Canada’s racism individual, not institutional, says former Aboriginal affairs minister

A former federal minister of Aboriginal affairs, who is trying to secure a Liberal nomination to run in the next election, says he doesn’t believe institutional racism exists in Canada but it is alive and well at the individual level.


 Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
A former federal minister of Aboriginal affairs, who is trying to secure a Liberal nomination to run in the next election, says he doesn’t believe institutional racism exists in Canada, but it is alive and well at the individual level.

Robert Nault, who was Liberal minister of the then-named Indian Affairs department between 1999 and 2003, publicly battled with a former Assembly of First Nations national chief over the issue of racism in Canada.

The issue of racism has once again reared its ugly head through a front-cover story in Maclean’s magazine which claimed Canada has a bigger race problem than the U.S. The debate around the issue now echoes a similar episode when Nault clashed with former AFN national chief Matthew Coon Come who compared South Africa’s Apartheid system to Canada’s treatment of the Indigenous population. Coon Come made the comparison during a conference on racism in Durban, South Africa, in 2001.

“We also recognized the racist and colonial syndrome of dispossession and discrimination that was taking place in South Africa from our own experience. My own people, the James Bay Cree, have been virtually completely dispossessed of our lands and resources,” Coon Come said during a speech delivered at the conference.

Nault, who was Indian Affairs minister at the time, responded angrily to Coon Come’s statements and demanded an apology. He denied institutionalized racism existed in Canada.

“There is no proof of this in modern time that the Canadian government and the general population are racist towards Aboriginal people,” said Nault, at the time.

Nault said in an interview Friday he still doesn’t believe Canada has an issue of institutionalized racism.

“(Coon Come) said we had institutionalized racism, which is a lot different than people, average Joes out there, who are racist because every country has that,” said Nault. “(Coon Come) was talking about Canada as a government had racist policies…Just because we are a Western country and have European-style government doesn’t mean we are racist. It can be argued we are colonial, I suppose.”

Robert Nault was Indian affairs minister from 1999 to 2003.
Robert Nault was Indian affairs minister from 1999 to 2003.

Nault said he hadn’t read the Macelan’s article and didn’t know enough about the U.S. to determine whether Canada has a bigger race issue.

“I would have to read how they came up with their analysis of that. That is a pretty deep statement to make, don’t you think?” said Nault. “From our country’s point-of-view, we have racism in individual communities and…there are lots of people working to make sure it is not the case. You are always going to run into people who don’t deal well with either First Nations people or other ethnicities.”

Nault said he understands why current Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt is trying to steer wide of the flaring debate over racism and whether Canada has a race problem in attitudes toward the Indigenous population.

“I can see why Valcourt and others are running from this, what you are asking is a difficult thing to answer,” said Nault. “Statistically, because you know people on the street are racist, does that make the whole community racist? That is a hard question to answer.”

Coon Come could not be reached for comment.

Nault is currently running unopposed for the Liberal nomination in the Kenora, Ont., riding which is currently held by Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford.

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6 thoughts on “Canada’s racism individual, not institutional, says former Aboriginal affairs minister

  1. …and this guy use to be Minister of DIAND?!?…he had his head up his ass then and still does today…

  2. Well, you don’t know till you’ve experienced it. I worked in a restaurant when my son was young, I was a single mother. And a man, a regular customer used to come in to the restaurant and made sure he told the owner that he didn’t want me (an Indian) serving him. Now is that racism or not. Us Indian’s believe it or not have feelings too. And alot of us do try and work and support our families.

  3. So, oppression and suppression of the social and economic sustainability of Indians, Indian Bands and their corporations, commercial or not, share capital or not, is enabled by the institutions of Canada and maintained by them and these are things that individuals cannot achieve. The current issue of Northern Food and companies like North West Company and their $60 million plus freight subsidy paid by Aboriginal Affairs Canada which is apparently not working and the Auditor General cannot get a handle on the total over the last 3 years at $168 million plus $11 million recently added is direct assistance of Canada to this company again.

    In 1870, John A MacDonald acting as legal council for the CPR arranged for the purchase of the HBC for £300,000 and also acting as Prime Minister arranged for the purchase of Indian lands from the CPR owned HBC for £300,000, plus 20% of the lands, lands upon which the HBC/North West Company stores were located including the store in Winnipeg near the legislature, and prime commercial lands in new settlements in Western Canada, and more. Indians received nothing. Indian Bands received nothing. Municipalities received so much more and Indian Bands actually look like postage stamps within municipalities in Canada. The Indians are governed under section 91(24) after being removed from section 92. This created a legal trust between Canada and Indians. Canada breached this when it bought Indian land from the HBC/NWC after 1867 and in 1870. It breached this by buying this land before 1871 the date of the 1st Treaty signed in Lower Fort Gary.

    So, Canada was on a quest to exterminate Indians during John A MacDonald’s time by withholding social and economic benefits, offering and paying a $200 bounty for Indian scalps and contributing to the genocide of 100,000 million Indians in North America and Mexico. Now, is this committed by individual Canadians or institutions of Canada?

  4. Oh i guess we were wrong and racism is individual and not institutional, And i suppose that Hitler was only giving cooking lessons to the Jewish people ?
    “You have been picking your own mushrooms haven’t you”

  5. This guy – despite being “Minister of Indian Affairs”; and despite administering the “Indian Act” – doesn’t think there’s such a thing as “institutionalized racism? It could only because he has been at the center of the institutions perpetuating the racism: even legislatively tasked with perpetuating the racism – and can’t bear the site of his own well-paid complicity. If the Liberals have any brains, they will gate this one and find someone who has been paying attention during his political career to the actual work that he’s been doing.

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