Aboriginal Quality of Life in Canada

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The state of health and health care for Canadian Aboriginal people is currently not improving, “Canadian Aboriginals tend to bear a disproportionate burden of illness; an outcome linked to their economic and social conditions [and] oppression” (Newbold 1998). European contact would forever change the course of life for the Aboriginals and their communities in Canada. It was only after the encounter between the old world and new world that two completely separate ecosystems had interaction between each other. Both worlds changed in radical ways through people, plants, animals, varmints and pathogens, this is known today as the “Columbian Exchange”. The New pathogens introduced to the Indigenous people who had no immunity, caused major depopulation up to 80 - 90% during the 1500’s. This completely changed the Indigenous people and posed as a massive threat to extinction of their population and culture. Contact between the Canadian Aboriginals and European voyagers brought in a mass amount of deadly and infectious diseases. Some of the diseases included smallpox, typhoid, the bubonic plague, influenza, mumps, measles, whooping cough, and later on cholera, malaria, and scarlet fever. Smallpox was a virgin soil epidemic, meaning that it was the first outbreak ever to the population that has had no previous experience with it. The Aborigines of the new world had no immunity to smallpox and the entire population was in danger of extinction. At around that time smallpox had a very high mortality rate which broke down the Aboriginal communities social mechanisms. This brought forth the break down of social the devices which were built within the Aboriginal culture, because the people were unable to hunt and gather food for the elders. This caused great knowledge loss as the elders in the Aboriginal community would perish from the disease. The greatest example of this is when Spanish explorer Cortez defeated the Moctezuma at Tenochtitlan. Cortez, had only 500 soldiers going up against the Aztec population of 200,000. When the battle began Cortez surely should have been defeated but it was not the strength of his army but the diseases they had brought with them that defeated the Moctezuma. Smallpox and the other various diseases brought over from the old world to the new world contributed to millions of deaths, severely diminishing communities, and it some cases erasing populations and communities completely. The disease was not controlled until the 1870’s when vaccination campaigns were introduced and implemented.

After the epidemic of contagious diseases had slowed the Canadian Aboriginals were in the midst of assimilation, residential schools were established in the mid 1850’s to the 1990’s. Residential school were implemented by the Canadian government to assimilate Aboriginal people into the dominant society. The Aboriginal children removed from their communities and placed in the Residential schools. “Children as young as three to age eighteen were removed from their homes, mostly forcibly, and placed in boarding schools, where they stayed isolated from their family, community, culture, and the rest of Canadian society” (Barton, Sylvia S., Thommasen, Harvey V.,Tallio, Bill ,Zhang, William, Michalos, Alex C. 2001 pg. 295). Residential schools assimilated Aboriginal populations, however in doing so drastically reduced the health of the children being forced to attend these schools. Children were beaten, raped and starved while attending these schools leaving them physically and mentally scarred for life. “Children who attended these schools, in particular, suffered from the loss of culture, identity, and language as residential school life altered the traditional ways of Aboriginal peoples and broke up traditional ways of Aboriginal family life. In addition to physical, sexual, mental, emotional, and spiritual abuse, many children who attended residential schools were exposed to unhealthy environmental conditions,...
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