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canada british aboriginal political

The phrase “Canadian racial formation” refers to the historical and social process by which groups of people in Canada came to be known as racially differentiated. Categories such as “charter groups,” “Native Indians,” and “visible minorities” are socially constructed and have been produced over time through social relations and, at times, through state intervention.


In Canada, “charter groups” refers to the British and the French, the founding members of the Canadian Confederation formed in 1867. From the beginning of the seventeenth century to the beginning of the nineteenth century, the fur trade influenced the development of New France and British North America (colonies of France and Britain, respectively) and shaped the competitive relationships between the British and the French. After the British conquest of New France in 1760, the British influence continued to increase. The British North America Act of 1867, passed in the British parliament to create a confederation of Canada, was a political compromise between the British and the French to unify Upper Canada (now Ontario) and Lower Canada (now Quebec), along with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

Throughout the history of Canada, the political and numerical dominance of the charter groups has been unequivocal. The 1871 Census of Canada shows that 61 percent of Canada’s three-and-a-half million people were of British origin, 31 percent of French origin, and 7 percent of European origin other than British and French. Less than 1 percent were Native Indians, the original people of the land. This demographic configuration persisted, with only minor deviations, throughout the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century.

Among the charter groups, the French assumed a minority status relative to the British because of the prevailing cultural and linguistic influence of the British and their political dominance. In 1971, Pierre Vallières used the title White Niggers of America to describe the oppression and plight of French Canadians. Throughout the 1960s, rising political aspirations of Francophones (those speaking French as a first language) in Quebec were seen by the federal government as a potential threat. In 1969, at the recommendation of the Royal Commission of Bilingualism and Biculturalism, Canada adopted the Official Languages Act, which recognized both English and French as official languages of Canada. However, discontent continued in Quebec, where most Francophones resided, culminating in what became known as the October Crisis of 1970, when some Quebecois engaged in public bombing and political kidnapping as a protest against British dominance. The federal government invoked the War Measures Act to mobilize the army, which brought civil order back to Quebec but alienated the city’s Francophones. In 1976, Quebec elected Parti Québécois, a separatist provincial party, to power, openly challenging federalism and promoting independence. But a 1980 province-wide referendum failed to obtain support for the sovereignty of Quebec. The tension between the British and the French was further increased when the federal government moved to repatriate the constitution of Canada from Britain in 1982, with the support of all the provinces except Quebec. Attempts to bring Quebec back to the constitutional fold through the Meech Lake Accord in 1987 and the Charlottetown Accord in 1990 failed. Thus, the charter groups in Canada continued to develop through historical antagonism, continuous struggle, occasional compromise, and frequent tensions.


Native Indians can be understood as another racial formation in Canada. In The Canadian Indian (1971), E. Palmer Patterson divides the history of relations between Canadian Indians and Europeans since the sixteenth century into four phases. The first was the initial contact between Native peoples and Europeans, leading to a period of prosperity as the two groups exchanged technology and goods. In the second phase, from the seventeenth to the eighteenth century, Indians were increasingly drawn into the economy of white people as they became more involved in fur trading, and less reliant on their traditional livelihood, resulting in a weakening of political autonomy. The third phase began with the creation of reserves for Native peoples in order to clear the way for the agricultural settlements of whites. With the passage of the Indian Act in 1876, the colonial status of Native peoples was legally confirmed, because the act placed Indians under the legislative and administrative control of the federal government. The last phase began in the period after World War II, as more Native peoples became aware of their plight and demanded control of their future.

Since the 1960s, aboriginal peoples have intensified their political and economic demands based on aboriginal rights.The process of bringing the constitution from England to Canada in 1982 gave the Native peoples an opportunity to assert their special aboriginal status. Aboriginal rights encompass two main categories: the rights that derive from aboriginal title over land and resources, and the rights of self-determination. Two types of claims have been pursued by Native groups in Canada. The first type–comprehensive claims–is based on aboriginal title. These are land claims over areas still in use by Native peoples, but not covered in treaties. The second type–specific claims–refers to clauses in treaties and claims by Indian bands over the loss of reserve land or the misappropriation of the government trusteeship. These two types of claims represent the two strategies pursued by aboriginal peoples and Native organizations.

Comprehensive claims are premised on the interpretation of the Royal Proclamation of October 7, 1763. In this view, those parts of the Dominion or territories not ceded to or purchased by the Crown remain reserved for Indians. The basis of specific claims is that Native peoples have lost lands and financial assets that are protected by treaties between the Indian Nations and the Government of Canada. From the 1870s until 1921, eleven numbered treaties were signed between Native Indians and various provincial and territorial jurisdictions. James Frideres, in Aboriginal Peoples in Canada (2004), notes that the success rate of Native claims has been low.


Nonwhites in Canada make up another racial formation. Throughout the ltter part of the nineteenth century, Canada used Asian workers extensively in the development of western Canada, but it did not consider them worthy citizens. More than ten thousand Chinese workers were brought to Canada to work on the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1881 and 1882. When the railroad was completed in 1885, the federal government passed the Chinese Immigration Act, which imposed a head tax on Chinese arrivals. From 1923 until 1947, Chinese were barred from entering Canada, and those already in the country were denied many political, economic, and mobility rights that other Canadians took for granted. Japanese Canadians represent another racial formation that Canada treated harshly in the past, especially during World War II when they were removed from their homes, confined in camps, and had their properties confiscated because they were branded as enemy aliens.

Canada adopted a multiculturalism policy in 1971 and passed the Multiculturalism Act in 1988. In 1986 the Employment Equity Act addressed the employment conditions of disadvantaged groups; it included nonwhites—referred to officially as “visible minorities”—among the four target groups. However, the notion of collective rights for the visible minority remains vague in the statutes of Canada.

Since the 1970s, the single most important factor contributing to the growth of the visible minority in Canada has been immigration. Nonwhites made up 6 percent of Canada’s population in 1986, 9 percent in 1991, and 13 percent in 2001. Census data indicate that most visible-minority members are first-generation immigrants born outside of Canada, in contrast to most European Canadians, who, because of a historical immigration policy favoring their admission, tend to be Canada-born. Studies of racial inequality suggest that race remains an enduring feature in Canadian society, and that the life chances of visible minorities are often affected by superficial physical features and perceived cultural idiosyncrasies. The laws in Canada do not permit blatant racial discrimination, nor do they condone racism. However, Frances Henry and colleagues (2006) have shown that racism in Canada is articulated in a subtle and benign fashion in arts, the media, and social institutions in a mode they call “democratic racism.”


Contemporary racial formations in Canada shape the country in three specific areas. First, despite official bilingualism, some Francophones in Quebec continue to feel alienated from Canada’s federation, and they rally their support behind separatist political forces dedicated to Quebec sovereignty. The threat of Quebec separating is a continuing political challenge in Canada. Second, the aboriginal population in Canada continues to fall behind other groups in education, occupational status, health status, and quality of life. Demographic shifts resulting from fertility and rural to urban migration have exacerbated problems of Native youth unemployment, health care, and other related issues. Aboriginal peoples are also overrepresented in the criminal justice system, and many complain about mistreatments by law enforcement agencies. Some aboriginal organizations continue to press for legal and political settlements with the government on issues of land claims, aboriginal entitlements, and self-governance.

Third, as Canada accepts increasingly more immigrants from non-European countries, many urban centers—such as Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, and Calgary—are experiencing a shift toward a more racial diverse population. Canada has not faced the same type of backlash toward immigration as some European countries and the United States have, in part because the stocks of immigrants are different. But issues related to diversity and national identity, religious freedom and fundamentalist values, and globalization and border security have entered the political and public discourse, and these issues are becoming more racialized.

Candeille, (Amélie) Julie [next]

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about 7 years ago

Bonjour de la Jordanie – Amman

Alsharq tours and travel est une agence de voyage qui offre des circuits dans tout le moyen Orient.

Nous travaillons les circuits charter chaque semaine qui arrivent a Amman, N'hesiter pas de nous contacter

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Mme Yousra Abu El Haija'a
Directrice des departement Incoming

Good day from Jordan - Amman
Dear Sirs

Alsharq tours and travel is a travel agency that offers tours throughout the Middle East.

We have weekly charters arrve Anman
Don't hesitate to contact us in orderr to cooperate with your compagny

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Mrs: Yousra Abu El Haija'a
Incoming Departements manager