First Nations elders are no longer treated as highly valued people and are marginalized by both native and Canadian societies, says a report by the Canadian Advisory Council of Aging.
“Today, the elders are no longer elders but just old people,” said Elder Margaret Labillois, a former MicMac chief from New Brunswick, in the report.
In many First Nations communities, elders lost their roles as teachers and historians when native children started going to non-native schools.
“Older aboriginal people are doubly penalized: their own people exclude them, and they are isolated from the rest of Canadian society,” said James Frideres, assistant dean of the University of Calgary and the report’s author.
The council’s president, John MacDonell, told reporters he would like ongoing talks on aboriginal self-government to recognize a specific role for elders.
“Within autonomous aboriginal governments, there could be a place for a return to traditional social organization, which would improve the situation of native elders,” he said during a press conference in Ottawa in May.