Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21, 2017, virtually one year ago today. (Black Press files)

New study finds Canadians divided on Indigenous issues

Since being elected in 2015, the Trudeau government has made a committed effort to reset the relationship with First Nations community across the nation.

But, the challenges and tribulations surrounding this relationship — and how Canadians perceive it — have been documented and detailed over the past three years by the Angus Reid Institute, Canada’s non-profit foundation for independent research.

In a new study conducted by the Angus Reid Institute, research and polls show suggest that Canadians are deeply divided when it comes to how to properly address Indigenous issues.

In a potentially shocking discovery, according to the the new study, Canadians are more likely to say Trudeau is paying ‘too much’ attention to Indigenous issues, rather than suggesting he’s paying ‘too little’.

Additional details uncovered in the study further complicate the already often muddled landscape when it comes to Indigenous issues.

Through information discovered in the study, Canadian policy-makers, Indigenous and non-indigenous alike, are clearly deeply divided regarding some fundamental questions concerning the first human inhabitants of Canadian territory.

From Indigenous self-government, to the troubled legacy of residential schools and the unique status that Indigenous Canadians hold, there is a significant disagreement between from Canadians on how to properly address the path moving forward.

These divisions aren’t specific to any population, but rather manifest themselves across Canada’s general population. The study finds that while most Canadians agree that the attention and funding that is currently being devoted towards Indigenous issues in Canada not particularly effective, perspectives vary in terms of how to actually change the existing status quo.

53 per cent of those who responded to the study, which was made up of nearly 2500 Canadians, stated that in our modern society, Indigenous people should have no inherent special status that other Canadians do not have.

The other 47 per cent suggested that due to the fact that the ancestors of current Indigenous Canadians were, for lack of any better words, here first, they should maintain their unique status.

Furthermore, the study reports that 60 per cent of Canadians believe that treaties with Indigenous people have been too often ignored, disrespected or disregarded by Canada. This is in contrast to the remaining 40 per cent who believe the aforementioned treaties have been appropriately respected and honoured in the past.

Amid a vote by parliament to extend an invitation to the Pope to apologize for the role that the Catholic Church played in residential schools, the Angus Reid Institute study found that 47 per cent of those surveyed believe that the harm and harrowing nature of residential schools continues to this day and cannot be ignored.

Correspondingly, the remaining 53 per cent states that they believe Canada, as a whole, focuses too much on the legacy of residential schools and that there is only so much apologizing that can be done before the nation must move on.

According to the study, although numerous concerns were expressed over the poor quality of life for many living on reserves in Canada, three-quarters of Canadians to believe that reserves can succeed and prosper, if they are given the proper level of investment and care.

However, Canadians are the most divided on the issue of funding. The study finds that only 28 per cent of Canadians believe that the government has not allocated enough money into Indigenous issues. On the other hand, 33 per cent, or one-in-three Canadians, believe that the government has allowed too many resources in this area.

Ultimately, despite the Trudeau governments ongoing commitment to foster a longstanding, healthy relationship with First Nations in Canada, the public is incredibly divided when it comes fundamental rights, issues and the reconciliatory relationship as a whole.

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