I was particularly interested in the Call to Action regarding justice since there are so many examples of cultural and health disparities in the way that the indigenous peoples have been treated. This Call to Action fairly screams for some sort of intervention that can reverse the trends which have kept the indigenous peoples from climbing out of the hole that they have been in since the invasion of the colonialists who demolished indigenous customs and cultures. This Call to Action is crucial because it represents the indigenous peoples’ struggles with historical abuse, and the tremendous need to hire attorneys to address this miscarriage of justice. That is where the Call to Action starts, because the writers are also demanding that the lawyers be trained in cultural competence so that they will have an understanding of the legacy of residential schools where children were taken away from their tribal homes and those people that were familiar to them and placed in residential schools so that their cultural identities would be either diluted or completely eliminated in favor of the majority culture.
Much of the section about justice relates to the inequities in the system that have resulted in the overrepresentation of aboriginal people in prisons. What strikes me though is how so many factors are interrelated when it comes to the high rate of indigenous people in prison. For example, fetal alcohol syndrome spectrum disorder is clearly a significant problem for this population and leads to higher rates of offenders with this syndrome, which leads to mandatory minimum sentences of imprisonment, which leads to all kinds of other problems that are associated with being incarcerated. In prison, the aboriginal people have created healing lodges within the criminal justice systems but apparently, have not been free to provide those lodges in adequate numbers to address enough of the inmates.
Further, there are so many other social problems associated with the aboriginal people and which they are seeking to have redressed by the Call to Action justice part of the summary.
The aboriginal community is clearly having difficulty with issues associated with domestic violence, substance abuse, and missing and murdered aboriginal females. I found that stunning as well, that these women have been so discarded and/or devalued that they have not been a priority for the investigative bodies in Canada to resolve nor to adequately even address the problem. The problem of alcoholism among the aboriginal population is also interesting because it seems that globally the indigenous populations are suffering from alcoholism in numbers that are higher than that of the general population. Undoubtedly, again, all of these problems are interrelated because when people do not have enough support financially, socially, psychologically, and culturally, it is obviously more likely that they will be suffering from a wide array of problems like substance abuse and criminal behavior.
This is a very comprehensive Call to Action but one wonders how likely it is that the government will be able to respond to each and every one of these areas in a way that actually begins to reduce or even eliminate the problems. In other words, it is an ambitious piece of work but unclear if the changes that it will bring about will actually cause significant benefits to the indigenous people. The biggest issue that I believe may be an obstacle is the history of lack of respect for the culturing dignity of this population and whether these efforts will be accompanied by a true change in attitude by Canadian citizens and officials. Will the indigenous population ever be regarded an equally valuable culture that has inherent worth and should be preserved? And another challenge is how to strike the balance between respecting and allowing the cultural norms to persist while offering help that does not appear to be trying to change some of the basic tenets and principles of the culture.