Summary on Accounting for Genocide: Canada’s Bureaucratic Assault on Aboriginal People

Policymaking is a central component of the Canadian political system, with strong links to historical frameworks imposed during early colonial stages that reflect through present day situations. Particularly these colonialist policies have impacted the lives of First Nations people not only in past relations but also at present, in theme and influence in the formation of policy on behalf of the federal government up to this point in time.

Accounting for Genocide: Canada’s Bureaucratic Assault on Aboriginal People by Dean Neu and Richard Therrien assesses the role of bureaucracies in the explanation of subjugation, economic marginalization, modernization, globalization, annihilation and assimilation of the Native peoples in Canada in close association with the role of accounting or funding relations with the government. The authours contend that disputes, historical and present day combined, are the result of colonialist practices through the means of a monetary agenda with techniques deeply rooted in bureaucratic manipulation.

In expressing these bureaucratic assaults the authours look towards cultural genocide, land disputes, treaties, residential schools, the reserve system, nation building, and resistance all in the creation of policy with the presence of bureaucracy and the role of accounting. Cultural genocide was practiced in forms of domination as early as British occupation through the use of imposing an Euro culture over the practices of indigenous populations as they were seen to be inferior with a system of negotiations being set in place in order to administer the lives of the people.

The role of violence was present but the theme of the time was placed on administration techniques linked to the theory of imperialism. Accounting was a persuasive mechanism of colonization insofar that complete domination over the land, natural resources and the native inhabitants was a money-making opportunity for European settlers. A series of treaties were signed in numerous areas among varying nations based on land, compensation (presents) and rights of the native.

The church became a voice in the operation of assisting the Indian to mirror that of the white man, while the government silently stripped away acres and acres of land once harvested, hunted and habited by the people. Skepticism emerged on behalf of the Native peoples and treaties were negotiated on what was to be believed as equal playing grounds, but the role of language played an important role in the misinterpretation of what each side argued and expected.

Consequently the ties of communication were broken and the new settlers took more than their share leaving the First peoples insufficient land and lack of individual rights. Great Britain proposed presents in the form of payment of clothing, money, food, and tools to each native person where treaties had been negotiated or signed. Compensation agreed upon changed over the years, which later included tools and manufacturing products so that the Indian could disregard his traditional ways to take up the prominent role of a European farmer or businessman.

In the 18th Century with the birth of Canada, bureaucracies consisting of various agencies, regulatory commissions and departments began to conduct the functions of the central government in relation to the Indian Problem. There was a shift from imperialism to settlement in the Indian Department in the acquisition of more land and more control, making way for more money-making opportunity. With federal government control through the Indian Act in regards to natural resource extraction such as timber and minerals, land distribution negotiations led to the creation of land set aside for Indians in the form of the reserve.

Even though land was being used for resource extraction on previously occupied Native land, the government assured that revenue would be set aside on money made or land leased in a fund later to be distributed. The Indian Department’s growing concern over self-government and sovereignty issues decided that the administrative solution over the life of Native peoples in Canada rested in assimilation and ultimately annihilation of the people.

The various denominations and sects of religious institutions were called upon to operate the residential school with the goal of assimilating the Indian child in the attempt to phase out Indian-ness in the generations to follow so that the country of Canada could emerge with no ties and obligations to the First people which would hinder development on a global scale. The older populations were required to live under the throes of the Indian Act, which limited future prospects in areas of owning property, voting in elections and leaving the reserve for long periods of time, ultimately the denial of citizenship.

The Ministry of Natural Resources monitored hunting and fishing practices, Revenue Canada monitored taxation practices and the Department of Indian Affairs monitored all other aspects of the Indian life. The unsuccessfulness of the residential school system and the various bureaucracies and policies operating in the goal of annihilating indigenous peoples brought forth a movement furious with the mistreatment and mismanagement of affairs and also dire economic and social conditions.

But the role of accounting was still present and growing in areas of foreign investment and presence in oil extraction in Alberta, softwood lumber in British Columbia, hydro projects in Quebec and expansion of industries such as golf-courses and shopping malls throughout the country, with all of the land belonging to the Native peoples. Nation building was at the top of the political agenda for the most part of the 20th Century and in the quest for more generated income and expansion of the country, the government failed to secure consultation from those it was taking from; the First Nations people.

Those inhabiting areas being industrialized by multinational corporations were beginning to see the effects on the community; the loss of land, pollution of lakes and rivers, mercury poisoning of populations in proximity to the industry, death of those consuming wildlife and the absence of compensation in the disruption of numerous populations. Simultaneously the role of generating wealth for the country and the role of resistance on behalf of the Native peoples, were hand in hand in the thematic sequence of events in present day history.

Negotiations between the Lubicon Lake Cree, cases involving Delgamuukw, Sparrow and Marshall and blockades erected by the Mohawks at Oka all illustrate the surfacing of the Fourth World. A world advancing the dissatisfaction of the role of government, bureaucracy and policy in the mistreatment of the lives of First Nations people in Canada, attempting to prove that the bureaucratic assault and cultural genocide phase that has plagued the country pre and post colonization has reached the end of its reign.

Accounting for Genocide: Canada’s Bureaucratic Assault on Aboriginal People is a complex illustration of the role of accounting and funding relationships in all aspects of Aboriginal life encompassing a timeline of events ranging from British occupation, land distribution, treaties, modernization, domestic and foreign investment and the role of bureaucracies in securing wealth for one nation only. This book is difficult for one to follow as each chapter discusses a range of issues and events over the course of history with limited detail and complex linkages to the bureaucratic system and the role of policy formation.

The scope of accounting appears to be overshadowed in each chapter but the book in its entirety is a good portrayal of bureaucratic relationships between the Canadian government and First Nations peoples. The looming question at the conclusion of the book revolves around whether accounting, bureaucracy and policy will mend the relationship between the First Nations people and the government of Canada in future negotiations of two distinct nations.