Impact of Housing Insecurity - Introductory Essay


The following essay provides a brief introduction on the effects caused by housing insecurity and poor quality housing, with attention paid to the disproportionate impacts for Indigenous peoples (see bibliography below):

The result of one hundred and fifty years of colonial government oppression has been the large number of Indigenous peoples (First Nations, Métis, and Inuit) who live in poverty at levels below the LICO (Low Income Cut-Off). Indigenous peoples have been systematically disadvantaged by frequently being given the least productive reserves and farmland, being hindered by the pass system from selling the products of their labour, to work away from reserves for extended periods of time without losing their status, road allowances which kept Métis people impoverished, and the denial of economic and political self-determination due to paternalistic government policies. The cumulative effects of these and other assimilative government policies has been barriers to socioeconomic instability including unemployment, inaccessibility to education, poor health outcomes, addictions, and lateral violence.

Inaccessibility to affordable housing is fundamental to understanding these disparities, and creating access is imperative to establishing equity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples alike. Limited access to safe housing is something that affects multiple and frequently overlapping populations: immigrants, people with disabilities, working class people, Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour, people with addictions, people who have criminal records, youth who do not live with a parent/guardian, the elderly, queer and transgender people, single parents, and of course, people who are unhoused. In their pre-budget submission to the Department of Finance in 2003, the Assembly of First Nations noted, “The lack of quality housing contributes to social problems such as child poverty, suicide, low educational attainment, alcoholism, and family breakdowns” (Barnsley 2003).

Incidentally, aforementioned factors of poverty, unemployment, educational inaccessibility, lateral violence, and addictions are frequent experiences of those caught within the Canadian criminal justice system. This underscores the necessity for adequate and affordable housing for Indigenous peoples, and others who are prevented from it due to the value placed on ‘whiteness’ or lack thereof (“Aboriginal Housing Needs in Saskatoon: A Survey of SaskNative Rentals Clients” 2004, 2; La Prairie and Stenning 2003, 187).

Indigenous peoples in comparison to white settlers, statistically, are significantly more likely to experience trauma due to systemic factors such as the experience of racial discrimination in employment, education, policing, and acquisition of services/resources. Often, Indigenous peoples experience racial discrimination causing barriers to resources and services; this not only has immediate effects on a person’s state of wellbeing but may prevent them from accessing support in the future due to fear the discrimination will happen again. Example, an Indigenous single mother applies for a house rental, but she is denied during a viewing and the property owner is racist towards her. Going forward, the fear and anticipation that something will happen could prevent her from reaching out to support services, going places, applying for housing, etc.

For Indigenous persons trying to get out of poverty, they may experience a lack of financial resources or assistance in urban and rural areas, accompanied by increased policing in Indigenous communities (e.g.: the neighbourhoods of Riversdale and Pleasant Hill in Saskatoon have higher police surveillance than Evergreen or Avalon; according to former Judge Harold Johnson, northern Indigenous communities experience a high presence of RCMP surveillance). One example is existing provincial programs such as Social Housing, which have long waiting lists and are insufficiently equipped to accommodate the number of people in need. According to Campaign 2020, “For children in First Nations families, the poverty rate in 2016 was 49.4 per cent. Among those families indicating they were Métis, 28.4 percent were in low-income households.” (Campaign 2000, Saskatchewan Child and Family Poverty Report, 2020). As of 2021, over one quarter or 26.1% percent of children within Saskatchewan live under the poverty line, the highest representation of these come from single-mother households (Global News,, 2021).

Individuals living in poverty who are able to find housing may be limited to options that are overcrowded, or in poor repair. Young members of these groups may not have a sufficient number of safe spaces to spend their time, as community organizations and safe spaces that do not require money have limited funding, staff, and operating hours (e.g.: libraries, community halls and centres, EGADZ, shelters, The Lighthouse). For many of these community organizations, sobriety is mandatory for admittance creating another barrier to safe spaces for youth and adults. These difficulties can combine to create an overall sense of stress and frustration in surviving within urban surroundings, and in struggling to financially survive. The lack of support and resources can contribute to criminal justice system contact / re-contact. That is to say, the cumulative effects of settler colonialism and the ongoing dispossession of Indigenous lands resulting in impoverished conditions leads to a higher rate of Indigenous peoples in contact with the criminal justice system. (“Saskatoon Aboriginal Neighbourhood Survey: A Survey of Aboriginal Households in City Neighbourhoods” 2004, 12; Newhouse 2003, 245; Trevethan 2003, 195).




  • “Aboriginal Housing Needs in Saskatoon: A Survey of SaskNative Rentals Clients.” A Report for the Bridges and Foundations Project. An initiative of the Community-University Research Alliances (CURA) Program of the SSHRC and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • Aboriginal People and Housing: An Exploration of the Perceptions of Saskatoon Habitat for Humanity.” Prepared by Katriona Hanna and Lori Hanson. A Report for the Bridges and Foundations Project. An initiative of the Community-University Research Alliances (CURA) Program of the SSHRC and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • “Aboriginal Post-Secondary Student Housing: Research Summary.” Bridges and Foundations Project on Urban Aboriginal Housing, a Community-University Research Alliances Project. Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • “Aboriginal Statistics at a Glance.” Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 2010.
  • “Affordable Housing and Home Ownership: Business Case Development for the Saskatoon Market.” Prepared by Erin Foss, Research and Communications Assistant, Saskatoon and Region Home Builders’ Association, Bridges and Foundations Project. Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • “A Time for Action: Aboriginal and Northern Housing.” Fourth Report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs. Ottawa: House of Commons, 1992.
  • Barnsley, Paul. “The legacy of inadequate housing.” Windspeaker, 0834177X, Dec2003, Vol. 21, Issue 9.
  • Belanger, Yale D., Gabrielle Weasel Head, Alu Owosoga. “Housing and Aboriginal People in Urban Centres: A Quantitative Evaluation.” Aboriginal Policy Studies Vol. 2, No. 1 (2012): 4-25.
  • “Final Report.” Prepared for the Bridges and Foundations Project on Urban Aboriginal Housing in Saskatoon: A Community University Research Alliance Project (CURA). Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • “First Nations Housing in Saskatoon: A Survey of Cress Housing Clients.” A Report for the Bridges and Foundations Project. An initiative of the Community-University Research Alliances (CURA) Program of the SSHRC and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • Fisher, Linda and Hannele Janetti. “Aboriginal Youth in the Criminal Justice System.” In Issues and Perspectives on Young Offenders in Canada, ed. John A. Winterdyk, 237 - 255. Toronto: Harcourt Brace and Company Canada, 1996.
  • La Prairie, Carol and Philip Stenning. “Exile on Main Street: Some Thoughts on Aboriginal Over-Representation in the Criminal Justice System.” In Not Strangers in These Parts: Urban Aboriginal People, eds. David Newhouse and Evelyn Peters, 179-193. Ottawa: Policy Research Initiative, 2003.
  • “Migration and Mobility Between Reserve and City: A Survey of Whitecap Dakota/Sioux First Nation Residents in Saskatoon.” A Report for the Bridges and Foundations Project. An initiative of the Community-University Research Alliances (CURA) Program of the SSHRC and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • “Muskeg Lake Cree Nation Affordable Housing Program Survey of Band Members”. Muskeg Lake Cree Nation Housing Committee. A Report for the Bridges and Foundations Project. 2004.
  • Newhouse, David. “The Invisible Infrastructure: Urban Aboriginal Institutions and Organizations.” In In Not Strangers in These Parts: Urban Aboriginal People, eds. David Newhouse and Evelyn Peters, 243-253. Ottawa: Policy Research Initiative, 2003.
  • Pfefferle, Brian. “Gladue Sentencing: Uneasy Answers to the Hard Problem of Aboriginal Over-Incarceration.” Manitoba Law Journal Vol. 32, No. 2 (2008):113-43.
  • “Residential Urban Reserves: Issues and Options for Providing Adequate and Affordable Housing.” Prepared for the Bridges and Foundations Project on Urban Aboriginal Housing in Saskatoon: A Community University Research Alliance Project (CURA). Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • Roach, Kent and Jonathan Rudin. “Gladue: The Judicial and Political Reception of a Promising Decision.” Canadian Journal of Criminology Vol. 42, No. 3 (July 2000):355-388.
  • “Saskatoon Aboriginal Neighbourhood Survey: A Survey of Aboriginal Households in City Neighbourhoods.” A Report for the Bridges and Foundations Project. An initiative of the Community-University Research Alliances (CURA) Program of the SSHRC and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • Siggner, Andrew J. “The Challenge of Measuring the Demographic and Socio-Economic Conditions of the Urban Aboriginal Population.” In Not Strangers in these Parts: Urban Aboriginal Peoples, eds. David Newhouse and Evelyn Peters, 119-130. Ottawa: Policy Research Initiative, 2003.
  • “Summary and Analysis of Bridges and Foundations: CURA.” Bridges and Foundations Project on Urban Aboriginal Housing, a Community-University Research Alliances Project. Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • “Survey of Urban Housing Needs of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation.” A Report for the Bridges and Foundations Project. An initiative of the Community-University Research Alliances (CURA) Program of the SSHRC and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • Trevethan, Shelley. “Is there a Need for Aboriginal-Specific Programming for Aboriginal Offenders?” In Not Strangers in These Parts: Urban Aboriginal People, eds. David Newhouse and Evelyn Peters, 195-200. Ottawa: Policy Research Initiative, 2003.
  • “The FSIN-Province of Saskatchewan Gaming Partnership: 1995-2002.” Partnerships in Urban Aboriginal Housing Projects: A Theoretical Perspective. A Report for the Bridges and Foundations Project (CURA). Saskatoon, SK: 2004.
  • “The Health Effects of Housing and Community Infrastructure on Canadian Indian Reserves.” Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1991.
  • “Urban First Nations Residential Development Manual.” Prepared for Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and Bridges and Foundations Project by Jess Chhokar. Saskatoon, SK: 2004.





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.





Introduction of Timber, Mineral, Coal and Indian Land Regulations


The federal government established a set of regulations which dictated the sectioning of reserve lots (known as the severalty system) and methods of purchase and settlement of Indian lands, including the method of paying the purchase money to Indians and disposal of timber from surrendered reserve lands. These regulations dictated that lawful use of reserve land required not only settlement and occupation, but improvement as well. As well, these regulations indicated that if said reserve land was unfit for cultivation, the Superintendent General could dispose of Indian land or of its resources (timber, saw logs, staves, lathwood, shingle bolts, cordwood, or any other wood cut for sale) for the Indians without having to justify it on the basis of occupation, improvement, or cultivation/agriculture.


Government interference and the paternalistic management of Indigenous affairs were based on the assumption that Indigenous peoples were incapable of managing their own lands and resources.  As well, it's insistence on land use patterns through occupation, improvement and cultivation constituted the imposition of Eurocentric cultural norms regarding land "productivity," to the detriment of Indigenous practices that prioritized stewardship.

The policy of severalty was created to eliminate the tribal system, specifically by creating family-run farms, replacing communal and cooperative farming efforts.  This policy was part of the government's plan of assimilation by implementing capitalist economic systems on reserves, which required undermining values of collectivity and replacing them capitalist values of  individualism and self-interest.  




Amalgamation of the Hudson's Bay Company and North West Company


Following the amalgamation of the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Company in 1821, the type of employment that Indigenous men were able to secure changed drastically. Before the amalgamation of the two companies, Indigenous men were paid an equal salary to their European counterparts, and were able to work in a wide range of positions. Some men were even able to secure the coveted position of officer. Their skills as hunters and trappers were valued, and men with ambition, regardless of ethnicity, were rewarded with more responsibility and more prestigious positions. However, after the amalgamation in 1821, Indigenous men were no longer afforded the luxury of vertical movement within the company. They were confined to servant and labourous jobs and were openly discriminated against. It also became a rarity for Indigenous men to secure contracted work, which they had done previously. Instead, they were often restricted to being hired only seasonally. The Hudson's Bay Company also used Indigenous workers as a means of controlling European workers. They had Indigenous men perform tasks that the European men refused to do, and the company hired Indigenous workers at a lower wage than European workers to drive competition at a time where jobs were scarce.



The amalgamation of the Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company had profoundly negative implications for Indigenous men. The amalgamations saw the implementation of a hierarchy that was based on ethnicity. Indigenous men were excluded from economic mobility and were left only with the positions at the very bottom of the hierarchy. Without the opportunity to advance economically, many Indigenous men were doing intense physical labour for very little pay; failing to compensate men for their work resulted in many men and their families living in newly impoverished conditions because they were seen is disposable by the HBC. The hierarchy which developed is reflected in the inequitable power-relations between Indigenous men and European/Canadian societies and settlers. It was, and can remain, challenging to find consistent and meaningful work due to the way Canadian society has internalized and externalized prejudice and racism against Indigenous men.  


  • Judd, Carol M. "Native labour and social stratification in the Hudson's Bay Company's Northern Department. 1770–1870." Canadian Review of Sociology/Revue canadienne de sociologie 17, no. 4 (1980): 305-314.


Sub Event
Decline in work for Indigenous men



Relocation of Indigenous Residents from Uranium City


The provincial government, not wanting Indigenous residents within the vicinity of Uranium City or working at the nearby mine, relocated Indigenous encampents near or within the developing mining town, and prohibited their settlement within one mile of the town’s limits.



According to a report prepared for the Department of Municipal Affairs, A Guide for Development, Uranium City and District., Uranium City housed tent encampents and isolated bush dwellings. These abodes were occupied by approximately 150 First Nations people, as well as 200 to 300 Métis. To further prevent the establishment of Indigenous dwellings in and around Uranium City, planners proposed that a boundary demarcate land 1.5-2 miles beyond the townsite unavailable for 'settlment.' It is noted that the policy was in effect but not rigidly applied.  This likely hindered the economic development and stability of Indigenous residents in the region, while also segregating them away from settler colonists who relocated north for employment. This was both a tactic of economic, social, and political isolation.  


  • Bothwell, R. Eldorado: Canada’s National Uranium Company. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1984.
  • Izumi, Arnott. A Guide for Development, Uranium City and District. Regina: Department of Municipal Affairs, Community Planning Branch, 1956.
  • Robert Boschman, and Bill Bunn. "Nuclear Avenue: “Cyclonic Development”, Abandonment, and Relations in Uranium City, Canada." Humanities 7, no. 1 (2018): 5-20.





Half-Day System and the Exploitation of Student Labour


Since the manifestation of 'manual labour schools' in the 1840s through the 1950s, a distinguishing feature of the residential school system was their use of the half-day system. This model was devised by the Methodist Cleric, and school superintendent for the future Ontario, Egerton Ryerson. The theory behind this system was that half the day should be dedicated to curriculum studies and the other half should be spent learning trades, such as farming, blacksmithing and other skills deemed useful to Euro-Canadian economy. The objective of this system was "to give a plain English education adapted to the working farmer and mechanic," while also allowing the schools to be self-sufficient after a few years "with judicious management."

Egerton Ryerson believed that the half-day system was necessary for the success of the students in their assimilation into Euro-Canadian society. This belief was based on the colonial notion that "in the case of the Indian ' nothing can be done to improve and elevate his character and condition without the aid of religious feeling,'" and therefore ‘learning’ manual labour was the only way in which students would be able to contribute to Euro-Canadian society. Unanimously, reports from across the country consistently noted that the labour portion of the half-day system often took precedence and overlapped with the student’s academic studies. Students were forced to complete arduous labour at the benefit of the schools and their faculties. The exploitation of student labour was justified as being vocational training, an integral element in Ottawa's goals for the Residential School system. Solomon Johnston, a former student of an industrial school in Saskatchewan claims "the teachers only taught us enough so that we could just begin to read. The older girls taught us in the evening but during the day we cut wood, picked stones - all the worst jobs. We didn't learn anything."

Bear, Shirley, Funk, Jack, and Saskatoon District Tribal Council. "...And They Told Us Their  Stories": A Book of Indian Stories. Saskatoon: Saskatoon District Tribal Council, 1991.

Miller, J. R. Shingwauk's Vision: A History of Native Residential Schools. Toronto; Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1996.

Milloy, John S. A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System, 1879 to 1986. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba, 1999. 169-173.

Sub Event
Exploitation of Student Labour

Creation of Saskatchewan Fish Products and Saskatchewan Fish Marketing Board


In an attempt to regulate fisheries and establish a product of uniform quality, the CCF government created the Saskatchewan Fish Products board to operate filleting plants in the province, and later in the same year created the Saskatchewan Fish Marketing Board. Several shipments of fish had been refused at the American border, due to the presence of bacteria found in Saskatchewan lake fish, prompting the government to increase quality inspection and establish quality standards. The SFMB applied many of the same policies that the SFMS did to furs: licenses for local fishers and regulation of fish prices were central to their goals. In 1946, the board was reorganized with the creation of the Saskatchewan Lake and Forest Products Corporation, which included three divisions: fish, timber, and the Box Corporation. The goal of the board was to encourage participation in the fish industry, especially by Indigenous peoples, and to create a government monopoly over the sale and trade of fish. The board also established six stores throughout Northern Saskatchewan as a Crown corporation in order to regulate the purchase and sales of goods in the fishing industry. The board also effectively served as a social services board until it was eliminated in 1949 after years of deficit.                      

After the failure of the Saskatchewan Fish Market Board to stabilize fishing industries, it was reorganized in 1949 to create the Saskatchewan Fish Marketing Service. Fisheries were then structured by region, which were administered by one central administration. An interview with Berry Richards reveals that one purpose of the Fish Marketing Service was to give Indigenous fishermen a better price than paid by private fishing companies. However, this was not the case as many Indigenous fishermen reported that what they received from the Government was substantially less that what they received from private contractors. They were also unable to negotiate better prices for their catch, as they had with private buyers, because the Fish Marketing Service came from a top-down standardized approach which did not allow for negotiation. 



The top-down approach the CCF took towards fish marketing, despite intentions to assist Indigenous fishers, ultimately created problems from new restrictions with fishing permits. Indigenous fishers who had previously accessed many different lakes found that they were prevented from fishing if they did not have a permit to continue. This furthered barriers to food and engaging with livelihoods which supported life in the North. Fishing without permits could result in a fine, multiple fines over a period of time, or in some cases incarceration. Similar policies were replicated by the CCF in their implementation of the Fur Marketing Service, another poorly devised program that bought the lives of Indigenous people in the North under further scrutiny. Please see "CCF Social Programming and Erosion of Traditional Life in Northern Saskatchewan" which details how the implementation of these programs undermined Indigenous livelihoods and increased reliance on welfare and social services, an outcome the Provincial Government sought.   


  • Glenbow Archives, M125 James Brady Collection, v. III, "Correspondence, 1933-67," f. 22, "Norris 1945-67 (Mining and Native Rights)," M.F Norris to James Brady, December 5; S-M15, Box 7, "Fish Marketing, 1945-1946," April and May1948 Fish Board Operation Statement; S-M15, Box 8, "Lucas, A.A., Office Manager, Fish Board, 1946-1948," Lucas to Phelps, 24 January 1947; S-M15, Box 9, "Sask. Lake and Forest Products Corporation, 1946-1949," H.H Lucas, Address on mechanics of STB, 16 January 1948; J.F Gray to Phelps, 5 May 1947;
  • Thomas Hector Macdonald McLeod, "Public Enterprise in Saskatchewan: The Development of Public Policy and Administrative Controls" (PhD dissertation, Harvard University, 1959), 95.
  • Sask Sound Archives Program: Gus McDonald interview, 29 June 1977. 11-12.
  • Carl W. Christenson interview, IH-358, 12 August 1976. 3-4.
  • Saskatchewan Archives Board: S-M15, Box 6, "Fisheries, 1944-1946 (3)," Phelps to L.H Ausman, 19 September 1945
  • SM-15, Box 5, "Economic Advisory Board Recommendations, 1945-1946," DNR Activities Summary for 1945 and plan for 1946, 3
  • Richards, Berry. Interview by Murray Dobbin. Transcript. June 14, 1976. Virtual Museum of Métis History and Culture.Gabriel Dumont Institute.\
  • Quiring, David M. CCF Colonialism in Northern Saskatchewan. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2004. 128.
  • Piper, Liza. The Industrial Transformation of Subarctic Canada. Nature, History, Society. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2009. 218.


Sub Event
Establishment of Fish Marketing Board Stores in 1945. Reorganized as Saskatchewan Fish Marketing Services in 1949.



Indian Act Amendment: Criminalization of Incitement, Prohibition of Potlatch and Sun Dance, Regulation on Sale of Goods



An 1884 amendment to the Indian Act criminalized the act of "inciting three or more [Indigenous people] against civil officials." 

"Whoever induces, incites or stirs up any three or more Indians, non-treaty Indians, or half-breeds apparently acting in concert,-

(a.) To make any request or demand of any agent or servant of the Government on a riotous, routous, disorderly or threatening manner, or in a manner calculated to cause a breach of the peace; or-.

(b.) To do an act calculated to cause a breach of the peace,-

Is guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall be liable to be imprisoned for any term not exceeding two years, with or without hard labor.

*A PDF Copy of the Amendment is attached at the bottom of this entry.


The superintendent general was also given the power to regulate and/or prohibit the sale of ammunition to Indigenous peoples. This amendment also legislated a prohibition on the Potlatch and Tamanawas (Indigenous ceremonies from the west-coast). In 1895, further practices including the Sun Dance and the Thirst Dance were banned, and in 1914 First Nations people in Western Canada were banned from participating in 'costumed' rituals without official permission.

"The potlatch (from the Chinook word Patshatl) is a ceremony integral to the governing structure, culture and spiritual traditions of various First Nations living on the Northwest Coast and in parts of the interior western subarctic. It primarily functions to redistribute wealth, confer status and rank upon individuals, kin groups and clans, and to establish claims to names, powers and rights to hunting and fishing territories." (Gadacz, René R.."Potlatch." The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Canada. October 24, 2019.)

Missionaries sent a petition and several correspondences to push for legislation that would outlaw the Potlatch and Tamanawas dances. Missionaries were of the opinion that these ceremonies were antithetical to Social Darwinist concepts of "progress" by preventing an intellectual and spiritual "elevation." In the eyes of Missionaries and Colonists, the Potlatch undermined European moral and social values. The Indian Reserve Commissioner, G. Sproat reported:

“The ‘Potlach’ [sic] is the parent of numerous vices which eat out the heart of the people. It produces indigence, thriftlessness, and a habit of roaming about which prevent home associations. It is inconsistent with all progress. A large amount of the prostitution common among some of the Coast Tribes is directly caused by the ‘Potlach.’ ” (LaViolette, Forrest. The Struggle for Survival: Indian Cultures and the Protestant Ethic in British Columbia. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1973. p. 38).

Needless to say, the erroneous claims of Christian Missionaries were unsubstantiated and portrayed Indigenous peoples negatively to further their own colonial conquests. Missionaries did not understand Indigenous customs or the culture of generosity characteristic in Pacific Northwest Cultures. Indian agents and missionaries believed that if they could successfully assimiliate Indigenous youth to the “white man’s ways” that it would be easier to stop the Potlatch from happening.

As an example, Methodist missionary Cornelius Bryant wrote in an 1882 letter on the Potlatch:

“I have pointed out to them over and over again, the evils attending it, which the younger members do not fail to recognize, and even appreciate its intended abolishment” and “The Indians are generally loyal, have great respect for ‘the Queen’s laws’ and would stop the Potlaches.” Unfortunately, the “white man’s ways” did not stick - though the people managed to build homes and barns and farmed the land, they eventually went back to their old Indian ways. For many years I entertained the hope that their heathenish practices would have disappeared as soon as the young people adopted the habits of the whites, and applied themselves to the pursuits of various industries, but now I am sorry to state that many of the young men who for years had improved their fertile lands, built houses and barns on them and made for themselves and their families an almost independent life, have abandoned their farms and become again the adepts of superstition and barbarism.” (Department of Indian Affairs Record Group 10, Western (Black) Series, Volume 3628, File 6244-1).

In the 1884 Amendment, John A. Macdonald stated that the Potlatch celebrated “debauchery of the worst kind.” Colonists refused to understand or accept different Indigenous customs and protocols which countered  European ideologies that prized capitalism, personal wealth and property, and individual liberty. The nature of reciprocity, redistribution of wealth, and collective community care characteristic in the Potlatch and other Indigneous customs challenged colonist's worldviews.     

Indian Agents

In 1884, another Indian Act amendment permitted Indian Agents, acting as justices of the peace, to conduct trials whenever they thought necessary, to “any other matter affecting Indians.” Within the same amendment, Indian Agents were granted judicial authority which gave them the ability to lodge a complaint with the police, AND direct the prosecution, while acting as the presiding judge. Indigenous peoples were thoroughly excluded, alienated, and targeted by the judicial process, Canadian Laws prevented them from seeking legal counsel, representation, or lodging complaints. Indian Agents wielded authoritarian power in Indigenous communities and laws prohibited Indigenous people from taking any form of recourse.   

Sale of Goods

On the proposed 1884 amendments to the Indian Act, Prime Minister John A. MacDonald stated that:

“The Government have found they can get along very well with the Indians, if the Indians are let alone; but we have had on several occasions much trouble in consequence of the acts of whiskey dealers, smugglers and other parties…”

MacDonald's concern over the Sale of Ammunition to First Nations and Métis in the West was because Canada's Dominion government feared an organized resistance to their colonial occupation of Indigenous lands and peoples. The North West Mounted Police were initially responsible for controlling the sale of ammunition, but the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway brought with it further access to firearms. 

Another politician expressed concern that it placed serious impediment to First Nations if they could not freely sell the fruits of their labour, and that they did not have the same liberty to sell as other persons in the communities. The Prime Minister replied that there was no clause for increased liberty in the proposed amendment, that First Nations maintained the right to sell under the consent of the local Indian agents, but that it was necessary that the Indian Agent maintain total control over the ability to buy and sell.