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Tomas Jirousek: Getting rid of the Indian Act – Montreal Gazette

Odious as this law is, the solution is not to repeal it, but to build self-government and let the Act wither away.

The Indian Act is a racist, colonialist piece of legislation, an assimilationist tool enacted in 1876 to exert control over First Nations peoples in various ways and to eradicate their cultures and languages.

Many of the most horrific human rights abuses in Canadian history were committed with this law, including taking children from their parents and sending them to residential schools. The Indian Act also restricted the movement of First Nations people by keeping them on their reserves (unless given permission from the Indian Agent). As well, it enabled the denial of voting rights to First Nations people and the outlawing of such traditional practices as the Sun Dance and the potlatch. And it forced enfranchisement on First Nations people who attended university or served in the armed forces, and on First Nations women who married non-First Nations men. (While enfranchisement literally meant being allowed to vote, what it really entailed was losing one’s Indian status and rights.)

While amendments have since removed many of the most atrocious aspects of the legislation, the Indian Act continues to limit the political autonomy of First Nations. This is done in a variety of ways, including by controlling who is even considered an “Indian” for the purposes of the Act.

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