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Assimilation

In recent years, Alberta communities have created events and organizations to encourage the development of cultural expression. While the idea of assimilation once assumed the dominance of a British and Anglo perspective, the reality of Alberta’s history shows us that diverse perspectives have always been present. Early missionaries and traders were of mixed ancestry and drew on these roots in their work, bridging the gulf between different cultures. The fact of many different cultural communities arriving in large numbers is significant. While concerns about assimilation and social conformity are present and have been strongly expressed and debated through the decades, practices and policies have been put in place to ensure this were rarely successful or comprehensive.

In its 1994 report Equal in Dignity and Rights: A Review of Human Rights in Alberta the Alberta Human Rights Review Panel noted that, “there has been no group in Canada more discriminated against through the centuries, from the arrival of the first explorers and settlers to the present day, than Aboriginal people.”

While the assimilation of Alberta’s First Nations people was an element of government policy, it has long been apparent that assimilation in the case of aboriginal people has been neither a success nor desirable. The experience of Aboriginal people shows the importance of developing attitudes and the means to deal well with cultural diversity, rather than enforcing or encouraging conformity and dismissing the importance of cultural knowledge and appreciation expression for individuals and communities alike.

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