According to Charles Menzies, social scientists measure social inequality by using income level, rate of participation in employment and education, and quality of life measures such as health and housing. The causes of the contemporary structure of inequality between First Nations and other Canadians are the income of First Nations people, government policies, and a legacy of colonialism. Firstly, the data reported by Indian and Northern Affairs (2000) show that First Nations families at that time earned about 61% of the national average, about $25,602 versus $41, 898. Although they were receiving a higher portion of their income in the form of government transfers, the data show that they were living at or below the LLCOs (Low-Income Cut-Offs). First Nations people who are facing poverty, especially in urban settings are obviously restricted from material resources such as food and shelter. However, one can question how they are restricted from education. The argument could also be that they dislike schooling and white teachers in general, and this is part of the legacy of the residential schools that were used to destroy their culture; however, if they want to get education, it is offered to them.
In my opinion, they are also restricted from social status: higher education, access to information, and political power. Besides, they also suffer from the effects of poverty: crime, substance abuse such as alcoholism and drug abuse, exploitation by the rich, depression, and homelessness. Secondly, the past and present government policies on land and resource management and preservation of culture and language have caused inequality. Finally, because of previous colonialism, most First Nations have lost their land, traditional hunting territories, language, culture, and even their children to the colonizers. I was born in Myanmar, which was colonized by the British for over 100 years until 1948. The colonizers’ practice of favoring one ethnic, religious, racial, or other cultural group over others in colonial society, or of giving them a higher status, helped to promote inter-group rivalries, and often contributed to the unequal distribution of resources, causing inequality and having a negative impact on the natives. Menzies suggests that Canadian society has to accept its collective responsibility for the legacy of colonialism. I agree that the First Nations have a right to govern themselves in matters internal to their communities and integral to their unique cultures, identities, traditions, languages and institutions.
(for my friends Ania, Anita, Christine, K, Heman, Tom, and esp. Alvin from Singapore PoliTech who do not read Burmese and would like to read my view on this topic - you guys should learn Burmese because I'm not good at writing romantic stories in English and this topic is way too serious :)