by Xin Ping
BEIJING, Nov. 1 (Xinhua) -- Sept. 30, 2022 marked the second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada, a day to remember the tragedy of the children who died in residential schools, the bereaved families and the survivors of these institutions.
The colonial past shapes the present profoundly. In Canada, Indigenous people continue to experience ongoing racial discrimination, negative stereotyping and injustice.
A survey by Statistics Canada in February showed that a third of Indigenous people have experienced discrimination in the past five years, more than double the proportion of non-Indigenous people. Institutional racism has disadvantaged Indigenous people across the education, employment, health care, judicial and prison systems.
A Canadian National Defense report published in January revealed that only 8 percent of Aboriginal people have attained a post-secondary credential compared to 20 percent of non-Aboriginal Canadians. Gaps in education attainment have much to do with insufficient funding. In some communities, First Nations students get 30 percent less funding than other children.
With fewer education and training opportunities, it is only natural that Indigenous people have higher unemployment rates and lower wages. Figures from December 2019 to February 2020 showed the Indigenous unemployment rate at 10 percent, while it was just 5.5 percent for non-Indigenous people.
The proportion of Indigenous people employed in goods-producing, health care, social assistance, retail, public administration and construction sector -- jobs with lower possibilities of promotion and more exposure to occupational hazards -- is higher than that of non-Indigenous people, said Professor Quentin Durand-Moreau of the University of Alberta in his study.
Meanwhile, only 3.4 percent of Indigenous people work in professional, scientific and technical services, a much under-represented figure compared with 7.8 percent for non-Indigenous populations, Durand-Moreau said.
Widespread health disparities continue to exist for Indigenous people in Canada. Lack of access to quality health care is a big problem, especially in remote communities.
In 2015, then auditor general of Canada said that Health Canada failed to ensure that First Nations individuals living in remote communities in Ontario and Manitoba, Canada's first and fifth most populous provinces, had access to clinical and client care services.
A survey done by a retired judge in British Columbia found that 84 percent of Indigenous respondents reported discrimination in health care. Institutional racism in the health system is so pervasive and severe that Indigenous people strategically avoid public hospitals. In contrast, clinics managed and staffed by Indigenous people are always their first choice.
Indigenous people are over-represented in Canada's criminal justice system, both as people convicted of crime and as victims. More than 30 percent of inmates in Canadian prisons are Indigenous people, even though they make up just 5 percent of the country's population, a Canadian correctional investigator estimated.
At the same time, Indigenous people accounted for 22 percent of all homicide victims in Canada in 2018. Last year, police reported that the homicide rate for Indigenous people was approximately six times higher than that for non-Indigenous people. More than one-quarter of Indigenous women experienced sexual violence during their childhood, compared with 9.2 percent of non-Indigenous women.
Anti-Indigenous racism has become embedded in everyday life. The result has been that many Indigenous people have grown up normalizing racial profiling and inequities. At the same time, Canadian society shows an appalling apathy to addressing the issue at the government and public levels.
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was entrusted with revealing the truth about the history of the residential school system, presented 94 Calls to Action that would help redress the legacy of residential schools and advance reconciliation. Months later, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed his government's commitment to implementing every single one.
However, based on information in government documents, by July 2021, only 13 of the recommendations had been completely enacted, and 21 saw no tangible steps taken. And over two-thirds of Canadians surveyed in 2021 said they knew little or nothing about the residential school system. This lack of historical knowledge is the root cause of poor institutional policy, and breeds racist attitudes and mistrust between Indigenous people and other Canadians.
"This important work of reconciliation is not a one-day affair," said Murray Sinclair, former Truth and Reconciliation Commission chair.
Suppose the voices of Indigenous people are not heard and honored. In that case, there will be no truth, no reconciliation and no healing of the relationship between settlers and Indigenous communities in Canada. Enditem
(The author is a commentator on international affairs, writing regularly for CGTN, Global Times, Xinhua News Agency, etc. He can be reached at email@example.com)