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


Hugh Alexander Bryson

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. Bryson:

Mr. Chairman, I should like to say a few words in support of the very fine arguments and recommendations put before the house a few moments ago by the hon. member for Skeena. First of all may I say that I do not think there is much to be gained by indulging in recriminations, or in attempting to assess the blame on any group of individuals, any individual or even any government. Rather, I think that every citizen must accept responsibility for the very deplorable situation and attempt to find some solution to this most vexing problem. Certainly the former government was not blameless, but unfortunately governments do not move as rapidly as they should unless there is an aroused public opinion. Therefore, I think that we in this parliament must

approach the problem from a moral, social and scientific point of view, free from political bickering and at all costs we should avoid making the problem a political football if we are to get the support of every socially minded person in the country in an effort to convince the government that they will have the support of every citizen in finding a'solution to the problem.
It is estimated that when the white man first came to this country there were about
200,000 Indians. Their population decreased to approximately 90,000. However, at the present time, because of increased medical services and so forth, their population has risen to approximately 160,000. If there ever was any thought at any time that the Indian problem would solve itself by some sort of dying out process that certainly has not materialized and the problem has become more acute as the population has increased.
Certainly integration seems to be the solution to the whole problem. Yet we cannot bring about integration by trying to force these people to accept the philosophy of the dominant group. We have to use some other method and bring it about by some other approach. But I believe that by wise leadership, tolerance, understanding and rebuilding the confidence they have lost we can persuade them to integrate into the general society.
One thing I am sure of is that public morality will not permit for very much longer the deplorable situation facing us today so far as the Indian problem is concerned. I think it is a disgrace to force Indians to live in segragation on reservations which in effect are only islands of isolation. We know that every day outraged citizens throughout the country are bringing this situation to the attention of socially minded organizations and governments everywhere. Certain things have been done, but we still maintain the reserve system. As a matter of fact, I believe it was only a year or two ago that there was some attempt in the department to establish another reserve in the northern part of Saskatchewan.
In my part of the country we have three reserves. In 1940 there were 720 people living on those reservations but by 1954 the population had increased to 1,143. The projected figure for 1965 is 1,700. In 1954 the department divided the acreage on these three reserves among the 1,143 existing Indians and came up with a figure of 29 acres per Indian. Anyone who has attempted to carry on a farming operation in western Canada knows that it is absolutely impossible to expect anyone to try to earn a livelihood from 29 acres.
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It is not the case that some of these reserves have a shortage of land. As a matter of fact, on the Fort a la Come Indian reserve bordering my constituency many thousands of acres were rented to white settlers. It seemed a very strange thing to me that the Indian department would see fit to lease that land, badly needed by the Indians, to white settlers on a share the crop basis. This resulted in the Indians sitting around and watching the white men work their lands and receiving a small pittance as their share. I hope the minister will see that that situation comes to an end.
So far as education is concerned, I am going to say quite frankly that in the main, up until recently, the church organizations have taken the lead in providing the basic academic education in this field. Certainly, they have done a marvellous job up to a point. However, the educational facilities needed in this modern world cannot be provided by these so-called voluntary organizations. We must do something more in that line. I agree wholeheartedly with what has been said regarding residential schools. They are just a means of continuing segregation. Between 80 per cent and 85 per cent of the inmates of the women's jail in Prince Albert are Indian women, and this is a direct result of the policy of segregation. These girls are raised on a reserve segregated from white children. Then, they go to these residential schools and that is a continuation of segregation in their formative years. They get such an inferiority complex that later on it is almost impossible for them to integrate with the white population. After school they come back to the reserve and are dissatisfied with conditions there. They drift into the towns and cities and end up in an institution of one kind or another. We must institute a program of technical training in the public schools which will enable the Indian to cope with the problems of integration.
I must agree with what has been said by the hon. member for Skeena when he suggested that there must be a new and positive approach. First of all, I would suggest that the administration of Indian affairs be turned over to the provinces. I do not mean to suggest that the federal government should be relieved of its responsibilities, but I do believe the provinces are in a much better position to administer Indian problems than is the federal department. I think it is important that we start immediately to develop some comprehensive research program in order to ascertain how we should go about this problem of integration. The research program should take the form of

Supply-Citizenship and Immigration finding out what alternative lines of development are open to the Indians in the different provinces in order that integration may be defined and a realistic program produced. Secondly, I believe such a research program will provide us with a source of factual information so necessary for the successful achievement of this objective.
The information to which I refer might fall into two categories: first, legal and administrative to improve the existing service both federal and provincial; second, and possibly much more important, would be sociological data concerning Indian life. We must get to know the Indian better if we are to lay a basis for his acceptance of an integration program. We must gain his confidence. It was for this reason I said I was so happy this afternoon to welcome the bill which was passed today. This will be one way in which the confidence of the Indian population will be built up. We must consult them and we must gain their confidence if we expect them to accept the necessary changes in their present status to achieve integration.
In spite of the assurances given under the British North America Act, the Indian has been exploited in a most disgraceful manner. One of the best examples of how we have destroyed the confidence of the Indian is contained in a directive from the Department of National Health and Welfare issued on January 31, 1957, and which was sent, I presume, to all the bands on the reservations, certainly in the province of Saskatchewan and I imagine in other provinces as well. 1 should like to read from this directive:
Since the funds at the disposal of the Indian and northern health services are limited, the Indian people who can pay should pay for their transportation, medical care, hospitalization, drugs, glasses and dental care. Those who cannot pay the full amount should contribute at least a part of the cost of these services.
When an individual is not able to pay for these services, he should contact the representative of Indian and northern health services so that appropriate arrangements can be made to assist him.
This applies also to those living of! the reserves. Then, the directive goes on:
Those people who have disassociated themselves from the Indian way of life should cease to be a charge against Indian and northern health services. In other words, those Indians who have lived off the reserve for a period of over 12 months are considered to be making an adequate income, and thus should be responsible for providing for their own medical care.
If he is a taxpayer in the community for a 12-month period, the individual becomes the responsibility of the municipality in which he resides, if he is not able to provide for himself for some reason. People who have lived off the reserve for this period should take out Saskatchewan hospital services plan insurance for themselves and their families. Eventually all those who are able to pay, and/or those who live off the reserve will receive
[Mr. Bryson.J
notification that acceptability for medical attention through Indian and northern health services has ceased and that they will be responsible for all their medical care.
I suggest, Mr. Chairman, we are not going to build up the confidence of our Indians by reneging on some of the commitments and promises that have been made in the past. Our northern Indians present, of course, a special problem. We have not got the problem of reservations, and possibly the problem of the northern Indian will not be as difficult to solve as the problem of the Indian farther south. Again, however, it is a question of education. If we are going to solve this problem we shall have to initiate the type of educational system that is going to enable these Indians to fit themselves for the many job opportunities that resources development in that area provides.
Let me reiterate what I have been saying. First, I think we should undertake a comprehensive research program. It must be undertaken in order that we may lay the groundwork for a realistic program aimed towards integration, and the administration of that integration program must be in the hands of the provinces rather than federal authorities working at a remote distance from the problem. I believe that such a positive approach will result in a solution to these very vexing problems.

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