Welfare/Social Services

Sixties Scoop

Summary

The Canadian constitution defined Indians as falling under federal jurisdiction whereas health and family services was provincial jurisdiction. This led to conflicts over who would provide services (and pay for those services) for Indigenous youth and families. The two levels of government resolved this (without consulting Indigenous people) by deciding that provinces would “care” for Indigenous youth in crisis by apprehending them and integrating them into non-Indigenous child and family service programs.  The result is what came to be known as the “Sixties Scoop” where Indigenous children were “scooped” up and adopted into predominantly non-Indigenous, middle-class families. Despite its name, "Scooping" Indigenous children from their families and communities was not isolated to the 1960s; it extended both before and after the 60s in various forms, some which continue today, and is evident in the disproportionately high rates of Indigenous children caught within the Child Welfare System. 

"It is well-known that Indigenous children are over-represented in both the child protection and justice systems in Saskatchewan and across Canada. Year after year, the deaths and injuries we review are a stark reminder of this dark reality. In 2021, 22 of the 24 deaths (92%) and 23 of the 29 critical injuries/incidents (79%) that came to our attention involved Indigenous children and youth." (Saskatchewan Advocate for Children and Youth, 2021 Annual Report, 34).


Indigenous Children in Care (Child Welfare), 2019

 

 As of 2019, Saskatchewan Social Services Ministry reported that 86% of children in care are Indigenous (Global News). Statistics Canada reported that in 2016, Indigenous peoples represented 16.3% of Saskatchewan's total population (Statistics Canada, Focus on Geography Series, 2016). This demonstrates the wide disparity between rates of Indigenous children in care compared to total population. 


The Sixties Scoop experience left many adoptees with a lost sense of cultural identity. The physical and emotional separation from their birth families continues to affect adult adoptees and Indigenous communities to this day.

In Saskatchewan, particularly in the Northern region of the province, Indigenous children were taken or ‘scooped’ from their communities and relocated generally to non-Indigenous families in settled regions of the province. Through the provincial CCF party (the pre-cursor to the NDP), the scooping and relocation of Indigenous children from their home communities partially occurred because foster homes in the north were deemed incapable of meeting capacity. But of course scooping Indigenous children from their home communities created a social and cultural disconnect that contributed to their assimilation into “Canadian” society, and this was the long-term goal of the Canadian and provincial governments.  Scooping children contributed to assimilation by disconnecting Indigenous youth from their ancestral lands, resources, and livelihoods. Many Indigenous children who were scooped at birth or an early age were not told of their relocation or Indigenous kinship by their adoptive guardians, and only found out later in life.     


Newspaper advertisements for the Adopt Indian and Métis Program, late 1960s, Saskatchewan.


The scooping of Indigenous children dislocated them from their families, communities, and access to culture/culturally relevant upbringing.  It’s important to remember that during the 60s Scoop period Residential Schools were still operating. – Indigenous peoples were continually at risk of violence from early childhood, through their entire adolescent life, and into adulthood as well. For children who were separated from their families in the north sent to southern communities, and Indigenous children from across Canada, there was and often is a sense of cultural disconnect and an inability to find belonging meaningfully both inside and outside of their home communities.

Indigenous parents and their children continue to report ‘scooping’ through child welfare services with further placement into the foster system. For example, scooping through the practice of ‘birth alerts’ wherein hospital staff alerts child welfare services if they deem the child ‘at risk’ from their parents. Parents are not informed of the action nor provide consent for birth alerts. Birth alerts have historically and contemporarily targeted Indigenous mothers who are characterized as unfit or disengaged from their child despite no evidence. They allowed hospital staff to have final authority over who is ‘fit’ to parent a child, and these decisions are often informed by racist and classist assumptions and racial stereotypes.      


See Also: 

 

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Date
1960-00-00

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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1952-00-00
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Impact of Housing Insecurity - Introductory Essay

Summary

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.

Inaccessiblity 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, non-white people, 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, https://globalnews.ca/news/7722857/saskatchewan-children-poverty-report/, 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 individuals participating in activities the government defines as ‘criminal.’ 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 entrapped within the criminal justice system. (“Saskatoon Aboriginal Neighbourhood Survey: A Survey of Aboriginal Households in City Neighbourhoods” 2004, 12; Newhouse 2003, 245; Trevethan 2003, 195).


 

Sources
Bibliography
  • “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.
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Ongoing
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Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Indigenous Women, Girls, 2-Spirit, and Transgender people

Summary

Indigenous survivors of sexual exploitation and trafficking, community activists, and scholars document that coercion and deception are means of forcing Indigenous women, girls, 2-Spirit, and transgender people into survival sex work. In Saskatchewan, Saskatoon is considered a significant part of the transit corridor used within the Prairies to expedite trafficking of gender marginalized Indigenous peoples. Notably, sex trafficking of gender marginalized Indigenous people in Canada is so pervasive that it has not only received international news coverage (CNN - Canada's Stolen Daughters, attached Resources), the Canadian government has received international criticism from the U.S. government, national organizations (Native Women's Association of Canada), and international non-governmental organizations (the United Nations and the Canadian Women's Foundation).

Survivors of sex trafficking, community activists and scholars have discussed factors which increase the vulnerability of Indigenous women, girls, 2-spirit, and transgender people into trafficking. Experiences of abuse/violence; limited supervision; substance use/misuse; proximity to foster care; educational absence on information related to sexuality, contraception and pregnancy, models of healthy platonic and romantic relationships; overall lack of access to education; familial and communal residential/day school attendance, intergenerational trauma; housing insecurity and/or a lack of rental history; unemployment and job insecurity; a lack of culturally-appropriate support services (mental and spiritual health, medical, etc.); an absence of support networks (family/friends); having resided in a rural, northern or other isolated area where there may be a lack of infrastructure such as sewer, electrical or water services; lacking access to basic necessities for survival; and gang involvement. Many, if not all of these factors of vulnerability are linked to the settler colonial policies and beliefs which continue to oppress gender marginalized peoples.

In the aforementioned CNN Article "Canada's Stolen Daughters," Diane Redsky, who runs the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre in Winnipeg (a Centre which engages in anti-trafficking advocacy work and runs a healing lodge) was interviewed. She commented:  "We're still in a society that targets Indigenous women and girls. In fact the national task force concluded that there's a market for Indigenous girls" (par. 28).

The psychological and physical impacts of sexual exploitation and trafficking are described in the literature review and analysis released by the Native Women's Association of Canada, titled, "Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Aboriginal Women and Girls":

"What can be gathered from looking at the span of the above statistics, both the 2005 and 2011, is that there is a solid continuation of traumatic and damaging experiences that Aboriginal women and girls experience both prior to being trafficked and in the life of being trafficked for sexual acts. Unfortunately, experiences of violence, various forms of abuse, and trauma seem to be very consistent and prevalent within human trafficking. One of the defining characteristics of Farley et al’s research is the examination of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in prostituted and sexually trafficked women. PTSD consists of three types of symptoms: persistent, intrusive re-introducing of trauma; numbing of responsiveness and persistent avoidance of stimuli of trauma; and persistent autonomic heightened arousal. Those who participated in the study completed an evaluation of criteria for PTSD. In a 2005 paper examining prostituted and trafficked women, out of the one hundred participants, including both First Nations and non-First Nations, 72% qualified for PTSD, which is 'among the highest reported in populations where PTSD has been studied, including battered women, combat veterans, childhood trauma survivors, rape survivors, and torture survivors' (Farley, Lynne, & Cotton, 2005, p. 255) . Those who are prostituted and sexually trafficked often experience extreme and intentional violence, abuse and torture. It is no surprise that these women and girls fulfill the criteria for PTSD. Such evidence suggests the difficulty of trying to move on from sexual exploitation, trafficking, and prostitution. It is a deeply traumatic experience that impacts on one’s physical self, the mental, and the emotional" (pages 10-11).

This excerpt from the Globe and Mail contains the testimony of a sex trafficking survivor as to the long-lasting impacts of PTSD in terms of her ability to function:

"But even if there is no physical evidence, illness and violence are so pervasive that, eventually, “trafficking will produce a health consequence,” says Tara Wilkie of the Surrey Memorial forensic team. Patients are provided with support after leaving the hospital, but Ms. Wilkie says the after-effects of trafficking can leave someone with lifelong physical and mental-health issues. Bridget Perrier seems to be living proof of this. As she sits on the couch of her Toronto home, phone buzzing, two dogs scampering around, pictures of her children on the wall, her old life seems like the distant past. Yet, she says, a decade of sexual exploitation “damaged me to a point where ... I have panic attacks. I have PTSD. I can’t have a baby naturally because my cervix is just shot. I sleep with the lights on. I’m hypervigilant. And there are flashbacks. “Sometimes a smell will set me off, gagging.” Pine-Sol, used to disinfect the rooms, “triggers it.” As do “certain male colognes, certain deodorants.” Also damaged: her relationship with others. She says her clientele was so predominantly white that, even today 'I can’t be on an elevator with a Caucasian man'" (pars. 85-90).

Regarding solutions for recovery from post-traumatic symptoms, including PTSD, the Native Women's Association of Canada literature review and analysis notes:

"Many who are sexually exploited and trafficked come from backgrounds where formal education and job skill development have been compromised from traumatic childhoods and growing up in abuse. To help these women and youth escape the cycle of sexual exploitation, they need training in viable alternatives for income. It is not enough to protect women and girls from pimps and traffickers; the conditions of growing up in poverty and without a full education must also be addressed for lasting difference" (page 25).

Bluntly put, one participant phrased it aptly: ’People don’t heal overnight. It took seventeen years to get all the shit inside of you and it’s probably going to take twenty years to get it out of you’ (p. 36). Quick-healing regimens are unrealistic. Healing takes time, and sexual exploitation is a violent, oppressive, and damaging process. In a 2003 study on sexual exploitation with some 854 participants, their findings were that prostitution was multi- traumatic, with 68% meeting the criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (Farley, et al., 2003, p. 34), which, also happens to match the same range of PTSD as combat veterans (Weathers, Litz, Herman, Huska, & Keane, 1993, as cited in Farley, et al., 2003, p. 37). If prostitution is categorized as choice and trafficked as forced, it may be that trafficked women are dealing with even more PTSD." (page 29).


 

Result

Gender discrimination and sexualization of Indigenous women, girls, Two-Spirit, Transgender and Non-Binary people, is deeply embedded in the foundation of Canadian policy, society, and consciousness.  That is, stereotypical gendered narratives were constructed by colonizers that depicted Indigenous peoples as morally inferior and culturally uncivilized - including a predisposition to extreme sexuality (this was the underlying rationale for gender segregation in the Indian Residential School system). 

Settler Colonists viewed Indigenous 'sexuality' as a threat that needed to be subdued, and another area in which they could assert dominance and control over Indigenous lives. Early on in the period of Contact with Europeans, Indigenous women, much like the "virgin" soil of North America, were perceived as available for possession by white, European men. These tropes of availability, in combination with stereotypes which constructed Indigenous women as exotic and erotic, asserted that Indigenous women were incapable of consenting (always available to the Colonial sexual appetite) and therefore inherently inviolable.

In addition to social marginalization enforced through colonialism, narratives construct Indigenous women, girls, Two-Spirit, and Transgender people as sexually disposable which creates a significant degree of proximity to violence.  Aforementioned experiences of social marginalization include, but are not limited to: the mass apprehension of Indigenous children by child and family services, low-income caused by isolation from resources, cultural activities and lifeways, and economic discrimination, housing insecurity, employment insecurity, and limited access to education.  

Annette Sikka, in the conference paper "Trafficking of Aboriginal Women and Girls in Canada," writes:

"..[T]he terms 'control' and 'exploitation' have been interpreted by the justice system in the context of trafficking offences also do not adequately reflect the types of coercion and exploitation that Aboriginal women or girls in street-based sex work face. It has been difficult to have the criminal justice system recognize non-physical forms of coercion in trafficking analyses because the criminal law focuses only on the immediate actions of individuals." (220).  

Actors within the legal system frequently lack a sufficient understanding of the ways in which gender-marginalized Indigenous peoples experience coercion and deception.  This serves to reinforce individualistic narratives which depict participation in the survival sex work as a matter of personal choice to participate in a "high-risk lifestyle." Yet it obscures elements of social and political marginalization which pressure gender-marginalized people into survival sex work. E.g., coercion or deception by others (the promise of money, protection, security, or substances).

This is not to say that sex workers or sex work is inherently violent or deviant, nor should sex workers be criminalized. Rather, that the social, gendered, sexual, and financial inequities established by Canadian settler colonialism have enabled traffickers to take advantage of the precarious social and economic situations many Indigenous women, girls, and other gender marginalized people find themselves in. Trafficking and exploitation is driven by the desire to fulfill settler sexual fantasies and maintain oppressive power structures.


 

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Ongoing

Alcohol in Northern Saskatchewan

Summary

In Poelzer’s study (book listed below under “Resources”), alcohol misuse was consistently listed as the prominent social problem in Northern Saskatchewan. One of the Metis women interviewed stated that

”Drinking is the result of the rapid growth and sudden changes of our times. I think people are unable to take the pressures of the fast development of the north. 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” (Poelzer 1985, 84-86).

One of the peripheral social issues that is believed to lead to drinking as a coping mechanism includes isolation caused by rapid population growth in their respective northern communities. Several Metis women in different communities made this observation, making statements such as “the town was getting so big that it was difficult to know even half of the people.”

One woman stated that she rarely recognizes anybody she knows anymore, while another thought that community members tend to stay home and not involve themselves in the community when they don’t know anyone (Poelzer 1985, 113). Some participants believed that individuals were using alcohol to fill the void of lack of social interaction or to foster social interaction. Another peripheral social issue believed to lead to alcohol misuse is a lack of recreational opportunities stemming from economic, social, or political disenfranchisement. Other individuals reported factors such as using alcohol to cope with marital problems and domestic violence and was cited as a factor contributing to domestic violence. Alcohol was also reported as a means of managing financial problems, including unemployment (Poelzer 1985, 84-90).


 

Result

Alcohol misuse is not indicative of inferiority or a failed adaptability to change ("stuck in the past," "susceptible to alcohol" are MYTHS).  Rather, substance misuse and addiction are human survival responses when circumstances of life are unmanageable, social supports, and activities important to wellbeing (such as traditional lifeways like trapping, hunting, cultural ceremonies or traditions) have been inhibited.

For example, stemming from the implementation of regulatory market policies, Indigenous peoples in Northern Saskatchewan surveyed found their traditional livelihoods of hunting, trapping and fishing disrupted. The intrusion of a capitalist market economy replaced the trade and barter system which Northern residents had become familiarized with through the Fur Trade. Accompanying philosophies of market-capitalism that pride individualism and liberalism (the "free market" ideology) undermined holistic and community-centered philosophies common within Indigenous worldviews. The government did not respond to the imposed restrictions by constructing supports, services, or educational programming to support transitioning lifeways in the North as development projects and settlers moved into Indigenous territories. 


 

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Date
1944-00-00

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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CCF Social Programming and Erosion of Traditional Lifeways in Northern Saskatchewan

Summary

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]


Footnotes:

  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. http://www.Metismuseum.ca/resource.php/01180
  5. [5] Dalby, Robert. Interview by Murray Dobbin. Transcript. June 18, 1976. Virtual Museum of Métis History and Culture. Gabriel Dumont Institute. Pg 2. http://www.Metismuseum.ca/resource.php/01164
  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. http://www.Metismuseum.ca/resource.php/01174
  8. [8] Carriere, Pierre. Interview by Murray Dobbin. Transcript. August 18, 1976. Virtual Museum of Métis History and  Culture. Gabriel Dumont Institute. Pg 4. http://www.Metismuseum.ca/resource.php/01172
  9. [9] Carriere, “Interview with Pierre Carriere,” 6. 
  10. [10] Carriere, “Interview with Pierre Carriere,” 7. 

 

Result

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] 


Footnotes:

  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.  https://www.cbc.ca/newsinteractives/features/stumped
  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.

 

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Date
1944