Clio Edition 4 - page 19

19
British
Colonialism
and the
Aboriginal
People of
Canada
The British colonised Canada for over 200 years. It was
period that extended from the early explorers of the 17th
Century to Confederation and the uniting of the colonies in
the mid 19th Century. British colonialism established Canada
as a largely English speaking country and helped to populate
the Upper North America with millions of European
migrants. But was the British presence harmful or beneficial
to the Aboriginal people of Canada?
British colonialism in Canada helped to create new cities and
trading opportunities for Aboriginal people. For example,
after the ‘Seven Years War’, Britain became the main colonial
power in Canada, and took over France’s commercial
partnership with the Aboriginal peoples. Partnership
could be found in the fur trade (the main export of North
America at the time) and the food trade. Indeed, Aboriginal
people played a key role in the booming Fur Trade of 17th
and 18th centuries, as seen by their trading with British
settlers in Newfoundland and their role in the Hudson’s Bay
Company’s trading activities around the Bay. Furthermore,
several military alliances were formed between groups of
Aboriginal people and British militias, which provided
security and safety at times of great uncertainty and many
territorial disputes. By forming commercial and military
partnerships with British settlers, the Aboriginal people gave
themselves more security while ensuring a stable income,
and a slice of the expanding, and highly profitable, Fur Trade.
By entering into these partnerships, the British were able
to ensure stability within Canada, while forming profitable
partnerships themselves. All of this can be seen to have
shown clearly that a British presence in Canada benefitted
Aboriginal People, both economically and in terms of
security as well.
However, British colonists can be claimed to have
aggressively tried to subjugate the Aboriginal people of
Canada and to denigrate their culture. For example, as the
A mixed
aboriginal
fur trader
Circa.
1870
By Kiran Bryant
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