Data on an Oji-Cree aboriginal community called ‘Omushkego First Nation’ were analyzed. This community is considered a representative case for the descriptive analysis of contemporary consequences of the Indian reserve system in northern Ontario. In this reserve, a significant internal polarization has been generated, where serious problems for most people coexist with the presence of a new professional classes and an emerging political and business elite.
The paper points out that in today's Canada there are about 700 Indian reserves that group together Inuit and descendants of both Indians and fur traders. The polarization occurs because - as the authors sarcastically state - “the public policy of extending ‘modernity’ to the indigenous populations through the establishment of permanent settlements, participation in the industrial economy, wage employment and access to social services wryly notes, has had unintended consequences” and they suggest that residents in the reserve have worse health indicators than other ethnic groups in the Canadian multicultural state, with collective problems including chronic substance addiction or depression.
“The abuse of opioid analgesics for recreational purposes has become a real social epidemic," they say regarding Omushkego First Nation reserve.
"Paradoxically, on one hand, the explicit goal of liberal modernity of introducing ‘social welfare’ in the indigenous populations through paid employment, public education and, health and social services has generated a socio-economic underclass in a country like Canada, which maintains one of the highest human development indexes in the world” as the authors state, who report that a social class division has been generated: well-paid aboriginal professionals with socio-political aspirations and an uneducated working class with seasonal jobs in the forestry and mining industry and strongly dependent on social assistance programs.
"The creation of bureaucratic, business and professional minorities has been accompanied by increasing unemployment and welfare dependency of most people,” which has encouraged nepotism and patronage within the institutional structure of the reserves.
The paper asserts that contemporary measures taken to protect permanent settlements "has proven to be one of the most ineffective public policy in the history of Canada, to the point that they have the reputation of being the most devalued and marginalized social spaces" despite the substantial public funding to compensate the high unemployment rate and numerous psychosocial problems.
Citation: Alfonso Marquina, Raúl Ruiz, Jorge Vírchez. Impacto y consecuencias sociales contemporáneas de las políticas de tutela estatal en las reservas indígenas canadienses. Revista Internacional de Organizaciones, nº 10, junio 2013, 85–107 ISSN: 2013-570X; EISSN: 1886-4171.