Blakeney Government Implements the Saskatchewan Formula

Summary

The Blakeney government implemented the Saskatchewan formula, which proposed that land entitlements would be based on First Nation band populations from December 31, 1976 rather than the time that treaties were signed. Action was delayed as Ottawa and Regina fought about the land and money required. A handful of Treaty Land Entitlement claims eventually went forward, including that of the Lucky Man band which received a reserve in the Battleford area 110 years after it had entered treaty (1879). (Waiser, Saskatchewan: A New History, 444).

There are three major types of claims in Saskatchewan: specific, surrender, and land entitlement. A specific claim arises when a First Nation alleges that the federal government has not lived up to its obligations under treaty or other agreement or legal responsibility (see Table FNLC-1). According to Canada’s land claim policy, a valid specific claim exists when a First Nation can demonstrate that Canada has an outstanding lawful obligation as follows: the non-fulfillment of a treaty or agreement; a breach of an Indian Act or other statutory obligation; the mishandling of Indian funds or assets; or an illegal sale or disposition of Indian land. Canada will also consider claims that go beyond what is considered to be a lawful obligation, usually including failure to compensate a band for reserve land taken or damaged under government authority; or fraud by federal employees in connection with the purchase or sale of Indian land.

A Treaty Land Entitlement claim occurs when a First Nation alleges that the Canadian government did not provide the reserve land promised under treaty. For some, this means that no reserve land was received; for others, that the correct amount was not received…

In September 1992, twenty-five First Nations, the province of Saskatchewan and the Canadian government signed the Saskatchewan Treaty Land Entitlement Framework Agreement... Under the terms of the agreement, the First Nations with outstanding entitlements will receive approximately $539 million over twelve years to purchase just over two million acres of land. As of February 2004, 596,010 acres had attained reserve status. When the TLE process is completed, reserve land will account for just over 2% of the provincial land base. Presently about 1% of the land base is reserve land, but the status Indian population constitutes about 10% of the province’s population.”

Nestor, Rob. “Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan.” University of Regina. Accessed July 2020. https://esask.uregina.ca/entry/first_nations_land_claims.jsp


 

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Date
1976-00-00
Region

Newly Shared Responsibility of Aboriginal Services Between Provincial and Federal Government

Summary

In 1952, after pressure from the CCF on the Federal Government due to their failure in providing adequate services to Indigenous peoples across the province, the Federal Government transferred jurisdiction of welfare services for off-reserve Indigenous peoples in their entirety. The Department of Indian Affairs now claimed that any person living off reserve for more than a year were under the obligation of the provincial government. However, the transfer of welfare services was not accompanied by any financial assistance for the new responsibilities of the CCF. This meant that the new duty of delivering welfare services to a considerable population would be made ever the more difficult; without funding, services could not be fully implemented, adequately staffed, and resulted in under-serving communities the transfer meant to serve. The complex and confusing process of accessing provincial welfare services often discouraged Indigenous applicants and they frequently ran into uncooperative municipal employees.

To the federal government, in theory, once a status-Indian lived off reserve for over a year they would be assumed by provincial welfare, and incidentally, lost their status. This led to many of those living off reserve (who sought wage labour) in Saskatchewan to move back to their reserves in order to retain access to services provided by Indian Affairs, despite their inadequacy. The loss of status also posed great concern, as access to land and the right to live on their reserve would be threatened after the 12-month mark; undermining access to land directly harmed Indigenous peoples, while the government benefited as they would no longer have a fiduciary duty to any of these persons. These new changes to provincial welfare services, as has been continuously seen in service implementation, failed to address the needs of Indigenous peoples within Saskatchewan due to the paternalistic approach taken. Instead of allocating funds directly to Indigenous peoples, governments continued to fail in directing Aboriginal welfare services.


 

Sources

Barron, F.L., Walking in Indian Moccasins: the native policies of Tommy Douglas and the CCF, 121-122.

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Date
1952-00-00
Region

1960 Political Enfranchisement

Summary

In 1960, John Diefenbaker passed legislation (Bill C-2 and Bill-C3) that amended the Indian Act that guaranteed federal franchise to status Indian men and women in a way that did not compromise their Treaty Rights or status. Bill C-2 repealed subsection (2) Section 86 of the Indian Act which prevented those with Indian status from voting. Bill C-3 amended the Canada Elections Act, assuring federal franchise without compromising one’s Indian status to both men and women. The response to federal enfranchisement was mixed, individuals fearing that despite the Government’s promises they would lose their Treaty Rights and status if they voted at the polls. Historically, promises and assurances made by the Federal Government to Indigenous peoples were often disregarded or disingenuous altogether, this caused a lack of trust in the Federal Government’s intentions regarding enfranchisement.

 

Sources

 

Date
1960-03-31
Region

Racism in Health Care Services in La Ronge

Summary

The following is a selection from an article CBC Saskatchewan published in March 2022 on racism in healthcare, and contextualizes some of the current healthcare challenges Northern Communities are facing:  

Racism within the health-care system has prevented First Nations people from seeking and receiving proper care, according to Dr. Veronica McKinney, director of northern medical services at the University of Saskatchewan college of medicine.

‘We know there's huge disparities between the health care of Indigenous peoples and the general population of Saskatchewan,’ McKinney said. McKinney said the province lacks data on how widespread issues of racism are. She said there are many reasons why First Nations people haven't filed formal complaints when encountering racism in the system. People don't know who to contact or their complaints can get bounced around between sectors, often creating more harm or shame, she said. 

‘[People are] asked to repeat their stories over and over and over again. When you think about it for these things to happen it's usually at the most vulnerable times of their lives — and it's usually something that's traumatizing for them,’ she said.

‘It's a very sort of disconnected system that really doesn't allow that patient's voice to be heard in a way that I think it should.’

She said First Nations people living in remote communities or ‘on the rez’ won't complain because they fear it will lead to repercussions for a family member who works at facility or will need to seek care themselves. She said people are afraid of driving away providers because recruitment to remote areas is difficult.  This leads people who have been harmed to stay silent. McKinney said this means little change within the system and a lot of distrust among First Nations people.

‘When they do require health care, they're only going up at the last minute when it's often a very desperate situation. Maybe there's a misdiagnosis of cancer and it's too late to really treat.’

Nothing is more alienating for patients who are vulnerable and needing care than experiencing discrimination, said Caroline Tait, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan who works with the Indigenous Peoples' Health Research Centre. For years she's conducted community-based research with First Nations and Métis communities. 

‘Feeling that people don't want you there, they don't like you.… There's lots of emotional, psychological fallout from that for people," Tait said. "They will avoid seeking treatments that they need.’

She said patients with chronic conditions have recurring treatments that they can't avoid, so they often won't report mistreatment because they fear punishment for being a ‘difficult patient’[…]

"It's very easy for people's experiences and their negative experiences with the health-care system to be dismissed."[i]


Historical Context

In an interview with Verna Richards via the Gabriel Dumont Institute, a La Ronge resident in the 1950s and 1960s, she communicated that the provided Indian Health Service doctor was both racist and conducted medical procedures without the use of contemporary medicine at the time, such as anesthetic.[ii] This abysmal care alienated the First Nations and Métis residents of La Ronge from their only community doctor, effectively removing access to healthcare.  

Mary-Ellen Kelm’s work details the policies, lack of ethics, and zero accountability structures inherent to the Indian Health Service. An insufficient policy and accountability structure in the Indian Health Service were two of the major issues causing service failures that affected Indigenous communities. The Department of Indian Affairs did not engage in an effort to recruit any Indian Health Service doctors in Northern Saskatchewan, opting to accept any doctor who applied. Kelm writes:

"In 1902, [the DIA] implemented a system of salaries that was intended to reduce medical costs. Doctors received the same payment whether they visited reserves once a year or as often as was necessary. If they rendered more services than could be paid for by their salaries, then they could submit accounts for further reimbursement. Extra remuneration, however, was seldom granted."[iii]

Doctors who served in the Indian Health Service were not supervised nor expected to report procedures to ensure the provision of ethical, appropriate care. An issue arose where doctors neglected their Indigenous patients in favour of white patients, who paid directly out of pocket. The financial incentive to visit the reserve as little as possible to maximize personal profit jeopardized health in Indigenous communities. Indian Health Services was used as a means of legitimizing colonial relations and paternalism within Canada:

"…aid given across cultures, where one society is seen as bearing knowledge vital to the ignorant other, buttresses notions of racial superiority and furthers the sense that relationships of dependency are natural and requisite. In this way, provision of medical services and the discourses surrounding it have aided in ideological formulations that are needed for the continuation of internal colonialism in this country. Non-Native medicine, then, also functioned as a legitimizer of colonial relations."[iv]

Indigenous peoples have and continue to practice their own medicines; Western medicine did not replace Indigenous medicines and ways of knowing. Arguably, there has been a great deal of damage caused by the imposition of Western medicine on Indigenous peoples. The disruption and demonization of Indigenous medicines, replaced with Western approaches contributes to health disparities and other systemic factors (cultural loss, dislocation, poverty etc.). Not only are the treatments not necessarily culturally relevant, but western practitioner’s biases towards Indigenous patients evidently create disparities in care.     

La Ronge resident Verna Richards (interviewed by Murray Dobbin, c. 1976) remembers that the resident doctor was outspokenly racist. Richards described that he would handle Indigenous residents in an unnecessarily rough manner. The maltreatment by the resident doctor alienated First Nations residents in La Ronge from health services, as he was the only Indian Health Doctor available in the region.

Verna: “...the doctor, the Indian health doctor that used to come up, he was such a racist pig, at that time. Well, the people called him the butcher, because he used to come up and pull teeth and that too, and he wouldn't even freeze your mouth - he'd just yank them out. There was one fellow that worked in the fish plant steady. He was quite, you know, sort of religious, and so he never drank. And he had cut himself with a knife at the fish plant when he was working and they flew him down to P.A. and he went to this doctor. And he sewed it up without freezing it and all the time he's getting after this guy. He says, "Yeah, you were probably out fighting and drunk. That's why you got cut." And he was very hurt when he came back that anyone would accuse him of being drunk and fighting because, you know, no way he would do that, because he was quite religious. And different things like this, this doctor used to do. So they would have to be half dead before they would go the doctor, because this was the only doctor that they had to go to.”

Murray: “So they knew what kind of treatment they would get?”

Verna: “And they knew. The girls, I used to get after them about, you know, looking after their teeth. And they said no way. In fact one girl, she had a cavity, she used to put Ambroid [a type of adhesive glue – one of the first synthetic cements] in the cavity and it used to burn the root, rather than go to the doctor and have it pulled it. She used to have toothache, and that is what she said she used to do. And I said, ‘My God, doesn't that hurt?’ ‘Well, just for a minute,’ she said. ‘But,’ she said, ‘I'm not going to that butcher.’”[v] 

Verna also recalled that after the implementation of Medicare, community members continued being referred only to Doctor Green (the Indian Health Service Doctor).[vi]

Verna: “… after I moved to P.A. You see, the native people still thought, after this was disbanded, that they still had to go to this doctor. And they didn't, they could go to any doctor they wanted to.”

Murray: “With Medicare?”

Verna: “Yeah [….] But still a lot of them used to come. And also he figured he could still get all the natives...”

Murray: “As patients?”

Verna: “As patients. And at one time he refused to go and see a baby that Berry [Richards] had brought down from the north, until Berry threatened him. And then finally he went to see the baby. You know, things like that. And in fact some of the native people now had a note, Dr. Jurdus had given this native person a note when he went to the hospital, and that was thrown in the garbage and Green was called.”

Murray: “Really?”

Verna: “Well, even the hospital staff was still referring all natives to this one doctor.”

Murray: “So Jurdus would give them a note saying that this person is suppose to see me, and they would just throw it in the garbage?”

 Verna: “Yeah, and then it would just go in the garbage and they'd call Green.”

Murray: “Did he treat white people that way, too?”

Verna: “No. Just native people. I guess he was just a racist.”[vii]

This section demonstrates the challenges that La Ronge and its associated LLRIB communities have experienced in acquiring healthcare which is fair, free of discrimination, culturally relevant, and kind. It demonstrates a century of negative experiences with healthcare, and how these systemic problems (underfunding, informal policies, disregard for patients and a lack of accountability, etc.) influence systemic factors for First Nations and Métis people.


Footnotes:

[i] Latimer, Kendall. “Office for First Nations health complaints key to bettering Sask. system: researchers.” CBC News. March 7, 2022. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatoon/ombudsperson-office-sparks-hoperesearchersd-1.6375935 

[ii] Richards, Verna. Interviewed by Murray Dobbin, “Verna Richards interview on First Nations and Métis experiences of life in La Ronge, including the impacts of tourism and sexual assault.” Transcript. Gabriel Dumont Institute, Visual Museum Oral Histories Archive. July 12, 1977. Pg 23. http://www.Métismuseum.ca/media/document.php/06837.Verna%20Richards.pdf

[iii] Kelm, Mary-Ellen. Colonizing Bodies: Aboriginal Health and Healing in British Columbia 1900-50. Vancouver: UBC  Press, 1998. 111.

[iv] Kelm, Colonizing Bodies, 127.

[v] Richards, “Interview with Verna Richards,” 23.

[vi] Richards, “Interview with Verna Richards,” 24.

[vii] Richards, “Interview with Verna Richards,” 23-24.

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Date
1950-00-00
Community

The Permit System

Summary

Although movement towards implementation of a permit system began in the House of Commons in the 1870s with amendments to the Indian Act, it was not fully implemented until 1885. This policy prohibited Indigenous people from selling anything they had "owned, grew, raised, cut, dug, caught, were given, found, or otherwise acquired" (Smith 2009, 99 - see relevant resources below).

Implications
This policy hindered the independence and economic development activities of Indigenous people, thereby hindering their ability to survive and thrive as they attempted to transition to an agricultural economy after the near-extinction of the buffalo. It also increased the power of the Indian Agent without corresponding mechanisms of accountability, allowing for abuse of power on behalf of the Agent. Please see related entries on Indian Agents.
Date
1885-00-00

Government Control of Indigenous women

Summary

In the first half of the twentieth century, the Department of Indian Affairs (DIA) had its agents exercising extreme control and surveillance over Indigenous women and their personal lives. It was a priority for the DIA and its agents to uphold the Euro-Christian ideals of marriage, and as a result they believed surveillance over Indigenous marriages was an effective way to ensure that relationships remained moral. DIA agents were known to withhold payments to Indigenous women if they believed they were not acting in a way that was consistent with European marital norms. Many women were not given their payments if they chose to leave their husbands, no matter what the circumstances were. DIA agents forced women to become more domesticated and to tend to their men to ensure that their relationships would survive. This resulted in many Indigenous women being forced to remain in abusive relationships. The process of withholding payments until Indigenous women agreed to conform to the new European social standards created a negative relationship between Indigenous women and government authority in Canada. Please see related entry titled "History of Racist and Gendered Perceptions of Indigenous Women."

Implications
By using money as a form of control, the government was able to create a power dynamic in which Indigenous women were directly dependent on the DIA agents for their survival. Many women were dependent on their annuity payments to provide for their families, especially if they had children. By asserting power over the deliverance of these payments, DIA agents forced Indigenous women to conform to their European relationship norms or face the consequence of not receiving payments. This practice left many Indigenous women in vulnerable positions because they were often forced to remain in abusive relationships to avoid retaliation from the government. Indigenous societies were familiar with divorce, and they placed no stigma on individuals who chose to part ways. In contrast, European society saw divorce as a taboo and was not accepting of individuals who chose to divorce. This societal difference was detrimental to Indigenous women because they were stripped of their agency and instead were left in a vulnerable position within society.
Sub Event
Withholding Payments to Force Indigenous women to Conform to European Moral Norms
Date
1915

Anti-Polygamy Laws Imposed by the Federal Government

Summary

With the emergence of settler society, many of the social norms of Indigenous groups became seen as morally corrupt, or deviant. The idea of polygamous marriages was foreign to European settlers, was a stark contrast to the Christian marital norms and common law monogamy. Government actors took it upon themselves to discourage the practice of polygamy and eventually entrenched it in law by 1890. It was important for settlers to reinforce the idea of traditional, European, monogamous marriage because they feared it was being disintegrated by the industrial revolution and was a marker for 'de-civilization.' The arrival of the Mormons in the late 1800s further escalated fears held by the state, triggering them to take action against the practice of polygamous marriages.


 

Result

By passing an anti-polygamy law, it left many Indigenous women in vulnerable positions. It was determined by most ministers which wife was allowed to remain married to her husband. To ensure that the system was fair, they almost always chose the first wife to remain legally married to her Indigenous husband. This was problematic because often times the first wife was the oldest, and any children she may have had would also be older. This resulted in many young Indigenous women being left in dangerous situations because of their young ages and inability to care for their young children on their own. It also interfered with the traditional way of life in many Indigenous communities. Taking multiple wives was seen by the settler colonists as a form of abuse, but in some Indigenous communities it was done out of necessity and with the approval of the other wives. A household with multiple wives in the family meant that there were more people to help with the daily chores, care for children, direct labour, and offered a strong support system. It was  assumed by settler colonists that polygamous marriages was based on sexual desire and subjugated wives, when in fact the wives almost always consented prior to a new wife being married into the household. By newly isolation Indigenous women from these arrangements, many of them lost their shared families, support systems, and partners.


 

Sources
  • Beaman, Lori G. "Church, State and the Legal Interpretation of Polygamy in Canada." Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 8, no. 1 (2004): 20-38. 
  • Rutherdale, Myra, and Katie Pickles. Contact Zones: Aboriginal and Settler Women in Canada's Colonial past. 2005. 

 

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Date
1890-02-04

Indian Act

Summary

Bill C-3, also known as the Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act, developed as a response to the McIvor v. Canada decision in British Columbia which found that some of the current registration provisions of the Indian Act were in violation of section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms based on gender. The purpose of Bill C-3 was to expand registration to the grandchildren of women who had lost their status as a result of marriage to a non-Indian. To be eligible for status under Bill C-3, three criteria need to be met: ------------------------- "1. The individual’s grandmother had lost status due to marriage to a non-Indian 2. The individual has a parent who is registered, or entitled to be registered as an Indian under section 6 (2) 3. The individual was born on or after September 4, 1951 Should all of these criteria be met, an individual would be eligible for status under this new bill. Bill C-3 aimed to correct the gender discrimination from the 1985 amendments, commonly known as Bill C-31."

Implications
Though the intent of Bill C-3 was to eliminate discrimination towards the grandchildren of women who had previously had their status revoked due to marriage to a non-Indian, it did not completely eradicate the gendered implications of the 1985 amendments. Bill C-3 continues to perpetuate the paternalistic nature of the Indian Act by limiting the scope of individuals who can qualify under the provisions outlined. If an individual was born prior to September 4, 1951, they are still denied status unless their lineage is traced through paternal lines. This type of blatant gender discrimination still exists within the Indian Act today and has yet to be corrected. Bill C-3 also created a new form of discrimination by requiring women to have non-status children in order to have their status upgraded from 6 (2) to 6 (1). Women who have status children, or no children at all are ineligible for the status change. This has created even further divisions within communities and creates a situation in which an already vulnerable population is being further marginalized by colonial adjudication.
Sub Event
Bill C-3: Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act
Date
2010-12-15

Metis Land Claims Advocacy in Saskatchewan

Summary

In 1939, representatives from the Metis Society of Saskatchewan approached the provincial government for assistance in petitioning the federal government in recognition of outstanding and unresolved land claims. Please see "Relevant Resources" below for complete details.

Implications
As indicated by the final entry in "Relevant Resources" (below), the provincial government concluded that it had no obligation to Metis people as it relates to assisting in petitioning for or providing for restitution of unresolved land claims. However, the researcher notes that these conclusions are no longer considered legally justifiable, as the 2016 Supreme Court of Canada ruling in Daniels vs. Canada (Indian Affairs and Northern Development) affirmed that Metis and non-status Indians are, in fact, Indians in accordance with section 91 of the Constitution. This also means that they fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government, rendering provincial assertions of jurisdiction irrelevant. The researcher also notes that the statement “such settlement proved to be of little or no value in fitting them for civilized life”, of which similar sentiments are reiterated in section five, adheres to a Social Darwinist view of ethnic hierarchies of civilizational progress, and is therefore racially discriminatory. Finally, the researcher notes that the evidence which the provincial government relied on is not disclosed in Daniels’ book. To the extent that these assertions were rooted in written documentation such as government records, to the neglect of overwhelming Metis oral historical testimony which makes claim to the contrary, such assertions are racially discriminatory. While it can be acknowledged that the report was a “product of its time” in relationship to the acceptance of oral historical testimony in Canadian politico-legal systems, the logic which excluded oral historical, or at the very least non-governmental or unwritten sources as legitimate was based in assumptions that such material, much like the cultural groups such material originated from, lacked rationality and epistemic credibility. As well, since Delgamuukw v. British Columbia [1997], oral historical evidence has been considered admissible in the Canadian court of law.----------The establishment of Metis agricultural colonies can be perceived as a means of allowing the government to provide a short-term solution while also avoiding acceptance of responsibility as it relates to joining the Metis in advocacy or directly providing restitution by ceding title to Crown land. In the long-term, this solution did not provide aid to the majority of landless Metis, nor did it increase their access to education, both of which would have provided the Metis with greater assurance of financial security and prosperity in the future.
Date
1930-00-00

Discrimination Against Metis Women in Northern Saskatchewan

Summary

Metis women from La Ronge and area in Northern Saskatchewan were respondents interviewed by Doris and Irene Poelzer for their study on Metis women's experiences in their home-communities. Numerous respondents reported discrepancies in the types of work available for men and women. They also reported discrepancies in the wages of men and women, with men being paid more for the same work. For example, these respondents stated that the types of jobs available for women were those that restricted them to traditionally feminized work, such as caregiving/nurturing, feeding, serving or providing instruction. That is, although job opportunities are scarce in the northern part of the province, those that were available for women were typically concession work, cleaning, health-related, teaching and clerical. These women believed that they had the same intellectual capacities as men, and that they should not be restricted (Poelzer 1985, 21-22).

One stated, “Women need training for jobs...I don’t want women to have the kind of life I had before” (Poelzer 1985, 23).

There was also a need expressed for support from one’s community and romantic partner. For example, women who ran for public office positions such as the school board believed that they were discriminated against because of their gender, and thus received few votes. In another example, women found that men refused to take instruction from them because of their gender. Overall, some respondents felt that men ignored, underestimate or exploited their Metis female co-workers (Poelzer 1985, 24-26).-

Metis women in Poelzer’s study also spoke extensively on the impact of religion in their life and the community. This impact was construed as both positive and negative. One respondent noted, “The church has been so much a part of exploitation”, as it provided a variety of services including education, health, employment and welfare. However, this also provided church officials with a great degree of control over the community, in which they took advantage of their privileged position by humiliating some individuals and also keeping community members dependent and indebted to their services. For example, individuals in the community must be church members in order to access services (Poelzer 1985, 27-36).

As well, women as a demographic are more likely to live in poverty and are often perceived to be primarily responsible for child-rearing. The financial burden resulting from poverty and raising children often results in a greater degree of reliance on these services. Metis women in the communities surveyed noted that church control was exerted by shaming women who practiced family planning or separated from a violent spouse. They also noted that they would be shamed for living common-law, even though some women declared that cohabitation gave them a greater degree of control, equality and autonomy than marriage.

One woman described the social pressure (resulting from the internalization of Christian moral norms) this way:

“You don’t feel right when you stay with the man without marrying him. It is just that when you go to some places, somebody asks if he is your husband, and you have to lie most of the time. You say ‘yes’ and you are lying. So it hurts you that way...And when you get kids, somebody is going to tell (them) that ‘he is not your dad. That is not your mother’s husband.’ It is not very nice very much” (Poelzer 1985, 49).

Another woman reported a more direct form of religious pressure: “...The church feels that if you are living common-law, you are not following the religion...marriage is quite a big thing” (Poelzer 1985, 49).

In contrast, Metis women respondents reported that common-law arrangements allowed for an easier separation if men were discovered to be immature or abusive. They also reported that such an arrangement prevented male romantic partners from perceiving his wife as property, that is, of possessing rights of ownership over her body or labour. An arrangement of cohabitation, therefore, was perceived to prevent domestic violence as well as prevent men from becoming jealous or of forgetting their household responsibilities.

Overall, women who received social services through the church were made to feel obligated to meet the expectations of religious officials by adhering to their moral and purity ideals (Poelzer 1985, 31-49). 


 

Result

Prior to provincial government intervention and rapid economic shifts in Northern Saskatchewan, women relied on traditional means of survival, and their livelihoods were not threatened.  It should also be noted that the high rate of susceptibility of Indigenous women to physical and sexual violence did not exist prior to colonization.  Rather, its dramatic increase since the establishment of the settler state is indicative of implementation of systems of male dominance, inherent in western philosophy, politics and social organization, as well as in Christian institutions.  As it relates to the experiences of Metis women in Northern Saskatchewan, the majority of respondents referred to the power and influence of the Catholic church in their Metis communities as problematic. 

Poelzer observed that internalized attitudes of male dominance and women’s submission to male leadership permeated the areas in which she conducted her research (1985, 58-59).  This researcher surmises that such widespread acceptance of these attitudes may be related to the influence of religious institutions in these areas.  In terms of the implications of these social problems, physical injuries inflicted by domestic violence can make it difficult and even impossible for women to search for work, complete work-related duties or attend their jobs, while also impacting their wellbeing greatly.  Psychological distress caused by domestic violence such as trauma, depression or anxiety can also severely impair an individual’s ability to function on a day-to-day level. Transportation to leave such situations may, and it very often, inaccessible to women - especially in rural or isolated communities in the North where bus services were and remain few and far between.  

In addition, women who leave environments of domestic violence may find themselves and/or their children houseless of facing housing insecurity. The Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan notes that women living in Northern Saskatchewan face extreme housing shortages.  The Metis women surveyed in Poelzer’s study confirmed this - they stated that the lack of availability of homes, in addition to the unacceptable quality of government-constructed residences have an effect on family living in terms of the moods, attitudes and relationships of individuals, and these dynamics compound the pre-existing stress arising from housing difficulties (Poelzer 1985, 74-81).  

This association also notes that women living on-reserve experience heightened isolation from domestic and sexualized violence crisis services.  Individuals who cannot access support services may resort to substance abuse in order to manage symptoms of psychological distress.  Moreover, women are prevented from advocating for improvement of these issues because of attitudes of male dominance in community development and public office.  Women can't advocate for change if they are not at the decision-making table - and those in power (men) rarely see these issues as important enough to warrant change.

As one Metis woman stated, "if a woman attends a community meeting, men say, ‘What is she doing here?’ or ‘This is for guys only’” (Poelzer 1985, 111).  These factors of political, social and economic exclusion and vulnerability can increase the likelihood of participation in criminal activity.  


 

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