Points to both the Globe and Mail and the University of Saskatchewan (which has always been one of the best institutions in Canada when it comes to Indigenous peoples’ concerns) for this story here. The quick summary of the situation is that a woman offered to donate a $250,000 scholarship to the University of Saskatchewan to be awarded on the basis of financial need, but with the condition that the recipient must not be an Aboriginal person. Her argument, of course, was your standard bullshit reverse discrimination claim, including the comment that Aboriginal people are “basically taken care of”, as well as a reference to her concern for “people like her”. I feel a little sick to my stomach at the irony in her comment about the ‘unequal playing field’ that exists, because I remain completely at a loss as to where a conversation can even begin with people who think this way (meaning, frankly, the vast majority of the Canadian population).
What I love most about this editorial is the way they present the statistics about Aboriginal underrepresentation in undergraduate programs, as well as the actual proportion of scholarship distribution – in case you’re not clicking through, the article points out that 18.9% of 18-29 year olds in Saskatchewan are Aboriginal, while only 7.5% of the university undergrad population are. Further, only 1.4% of scholarship funding was directed at this 7.5%.
What makes that 1.4% seem like a problem can only be flat-out white entitlement and racism. The fact that this woman received an outpouring of support and so much outrage has been directed against the U of S for this decision is really indicative of the mainstream perception of Aboriginal people in this country. I’ve said some of this before, but it bears repeating: to the extent that we talk at all about Indigenous issues and wrongs that have been done to the Canada’s Indigenous people, we tend to refer to it as something that happened in the distant past. Either it’s been corrected already (through reverse discrimination) or it’s so far gone that the status quo is the only option and it’s not worth considering making any kind of reparations. In either case, Aboriginal people would be best to quit complaining, accept the way things are and figure out how to move forward our way.
The only problem with that 1.4% is that entitled non-Aboriginal Canadians are keenly aware that it breaks into the 100% that has been theirs. It stands out. It bursts the nice clean bubble. This is Racism 101, and we in Canada are experts at this particular brand that does everything it can to create distance between ourselves and the problem.