada. The establishment and operation of residential
schools were a central element of this policy, which can best be
described as “cultural genocide.”
Physical genocide is the mass killing of the members of a targeted
group, and biological genocide is the destruction of the group’s
reproductive capacity. 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, Canada did all these things.
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