January 30, 1958 (23rd Parliament, 1st Session)


Charles Benjamin Howard


Mr. Howard:

Mr. Chairman, I should like to discuss a couple of questions relating to the operations of the Indian affairs branch and to the attitude of that branch and of the department in the past and, probably today, too, toward our native Indians.
First, I should like to say that in the past I have exchanged a certain amount of correspondence on behalf of native Indians in various reserves on the west coast of British Columbia with the Indian affairs branch and with the Vancouver office of that branch, and I came to the conclusion some time ago that this office must manufacture all the red tape for all the other branches in the department.
One of the most serious complaints made by the native Indians and by anyone who has attempted to speak for native Indians, is the great delay in answering correspondence and in taking up grievances and related subjects. I will cite just three particular instances. In the Hazelton band about 10 years ago, or maybe a little longer, a locatee on the reserve sold part of his land to the school board for a new school. The land was sold and the transfer was agreed to. A survey was carried out, the school was built, and the children began going to school. But it was three years before the individual who owned the land got his money from the Indian affairs branch in regard to the transaction.
Then there is the case of another Indian who leased some of his land to the British Columbia power commission. I may say that the actual amount of land on which he was located could not be determined. The lease was in effect for two years, and two years rent had been paid by the power commission into the Indian affairs branch before it finally got to this locatee. Upon enquiry of a gentleman employed in this branch I was told that because the matter was being dealt with in three separate files, or something of that nature, they could not get them together until I approached them about it.
There is another instance of land that was acquired from the reserve for a new highway project. A number of locatees were involved. When I was in the provincial legislature some three years ago I saw a copy of the document setting out the names of the locatees, the surveyed amount of land that had been used, and an indication that a cheque had gone to the Indian affairs branch to cover each locatee's portion of the land that had been used by the department of highways. That was three years ago. Some of this money has now, I understand, been paid to some of the locatees within the last few months. Some of it has not.

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When the Prime Minister sat on this side of the house as leader of the opposition he made a number of speeches relating to Indian affairs and one of the suggestions he made then was that a royal commission should be established to deal with Indian affairs. At first I looked upon that suggestion as not having too much value. I thought: what is the sense in having another royal commission? We have had investigations and house committee studies and parliamentary committee sittings with regard to Indian affairs, and all sorts of ideas and suggestions have been made to the Indian affairs branch. Surely we do not need to waste time again by setting up another royal commission. But on further reflection, and after discussing again some of the problems involved, I am inclined to revise my original impression and to think that the Prime Minister had an excellent idea when he was leader of the opposition.
I hope he will carry it out and establish this royal commission, but I hope that such a royal commission, if it is established, will not be confined to dealing with the general problems of native Indians on the reserves and in the field, such as those which have accumulated over many years'. I hope that if such a royal commission is established it will also have authority to study the inside and intricate operations of the administration of the Indian affairs branch so that we may eliminate in the future some of the delays which have been going on.
In October of last year the native brotherhood of British Columbia presented a brief to the cabinet dealing with a number of items concerning native Indians. One of these items was, and I quote:
We believe that a royal commission should be appointed so that the Indian point of view might be placed before the Canadian people as a whole rather than through the narrow conduit pipe of the administrative services within the department itself.
I would point out that this phrase "narrow conduit pipe" is a direct quotation from one of the speeches the present Prime Minister made when he was speaking on Indian affairs from this side of the house.
However, there are problems which are far more serious than simply the administration of the Indian affairs branch. We have to consider the whole general attitude taken by the government in past years and by the government now toward this question, the general attitude of the provincial governments and the general attitude of non-Indians toward native Indians. Over the years it has been one of disgraceful and direct paternalism toward our native Indian people, and because it has been of this nature we
have driven our native Indians into the state of being a depressed race of people. Just because our official attitude toward them has been of this character, their morale is shattered, their self confidence has been lost and they consider less of themselves as a race of people, than do most people in this country. This is not their fault. It is the fault of legislators in the past and of legislators now. It is the fault of our general attitude toward native Indians, and I hope that a breath of fresh air will blow into the cabinet through the ability of the present minister so that this approach will be reversed, and so that we may have a definite and concrete attitude toward Indian problems. I hope, also, that we will take steps to amend the Indian Act to a point where, eventually, we may be able to repeal it altogether. That can be done, I think, within the space of one generation, if we do something about it. We have wasted many years already waiting for time and the evolutionary process to correct the situation so the native Indian people will, as we are prone to express it, get up to the same level we are. No real advance has been made since the Indian Act was first enacted.
One of the fundamental difficulties lies in the field of education. There are two approaches to the question of educating our native Indian children which I think are entirely wrong. The first approach is through the department which has established day schools and residential schools on the reserves, and the other is a combined effort in some school districts where native Indian children have been integrated in schools attended by non-Indian children. I feel that no real advance will be made in this field until the education of Indian children is turned over by the department to the provinces, with the federal government paying a certain amount of money to the provinces to meet the costs. This will lead to a higher educational standard for our native Indian children. I do not know what attitude the minister has toward this suggestion, and I would very much appreciate it if, when he participates in this discussion, he would indicate the official attitude of the department and that of himself to the suggestion of placing the teaching of Indian children within the jurisdiction of the provinces, having the Indian affairs branch relinquish its activity in this field and having the federal government accept responsibility for contributing to the cost of an integrated system of education.
I would now like to deal with the attitude toward our native Indian people on the part of some elements in our society. Generally we say that there is no racial discrimination
Supply-Citizenship and Immigration in existence in Canada, and we pride ourselves on that, particularly when we consider the events at Little Rock and the situation that obtains in South Africa and similar incidents. However, there is a degree of racial discrimination in our society against our native Indian people. In some instances it is expressed subtly, or is under the surface, but in other instances it is blatant and in the open. I know of some cafes and hotels where Indians are not permitted to enter and are refused service. This is an illustration of outright discrimination. In practically every fish cannery on the coast of British Columbia there are two lavatories, one for Indians and one for so-called whites or non-Indians and you do not dare enter the one that was not constructed for use by the particular race to which you belong. Trivial as the latter example may appear to some, it serves to underline the fact that discrimination does exist against our native Indian people simply because they are Indians. This situation will deteriorate and worsen unless a definite effort is made to eradicate it through an enlightened approach in one generation. In effect we must encourage the Indian people to help themselves, raise themselves by their own bootstraps, by giving them every possible help in so doing, but if we continue to rely on evolution and time to correct the situation, 60 or 70 years more will pass by and conditions will not have improved.
Another complaint I wish to lodge on behalf of many Indians concerns the rations of foodstuff given to native Indian people when they become unemployed and indigent. I propose to read into the record a list of rations of foodstuff provided to indigent Indians as direct food relief. I do not know how widespread is the knowledge of such lists but I am sure many people will be shocked. We should be ashamed of ourselves that such ration lists exist and that such meagre amounts of food are provided to these people to attempt to live on. Perhaps I could more properly say to let them starve on. The following is a ration list for one adult for the period of one full month. I will also indicate the value of each commodity in terms of dollars, the price at which each commodity sells in the area where I compiled these figures. Under this list an adult is given 24 pounds of flour, vitamin B enriched, valued at $1.92. I remind hon. gentlemen that this ration is for a month. He is given six pounds of rolled oats valued at 72 cents; one pound of baking powder valued at 44 cents a pound; one pound of tea valued at $1.32; two pounds of sugar valued at 30 cents; three pounds of lard valued at 96 cents; five pounds of beans valued at 95 cents; two pounds of rice

valued at 38 cents or potatoes up to an equivalent value; one pound of cheese valued at 65 cents; meat or fish to the value of $2.50; salt to the value of 23 cents and matches to the value of ten cents. Thank goodness they are given something with which to light a fire. Hon. gentlemen will observe that there is no mention of fresh fruit or vegetables and no mention of butter. One pint of milk or its equivalent in evaporated or powder form is allowed each day for every child of an Indian family who is 12 years of age or under.
As a Canadian and as a member of this house I am deeply ashamed of this list. This is all that is given to unfortunate native Indian people in the hope that they will be able to exist on these rations. But that is not all. This is a guide, and substitutes can be made on location by the Indian superintendent, depending on what supplies he is able to obtain. Here is another item of interest. Where the Indian family or individual can provide items of country food or farm products the scale of relief is adjusted accordingly. If an Indian catches a salmon presumably he will not receive fish or meat to the value of $2.50 for the period of a month. If he runs out of salmon I imagine he must rely on his ability to catch rabbits, moose, deer or something else.
I sincerely hope that some definite action will be taken in this regard. Many Indians, even if they were able to find employment, are denied the employment that is available to non-Indians. Because of the fact that in many places the Indians have made their livelihood fishing and hunting, they are confined to working in the fishing or lumbering industry, on farms, fruit picking, apple or hop picking or work of a similar nature. Their employment opportunities are severely limited.
This is what we say we will give these Indians. When they get hard up and cannot find any work we will give them $10.47 cents worth of food per adult per month. What would $10.47 do in your household or in my household? Perhaps I should get my wife here and she would be able to tell you more about it, probably in unparliamentary terms, which was the way in which she expressed herself when I told her about the existence of this particular situation.
I would like to hear the opinion and the attitude of the minister as to extensively revising this paltry list of foodstuffs for indigent Indians. I have some other matters in my mind, Mr. Chairman, and probably when we deal in detail with the estimates of the Indian affairs branch we could properly deal with specific points. I just bring these two matters to the attention of the minister and I hope he will undertake to

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give us his present attitude and the opinions of himself and his department with respect to them.

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