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Widening the Story - Artifact 3

Colonial, Eugenics, and Assimilation


The Canadian State and a number of churches have used assimilation as a tool for cultural genocide to eliminate ᐊᓂᔑᓂᓂᐊᐧᐠ, ᐃᓄᐃᐟ, ᒥᓇ ᐊᐱᑕᐃᐧᑯᓯᓴᓇᐠ (First Nations, Inuit, and Métis).

The Indian Act of 1876 enforced assimilation. ᓂᑕᑦ ᐊᓂᔑᓂᓂᐊᐧᐠ (First Nations Peoples) could not live on their traditional lands, self-govern, speak their languages or perform their culture.

Duncan Campbell Scott, who was the Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs from 1913 to 1932. He stated: “Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question.”1(footnote)

In his Eugenics course, McConkey taught assimilation as one approach to race betterment in settler colonial Canada. This is especially evident in his Eugenics course slide called “Pure Sire Method of Race Assimilation in America.”2(footnote)

Artifact 3b – Colonial Human Betterment: Assimilation as a form of elimination

An enlargement of one chart depicted in the slide, “Pure Sire Method of Race Assimilation in America,” shows that over the course of four or five generations, the children of interracial coupling, for example “Negro by White” in Jamaica, begin to “pass for white.”

Canada’s federal policy of assimilation includes the goal of “disappearing” a group into dominant whiteness. Racism and eugenic ideology influenced the Indian Act. The Act aims to assimilate and absorb ᓂᑕᑦ ᐊᓂᔑᓂᓂᐊᐧᐠ (First Nations Peoples) into Canadian society. But this goal has not been driven by racism alone. Canada has also used policies of assimilation to undermine First Nations connections to land for political and economic reasons.3(footnote)

  1. Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Canada’s Residential Schools: The History, Part 2, 1939 to 2000: The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, v.1 (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2016), 13, (Source).

  2. McConkey’s Eugenics slides Courtesy of University of Guelph McLaughlin Library Archival & Special Collections. Ontario Agricultural College. Dept. of Field Husbandry Oswald Murray McConkey Papers, RE1OACA0066 Regional History Collection, Box 15B, Genetic Slides.

  3. For more information, see Karen Stote’s entry in the “eugenics archive” at and Simpson, As We Have Always Done.