Litigating Aboriginal Culture
Litigating Aboriginal Culture
by Joseph Magnet
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One-hundred-twenty years ago, when Queen Victoria was old and Canada young, the new Dominion embarked upon a controversial social experiment. Parliament appropriated funds to establish a network of residential schools for Canada’s Aboriginal children. The Government then operated the schools with the aid of major Canadian Churches. This system was designed to absorb Aboriginal children into the culture and language of Canada’s surrounding non Aboriginal societies.

Canadian officials believed that the residential schools were capable of “civilizing” the Indians, and thereby eradicating “all lingering traces of native custom and tradition”. With the aid of Church partners the Department of Indian Affairs set out to “kill the Indian in the child”. The Department intended that Indian traditions would stay dead by “severing the artery of culture that ran between generations”.

About the Author

Joseph Eliot Magnet, F.R.S.C. is Professor of Law, University of Ottawa, and one of Canada's pre-eminent scholars. He is counsel to National Aboriginal Organizations, First Nations, law firms, corporations and individiuals.


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