Violence in Aboriginal communities

VIOLENCE in Aboriginal communities

Odile Bergeron, Faisca Richer, 
Isabelle Duguay

Institut national de santé publique du Québec

Scientific revision (alphabetical order) :
Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay 
First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Sertvices Commission
Regroupement des centres d’amitié autochtones du Québec

Full document in french

Key messages

  • In Canada, “Aboriginal” is a legal term used to define the First People and their descendants. In Quebec, Aboriginal communities were all established during waves of sedentation and most were legally instituted by Canadian government authorities. The majority of First Nations and Inuit in Quebec live in one of 55 Aboriginal communities across the province.
  • Aboriginal populations in Quebec live in social and cultural contexts that are in many ways complex, dynamic and heterogeneous.
  • Violence in Aboriginal communities has several similar characteristics with violence in non-Aboriginal communities, including risk factors and impact on health.
  • In addition, they experience collective violence, consisting of structural limitations imposed by many government policies in almost all areas of economic and social development for Canadian Aboriginal populations. This type of violence is often called “structural violence” or “systemic racism”.
  • Therefore, violence in Aboriginal communities cannot be interpreted strictly as the expression of individual behaviour or a problem limited to a few households, but instead needs to be understood as a social phenomenon with multiple causes.
  • Aboriginal populations are victims of violent acts more often than non-Aboriginal populations.
  • The consequences of violence experienced by Aboriginals on their health are on top of the population’s already unfavourable health burden, and compromise individual and community development.
  • The inadequacy or lack of socially and culturally safe social and health care services and programs can impede violence reduction.
  • Supporting Aboriginal peoples as they exercise their right to self-determination, and involving various stakeholders to address the structural problems that affect development and growth in their communities are crucial for carrying out the actions necessary for reducing the violence experienced by Aboriginal populations.