Fear of the unknown: a personal comment.

AuthorDempsey, L. James
PositionAboriginal self-government - Canada

Fear of the unknown is not a situation that is specific to any one culture, ethnic group, religion, or nation. It is a condition that all of us are capable of experiencing simply due to the fact that we are humans. To illustrate this, we have to go no further than the recent debate over Alberta's health care system. Under the Conservative government, led by former Premier Ralph Klein, a proposal was made for a revamped health care system which, for many, appeared to be no more than a two-tiered system, one for the rich and one for the rest. While the debate over the proposal raged, it became evident that the inability of the government to explain how the system would function resulted in a rise in the public's fear of the future. Albertans were knowledgeable about the existing system but, for the most part, could not clearly see how the proposal could positively affect them. Therefore, the existing system, even though not perfect, was more desirable than an unknown system. In the end, the Klein government did not allay the public's fear, which the opposition played on, and ultimately the proposal was shelved.

Over the last twenty years, First Nations' desire for self-government has become an issue which has found its way into the mainstream media on a regular basis. Whether it is a blockade, the release of an agreement between the federal government with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), the Nisga'a Treaty in British Columbia, or the creation of Nunavut, self-government has been at least in the background, if not at the forefront of events. Generally speaking, for the Canadian public these events have at times created confusion, resentment, and worry, which is based on the majority not knowing what the final outcome will be and how it will affect them. This has resulted in a fear of the unknown for many Canadians. What the general public does not realize is that this fear is also a reality for many of Canada's Fist Nations people.

The Indian Act can be used to show how the future with self-government is a concern for First Nations people also. Since its creation by the federal government in 1876, the Indian Act has attempted to assimilate status Indians and the lands they occupied (reserves) into the greater Canadian society. For its first one hundred years, the Act was a paternalistic piece of legislation that restricted and dictated all aspects of daily life over those First Nations people who came under the Act, legally referred to as...

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