Family Allowance

CCF Community Nucleation Policy


In the late 1940s, Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) Minister of Natural Resources and Industrial Development Joe Phelps enacted a relocation of First Nation and Métis populations to combined settlements further south. These actions were part of a broader CCF philosophy of economic and social development in Northern Saskatchewan. An essential part of this effort included large-scale forced movement to settlements where the CCF professed they could teach Indigenous peoples to live as settlers and better deliver its various programs to northerners. This would facilitate assimilation into Canadian settler society, while still affording them the ability to practice minimal traditional activities preapproved by the government. In addition, it facilitated the delivery of provincial services to some remote communities. This was initiated through the use of the Family Allowance. This money could only be accessed by First Nations and Metis people if their children were enrolled in the school system; therefore, to qualify for assistance parents would be forced to send their children to colonial schools and away from their family and community knowledge.



For many First Nations and Metis peoples, the move from the bush to semi-urban centres reduced their quality of living conditions, and the better world visualized by the CCF remained unattainable. The CCF regulated hunting, trapping and fishing industries and removed First Nations and Metis from their traditional lands, disrupting these activities and the ability to pass along traditional knowledge or participate. This was done through the Fur Marketing Service and the Fish Marketing Service. 
For information on the wider effects of this policy, see the entry “CCF Social Programming and Erosion of Traditional Life in Northern Saskatchewan”


  • Waiser, Bill. Saskatchewan: A New History. Calgary: Fifth House, 2005. 





Government Control of Indigenous women


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."

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

Creation of the North-West Mounted Police


The North-West Mounted Police was established in 1873 by the government of John A. MacDonald. The Cypress Hills massacre as well as the increasing number of conflicts on the U.S border due to alcohol smuggling are often cited as the main reasons the MacDonald government passed the bill creating the new military-style police force. However, most historians agree that the primary reason for establishing the force was to control First Nations and Métis populations, as the government sought to populate the West with settlers. Under the central authority of Ottawa, the NWMP marched West in 1874. The NWMP served as an arm of colonial control for politicians and lawmakers in Ottawa. For Indigenous communities in the Northwest, it represented an additional source of repression. The newly formed para-military style force was entrusted with wide-ranging powers and duties. Officers acted as Justices of the Peace, able to apprehend and sentence offenders, as well as impose Indian Act polices such as the Pass System. Since western courthouses did not exist at the time on the Prairies, NWMP barracks were often used for court proceedings and as temporary prisons. The NWMP assisted Indian Agents with the ration system, as well as enforcing laws obliging Indigenous students to attend residential schools. Government policies such as the Residential School system, the Sixties Scoop and gender discrimination in the Indian Act subjected Indigenous families to violence, cultural dislocation and land dispossession. The NWMP was successful in instituting a system of surveillance and curtailment, restricting Indigenous people to their reserves, regulating their land use and criminalizing livestock theft to benefit settler farmers and ranchers.


Current police-Indigenous relations are a product of the historical reality in which the NWMP and subsequent RCMP acted as an active arm of colonialism for the Canadian government. This historical context fuels a sense of mistrust, suspicion and resentment many Indigenous people feel towards law enforcement officers. In a 2017 report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) interviews were conducted with Indigenous women in Saskatoon regarding their experiences with police officers. Women reported that they would not call the police to report a crime committed against them or crimes that they had witnessed involving an Indigenous woman out of fear that the police may harass them, engage in physical/sexual violence towards the suspect, or take them on a "starlight tour" (see database entry on Starlight Tours). HRW found evidence of a fractured relationship between police officers and Indigenous people in Saskatchewan. Human rights experts have also raised concerns over entrenched and institutionalized stereotyping of Indigenous women by police and RCMP officers. The HRW inquiry reports that: "The United Nations inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada reported that structural bias was reflected in the use of demeaning or derogatory language towards Aboriginal women and in stereotypical portrayals of Aboriginal women as prostitutes, transient or runaways and of having high-risk lifestyles". On a provincial scale, Indigenous people have reported being victims of racial profiling and targeting. Following the 1885 Resistance, the NWMP in conjunction with regular military forces, participated in quelling the resistance as well as apprehending and punishing the members of the Resistance (see database entry on the reign of terror). Other punitive measures carried out by the NWMP included withholding annuity payments, confiscation of horses and arms, and well as property destruction. As the impacts of the 1885 Resistance remain present to this day for many Métis and Indigenous people, so does the role played by the NWMP. The 1885 Resistance was accompanied by a shift in perception and attitude of colonial settlers towards Indigenous and Métis peoples. Although historians have uncovered several instances of NWMP officers acting with fairness and concern towards Indigenous and Métis people, however as Brown and Brown (1978) argue, that did not alter the nature of the force and its mandate. Owing to it's nature as a colonial police force, many Indigenous people never felt the force was there to protect them and their rights. In addition, Indigenous people recall instances of racial targeting and surveillance by police officers -  primary and secondary sources (listed below in "relevant resources") indicate that RCMP/municipal police discrimination and violence are re-occurring experiences of Indigenous people in Saskatchewan.  During the last decade, there have been several calls to action made by Indigenous organizations, governments, Nations, and communities, in response to the wide-spread mistreatment and neglect of Indigenous victims endemic within Canadian policing. The MMIWG Inquiry found that federal, provincial, and local police forces have far too often treated missing and murdered Indigenous victims with indifference and racial discrimination, thus impacting the investigations and outcomes of these cases. The issues within policing and correctional institutions cannot be explained as a "few bad apples" or agencies, these issues result from systemic racism, discrimination, and colonialism that plague the criminal justice system and have been built into its very framework. 

Sub Event
1874 March West and subsequent police and Indigenous relations.


File Description
Human Rights Watch report

CCF Social Programming and Erosion of Traditional Lifeways in Northern Saskatchewan


The establishment of a government presence in Northern Saskatchewan instigated an immense cultural shift, one that was initiated by the CCF who sought to expand operations beyond Prince Albert. The intention of the CCF was to create a ‘cultural majority’ in Saskatchewan, attempted through assimilation policies which undermined Indigenous lifeways and cultures in the North.

“The CCF took steps to see that the entire province would share northern resource revenue, yet, contradictorily, it refused to equally share provincial wealth with northerners. This occurred for several reasons. The CCF strongly feared that northern Aboriginals would take advantage of generous social programs and become lazy; in a sense then, the CCF limited benefits to northerners for their own good. Secondly, the CCF simply ignored northern needs, knowingly permitting the continuance of third world-like conditions in the northern half of the province. The CCF consequently applied a weaker non-economic socialism in the North than in the South, which received many more benefits from social and health programs.”[1]

The CCF government had no Northern representatives in caucus to advise on policy implementation; Joseph Lee Phelps, a farmer from Southern Saskatchewan, was tasked with designing ‘social’ programming in Northern Saskatchewan as the Minister of Natural Resources and Industrial Development.[2] Phelps had no lived experience or familiarity with Northern lifeways, and whose strong political convictions informed his trajectory in policy and practice.

“Phelps and his cohorts hastily developed new policies and a structure largely separate from that in the South to introduce the CCF's plans for northerners. Douglas and cabinet generally supported Phelps' fur, fish, timber, and other northern initiatives. They also gave him a lot of free rein. Several reasons explain Phelps' unusual freedom to act in the North. Possibly most importantly, the CCF accepted the view that the northern society was not worth preserving. Wiping it out would leave a clean slate on which to build a better society. Additionally, many southern politicians knew or cared little about the North and let Phelps do as he pleased there as long as his actions did not create problems for them.”[3]

Social programming happened in two distinct streams, first was through the implementation of the Family Allowance. Gwen Beck, a long-time resident of La Ronge and interviewed by Murray Dobbin in 1976, had this to say:

Murray: “What kind of an effect did that have on the sort of nomadic lifestyle of native people? Did that contribute to changing that, where they'd take their whole families onto the trapline and then come back again?”

Gwen: “Well, that... I don't know whether it was right or it was wrong. You see when I was on the School Board I felt that education was very, very important and to meet the children. So I couldn't tell you whether it was correct or not, but Family Allowance came into being somewhere about then and, you know, they were supposed to educate the children.”

Murray: “That was the condition of the Family Allowance?”

Gwen: So this was the condition that I stipulated, that I felt. That anyone that took the family away [to the trapline] and did not educate them, they were not entitled to the Family Allowance. Now probably... now I'm not proud of that stand that I took -- I don't know whether I was right or wrong, but I was very strong on it when I was young.… I don't know exactly whether it was correct or not, but gradually the Family Allowance was the biggest drawing card for keeping families in [communities with a school]. But it did split up... the women had to stay behind or they had to find homes. We talked about building a hostel - which we never ever got to - to take the children so the children could stay. We went through all these phases but, you know, I think it finally ended up that more people stayed home and sent their children in school…Money-wise, money again was a big thing, the Family Allowance meant quite a lot to get, and most of them had good-sized families, you see. So it meant they stayed, and trapping became less and less, really. Even today they cannot support themselves by trapping, no matter how good a trapper they are, so you understand.”[4]

The Family Allowance alluded to was dependent upon children entering the school system. Long-time La Ronge resident, Robert Dalby, confirmed this:

Murray: Would you say that the disruption of the traditional way of life started in the early fifties?

Robert: Yeah, it started manifesting itself at that time and several reasons. It wasn't just economics. It was the growing population for one thing. It was beginning to grow because of health services and things. And I remember very distinctly the old business even with the treaty Indians, the treaty agent would threaten to cut off family allowance if the kids didn't go to school. So parents were compelled to stay in the settlements. At least the mother was compelled to stay in the settlement so that the kids went to school. And I know of several families, people I've known for twenty-five, twenty-eight years, who faced this situation. They could no longer go out to the trapline as a family group. The kids had to stay in school and these people around here, these bush people around here, have always respected the law. They haven't liked it necessarily, but they've respected it. And so if someone threatened to cut off the family allowance and threatened them with dire punishment, most of them went along with it and believed it, you know.”[5]

The second stream was the creation of Fur and Fish Marketing Services, as explained by Dalby:

Robert: “[T]he CCF pulled some awful boners as far as the north was concerned, you know [....] From lack of knowledge. One of the serious ones was the fur marketing service. And done with the best of intentions but when I arrived here, I had been with the game branch of Manitoba for a couple of years. I knew the situation there with registered traplines and so on. And it worked fairly well at that time there. And here I found that the trappers had to sell the beaver and muskrats (which is the principal crop) to the Fur Marketing Service in Regina. And they all resented it, without fail, you know, even though perhaps they got a better price. And I think the intent was to give them a better price but for some reason it just didn't work properly. There wasn't any education done certainly.”[6]

This is corroborated by Albert Broome, a former manager at numerous Government Trading stores in the North (La Ronge and Pinehouse, A.K.A. Snake Lake) who administered part of the Fur Marketing Service credit system:

Albert: “The credit trading policy is a dangerous one and we were always enforcing our collections at every stage of the game. There was very little welfare at the time. So you couldn’t rely on welfare. You had to judge each individual trapper by his merits. His fishing ability and his trapping ability.”

Murray: “How did you judge when a person’s credit would be cut off?”

Albert: “Well, in some cases you had to use your own judgement with the store operation. In some cases you would get direction from head office when your accounts receivable were getting out of order. At the same time you were judging the trapper by his ability to produce and in some cases they would have some tough luck and accounts would soar a little. Or bad price structure. In some cases you are playing with the market in fish and fur and it reverts back to the economy of the particular settlement.” [7]

Pierre Carriere, a long-time resident of Cumberland House, stated that the Fish Marketing service:

 Pierre: "... was a compulsory program first. But that's where it hurts the government. See, they didn't have no transportation services. They didn't have proper management services. The fishermen were the ones to lose money. Not the government."[8]

Murray: “And the government started the program to help fishermen right?”

Pierre: "Yeah, supposed to help fishermen but they didn't have no management and they didn't have no transportation service and everything was against them and therefore, the poor fishermen was the one that was losing his shirt. So it was really, politically unrest then.[9]

He states that after the implementation of the fish and fur marketing programs, people lost faith in the provincial government.

"You can't trust people. Once you are losing your shirt, you can't trust the government. Doesn't matter what kind of government you have."[10]


  1. [1] Quiring, David. “Battling Parish Priests, Bootleggers, and Fur Sharks: CCF Colonialism in Northern Saskatchewan." PhD Diss. University of Saskatchewan, 2002. 20.
  2. [2] Quiring, “Battling Parish Priests, Bootleggers, and Fur Sharks,” 25.
  3. [3] Quiring, “Battling Parish Priests, Bootleggers, and Fur Sharks,” 26.
  4. [4] Beck, Gwen. Interview by Murray Dobbin. Transcript. July 20, 1976. Virtual Museum of Métis History and Culture. Gabriel Dumont Institute. Pg 12.
  5. [5] Dalby, Robert. Interview by Murray Dobbin. Transcript. June 18, 1976. Virtual Museum of Métis History and Culture. Gabriel Dumont Institute. Pg 2.
  6. [6] Dalby, “Interview with Robert Dalby,” 5.
  7. [7] Broome, Albert. Interview by Murray Dobbin. Transcript. September 4, 1976. Virtual Museum of Métis History and Culture. Gabriel Dumont Institute. Pg 5.
  8. [8] Carriere, Pierre. Interview by Murray Dobbin. Transcript. August 18, 1976. Virtual Museum of Métis History and  Culture. Gabriel Dumont Institute. Pg 4.
  9. [9] Carriere, “Interview with Pierre Carriere,” 6. 
  10. [10] Carriere, “Interview with Pierre Carriere,” 7. 



Government imposed economic sanctions had serious implications. First, the creation of the Fish and Fur Marketing Service brought the livelihoods of First Nations and Métis trappers and fishermen under the direct control of the provincial government. Whether this program was established with good intentions, the result was resentment amongst Northern residents who viewed CCF meddling asserting monopolistic control over their livelihoods and economies.

Dolores Poelzer found in her work with Métis women from La Ronge (1986) that provincial regulation became a barrier to hunting and trapping, which had the effect of increasing reliance on Church administered social welfare programs.[1] The Church required that women and their families maintain church membership to receive education, health, employment, and welfare services. They were also expected to meet the moral expectations of church leadership and were shamed for common-law relationships, even in cases of domestic violence and abuse.[2] Previously, women reported they enjoyed the freedom of common-law relationships because it allowed for personal independence and were able to leave abusive partnerships more easily.

“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.”[3]

Following the 1960s, construction of hydroelectric dams and clear-cutting for various deforestation projects further eroded Northern environments, effected animal migrations, and at times changed floodways. Terry Newell a current resident of Whiteswan Lakes comments that “Clear-cutting close to the lakes causes eroding banks containing mercury in the soil to end up in the lake,” which can cause mercury poisoning in humans, and species who rely on lake habitats.[4]  Residential and Day Schools continued their operations during this period, in some cases for another 40 years.

During the 1950s-1960s, the CCF developed several industries supported by government infrastructure through the DNR.

“DNR [Department of Natural Resources] officers, nurses, teachers, and other CCF employees formed a separate class within the small, primarily Aboriginal villages. Civil servants also became part of the white upper class in the larger communities. White government workers frequently considered themselves superior by virtue of their race. The mandate given them by the CCF to bring forced change to northern Aboriginals gave them additional prestige and authority.

Some Aboriginals established special relationships with DNR officers similar to the earlier ‘Patron-Client relationship’ with the HBC, and officials had a special clientele who supported their programs, as part of a system of reciprocal obligations. Yet many northerners felt ‘contempt and hostility’ to the CCF and its employees, largely because of conservation policies." Administrators also often did not relate well to Aboriginals, since they did not know the Aboriginal languages or grasp local ways.”[5]

There remained a scarcity of work opportunities in the North because employers were particularly hostile towards First Nations and Métis applicants and employees.[6] A continuous barrier was that DNR and local administration were reluctant or refused to train or hire First Nations and Métis residents, choosing instead to relocate civil servants from the South.[7] Positions that were available were frequently underpaid in comparison to civil servants. The wealth and employment disparity which developed during this period had lasting implications. Resources directed towards Northern education and infrastructure were not intended to service Indigenous community members, especially remote communities (like Grandmother’s Bay, Stanley Mission, Sucker River, and many others), demonstrating early service barriers and an unequitable dispersion of funds. This pattern of chronic underfunding has continued and contributes to the unique and systemic background factors which contribute to an over-representation in the justice system.

In Poelzer’s interviews with Métis women in La Ronge, one participant commented on the challenges that she and her community faced following the implementation of regulations:

“For instance, there are so many regulations changing about fishermen and their nets. One year, they buy one size of mesh for their fish nets; and then maybe a year or two after that the regulations change to a certain other size, such that they have to throw the first net away because it is not the right size anymore. There are all kinds of pressures...housing...parents might have problems with the kids at school...The pressure all stem from the society, from the rapid growth. Then drinking starts.”[8] 


  1. [1] Poelzer, Dolores T. and Irene A. Poelzer. In Our Own Words: Northern Saskatchewan Métis Women Speak Out. Saskatoon, SK: Lindenblatt & Hamonie, 1986. 27-36.
  2. [2] Poelzer, In Our Own Words,” 48-49.
  3. [3] Poelzer, In Our Own Words,” 49.
  4. [4] Dayal, Pratyush. “Stumped.” CBC News Features. July 10, 2022.
  5. [5] Quiring, “Battling Parish Priests, Bootleggers, and Fur Sharks,” 41.
  6. [6] Quiring, “Battling Parish Priests, Bootleggers, and Fur Sharks,” 40.
  7. [7] Quiring, “Battling Parish Priests, Bootleggers, and Fur Sharks,” 40.
  8. [8] Poelzer, In Our Own Words,84-86.





Changes to Provisions for Family Allowance


The Department of National Health and Welfare decided to supply specific foods, rather than direct payment of funding to First Nations peoples and Inuit who were already receiving Family Allowances.  The federal government felt that those on Family Allowance would be 'irresponsible' with their allowance; Instead, the government regulated the distribution of goods so that family allowances could only be used for particular foods.  This prohibited Indigenous families from purchasing other necessary items and took a paternalistic view that assumed Indigenous guardians were not capable of caring for their families. Additionally, food insecurity was only exacerbated by the changes in access to game. mobility restriction on and off reserves, and environmental degradation due to resource development/extraction that came as a result of westward settlement.

This event is an example of a lack of consultation with Indigenous peoples, and of paternalistic government practices that undermined the autonomy of Indigenous peoples and creating a hostile environment where it was increasingly difficult to survive.

NAC, RG-10, CR Series, Vol. 7094, File 1/10-3-0, Letter to all Indian Superintendents, Regional Supervisors of Indian Agencies and the Indian Commissioner for British Columbia, from H.M Jones, Director, Indian Affairs Branch, Ottawa, 7 August 1956.