The Indigenous Peoples of Canada have undergone vast assaults against their people, land and culture. This week of awareness is meant to acknowledge these assaults and highlight Canada’s Indigenous peoples’ powerful role in Canada’s cultural mosaic.
In an exclusive interview with the Institute, Dr. Andrew Woolford, Professor of Sociology and Criminology at the University of Manitoba, current President of the IAGS, and faculty member of the GHRUP, sheds light on the immense strife of Indigenous Peoples in North America throughout history.
Aboriginal Awareness Week was first introduced in 1992, and is meant to increase awareness of the Aboriginal population in Canada, as well as honour their diverse cultures and history.
According to the 2011 National Household Survey, more than 1.4 million people in Canada identify themselves as an Aboriginal person. The Canadian constituency recognizes three formal groups of Aboriginal peoples: Indians (commonly known as First Nations), Inuit and Métis. While the Aboriginal community is the fastest growing population in Canada, showing a growth of 20% between 2006 and 2011, which is substantial compared to 5% for non-Aboriginal people, they are often overlooked in national conversation.
The President of Zoryan Institute, K.M. Greg Sarkissian, referring to the ‘Cultural Genocide’ of Canada’s Indigenous Peoples, had this to say in his address at the 2016 conference at McGill University, about ‘Reconceiving Relationships’:
“…I am a descendent of a survivor of the Armenian Genocide and someone who lives everyday knowing that the government that killed my people and my family members, and took over our ancestral land, continues to deny its actions. I felt that as a Canadian, it was my duty to understand why my country Canada, a nation known internationally for its peacekeeping efforts, did not acknowledge the impact of the atrocities committed against its Indigenous peoples for so many years, and how finally, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission came to its findings of “cultural genocide.”