Mary has been a leader in the North for the last four decades. She served as president of Makivik Corp., the Nunavik land-claim body, and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the national Inuit organization. She was Canada’s first ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs and also served as the country’s ambassador to Denmark.
Madame Simon is an Anglophone Inuit, and she has promised to learn French during her tenure as Governor General. But the truth is that Madame Simon has a mother tongue of her own, which she must keep. The era and mindset that led to the creation of Residential schools is a by-gone era, never to return.
I hope Madame Simon’s appointment will help consolidate the position of Amerindians in Canada. Europeans intruded on their land but if anyone belongs to a country, it is its indigenous population. Canadians must realize fully that Amerindians were its first inhabitants.
Simon is well known for her role in negotiating the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement between the Cree and Inuit of northern Quebec, the provincial government and Hydro-Quebec in 1975. The deal affirmed Inuit and Cree hunting and trapping rights in the area and established $225 million in compensation over 20 years in exchange for construction of hydroelectric dams.
Canada’s new Governor General is married to Whit Fraser, a former CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) producer. They have three children.
Canadians are removing or vandalizing statues, including a statue of Queen Victoria and one of Elizabeth II. That is destruction and it will not help. Nor will it help to burn churches. Let us go forward together and make Canada a better country.
I wish Mary Simon a happy tenure as Governor General. Her appointment as Governor General is genuine progress. Mary Simon is a very accomplished person whose achievements have been recognized.
“Apparently we have administered the vast territories of the north in an almost continuing absence of mind.” Louis Saint-Laurent(12th Prime Minister of Canada)
The quotation above suggests that Canada has neglected its Inuit, known as Eskimos (Esquimaux; FR). It did, until 1939.
“In 1939, the Supreme Court of Canada found, in a decision known as ReEskimos, that the Inuit should be considered Indians and were thus under the jurisdiction of the federal government.” (See Inuit, Wikipedia.)
Matters have changed, as the stories of Nunavut and Nunavik confirm. Nunavut is now a separate part of Northern Canada. As for Nunavik, it is Northern Quebec, but Inuit also live in Labrador-Newfoundland (pronounced New-fen-land) (Terre-Neuve; FR) as well as Alaska (US), Siberia (Russia), and Greenland (Denmark). We will deal with Canadian Inuit only.
In English, the word Inuit is the plural form of Inuk, but in French one says un Inuit (singular) and des Inuits (plural). Esquimaux is the plural form of Esquimau.
According to the Canadian Encyclopedia (see Indian), it seems Christopher Columbus, known as the discoverer of America (1492 CE), was the first person to use the term “Indian.” He may have thought he had discovered India, as would Jacques Cartier in 1534 CE. At any rate, the term spread to include nearly all American Aboriginals, with the probable exception of Eskimos (Esquimaux; FR).
People have started using the words Aboriginal and Amerindian (Autochtone et Amérindien-ne) with respect to “Indians.” However, although Eskimo has become a pejorative descriptor in the eyes of Inuit, Aboriginals may still be referred to as Indians, but less so as Eskimos, in the case of Inuit …
Groups of Canadian aboriginals
In Canada, there are three groups of recognized Aboriginals:
The rights of Amerindians in Canada were first recognized by George III, king of the United Kingdom, in his Royal Proclamation of 1763. Members of the Royal family still receive gifts from Amerindians who feared that having lost the protection of the French, who offered gifts, settlers would invade their land and endanger their life. The genocide of Amerindians could well be the worst ever. They were massacred. England drew a proclamation line behind which the aboriginals of its new colony would be secure. A Royal Proclamation also protected Britain’s French-speaking subjects.
Note the word “registered.” The Indian Register has been the list of status or registered Amerindians. Status Amerindians are First Nations Amerindians. Métis are in the process of becoming status Amerindians, but …
Status Amerindians have certain rights and privileges:
“the granting of reserves and of rights associated with them, an extended hunting season, a less restricted right to bear arms, an exemption from federal and provincial taxes, and more freedom in the management of gaming and tobacco franchises via less government interference and taxes.” (See Indian Register, Wikipedia.)
In Ottawa, Aboriginals are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and NorthernDevelopment Canada (AANDC), Affaires autochtones et du développement du Nord canadien, AADNC, formerly named the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. However, not all aboriginals are considered status Aboriginals. As noted above, the Métis have only begun to gain recognition.
In the 1960s, Quebec started developing hydroelectric resources in the north. It built the Manicouagan Reservoir and, in 1971, it created the James Bay Development Corporation to “pursue the development of mining, forestry and other potential resources starting with James Bay Hydroelectric Project, without consulting the native people.”The Quebec Association of Indians,“ sued the government and on 15 November 1973 won an injunction in the Quebec Superior Court blocking hydroelectric development until the province had negotiated an agreement with the natives.” The injunction was overruled, but in the end, Quebec had to sit at the negotiation table. (See JamesBay and Northern Quebec Agreement, Wikipedia.)
We have discussed the Métis, both in voyageur posts (see Canadiana 1) and in telling the story of Louis Riel.
Riel’s story is a testimonial with respect to the hurdles Aboriginals had to face, the worst of which was assimilation. So, I will deal with assimilative measures that could have led to the destruction of Canada’s Amerindians. I am sure that former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien sought the welfare of aboriginals in his 1969 White Paper, but abolishing the Indian Act would have resulted in the disappearance of Canadian Amerindians. They protested.
Inuit are now educated in their mother tongue, but climate changes threaten their livelihood. They use kayaks instead of canoes. Martin Frobisher was the first European to meet an Inuit.