The legacy of Canadian colonialism was based on a skewed multicultural policy that discriminated against the indigenous people such as the Aboriginal population. The management of the government resources, citizenry, and right to access to social services was skewed to the disadvantage of the Aboriginal community because of their unique ethnocultural identity.
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The main historical factor that might have catalyzed this unfortunate state of affairs was the strategic oppression and civil atrocities against the Aboriginal people in the process of territorial expansion against their will. This reflective paper reviews treatment of the Aboriginal people in the 100 years and how an engineer should apply strategic ethical principles when handling projects within this population and other indigenous groups in Australia.
Treatment of the Aboriginal People
The colonists initiated the imperialistic political authority, which resulted in the forceful subjection of the Aboriginal people to their rule of law and eviction from their land. The Aboriginal people were subjected to inhuman acts. The colonial governance even attempted to use legislative ways to force the Aboriginal people out of existence through using legal declarations such as the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which gave the colonialists exclusive rights over all land in Canada.
In the post-colonial era, government regimes have implemented regulations and laws that have forcefully erased the Aboriginal systems and sovereignty in favor of colonial governance and structures, which almost erased this community from existence in Canada. For instance, the Indian Act of the year 1876 simply usurped all the birthrights of the children and women of the Aboriginal community (Martin & Schinzinger, 2010). This led to serious disruption of matrilineal descents, kinship systems, and marital residence patterns among others. Besides, it subjected the women and children to the authority of the male adults in the community.
After independence and until present times, the state has applied a series of discriminatory regulations to silently undermine the Aboriginal community by forcefully weakening their social bonds in the name of public interest and schooling. The use of soft tactics by the post-colonial government regimes in Canada has come with a detrimental impact on little trust in the project by the government among the Aboriginal community members (Hyldgaard, 2012).
Although the government has shifted from using violence to undermine the existence of the Aboriginal community in Canada, the soft forms of discrimination have been consistently applied by different political regimes to promote isolation in the form of ‘legal displacements’ of this community without their consent based on ‘public interests’ (Martin & Schinzinger, 2010).
Despite the eventual acknowledgment of the Aboriginal community as ‘insiders’, government regimes in Canada have subjected this community to rational-bureaucratic interaction that is strategically designed to purge any perceived signs of divergence via integration. Although the government of Canada has received praise for its progressive stance in appreciating diversity, little has been done to facilitate proper integration of the Aboriginal community into the mainstream Canadian society (McKay, 2000). At present, due to continued isolation of this indigenous group in Canada, the highest recorded levels of infant mortality, poverty rate, and suicide rate are reported among the Aboriginal community.
The Constitution Act of the year 1791 was critical in cementing the Canadian identity as consisting of two racial groups, which is the upper region dominated by British culture and the lower region dominated by the French culture. This separation into two races was internalized as part of the dominating political discourse without considering the presence of other indigenous groups such as the Aboriginal community.
This pact consisting of two races have continued to dominate the political, social, and labor-related aspects of Canadian society (McKay, 2000). Unfortunately, the dualist approach to racial segregation failed to accommodate other races such as the blacks, indigenous groups, and immigrants from minority races across the globe. During this era, being in the indigenous groups such as the Aboriginal community meant that one would be treated as not belonging to the ‘Canadianness culture’ (Nunnally, 2011).
The root of Canadian citizenship was founded on egalitarianism to different levels of equality for individuals making up a nation. This means that minority groups such as the Aboriginal community were ontologically eliminated by the virtue of belonging to the minority race in the promise of the Canadian ‘liberal modernity project’ (Martin & Schinzinger, 2010).
The discrimination based on race has dominated the exclusive citizenship in Canada for several decades simply because the white citizens had a tyranny of numbers over the minority groups in political dispensation. The young state of Canada assumed biased approach in enforcing laws to favor the white majority and the governance of the Canadian society was based on the principle of exclusionary ethics, which is characterized by a general assumption that the whites are viewed as having higher state value than the ‘nonwhite’ groups or sub-persons. Unfortunately, this discriminatory tendency is still common and the Aboriginal community has bared the brunt of unfair resource allocation.
How Isolation History Impacts the Ethical Practice of Engineering
Based on the above history, it is apparent that the Aboriginal community does not trust most of the projects from the outsiders. This is because the previous regimes have not been fair and respectful when interacting with the community. From an engineering ethical perspective, this group can be described as suspicious of outsider influence and might not embrace any engineering project in the community, especially when their participation is not sought from the beginning (Perlman & Varma, 2002).
As an aspiring engineer, I would reverse this negative attitude held by the Aboriginal community through applying ethical principles such as operating within the community with mutual reciprocity and respect, adopting effective and tolerant communication, appreciating and minimizing interference with the local culture, and building sustainable relationships through community-engineer partnership (McKay, 2000).
In applying the principle of reciprocity and respect, I will adopt the inverted triangle towards engineer project execution within the community. The inverted triangle approach involves bringing all the stakeholders on board such as community leaders, to ensure that there is full support. This strategy is necessary for protecting any engineering project from damages since stakeholder engagement will guarantee protection.
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Besides, I can apply the principle of proactive communication within the community to create an environment of constant interaction with the stakeholders. As an aspiring engineer, designing a sustainable and effective communication network is instrumental in creating an environment of acceptance (Baura, 2006). Since the Aboriginal community is highly integrated along the cultural pillar, the communication strategy should user-friendly and simple language which can be understood by the locals to avoid instances of the language barrier.
In terms of the principle of minimal interference with the community culture in engineering project execution, I should inform the community about the project and consult the opinion leaders to create a middle ground that is acceptable and sustainable in project execution. For instance, if I want to implement the project of constructing a river within the region occupied by the Aboriginal community, I should be sensitive to the needs of the community and use the friendliest material or design approach that is acceptable.
Through this approach, I will be able to win the trust of the local community who may turn into the protectors and voluntary custodians since the benefits are presented before the actual project execution. For an engineering project to be successful in the rural setup, there is a need to observe the way of life in the community to minimize potential environmental disturbances that are unacceptable to the populace. For instance, the Aboriginal community is known for its love for the environment. This means that a project such as a road construction should be carried out in a manner that is least expensive in terms of interference, machine breakdown, and community displacement.
From the above reflection, the aspect of engineering ethics is the primary determinant of quality service delivery, especially in a dynamic and culturally oriented community such as that of the Aboriginal people. These ethics are the principle guidance matrix against unethical decisions that might compromise the completeness and rationalization of service delivery in a holistic manner. As an engineer executing projects within the Aboriginal community, I should be proactive in adhering to the above principles to guarantee project acceptance by the beneficiaries. Besides, I should create communication and community partnership bridges to win the trust of opinion leaders to embrace the benefits that are associated with successful project execution.
Baura, G. (2006). Engineering ethics: An industrial perspective. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Hyldgaard, C. (2012). Engineering, development and philosophy: American, Chinese and European perspectives. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.
Martin, M. W., & Schinzinger, R. (2010). Introduction to engineering ethics. New York.
McKay, I. (2000). The liberal order framework: A prospectus for a reconnaissance of Canadian history. The Canadian Historical Review, 81(4), 617-634.
Nunnally, P. (2011). The city, the river, the bridge: Before and after the Minneapolis Bridge collapse. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press. NY: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.
Perlman, B., & Varma, R. (2002). Improving ethical engineering practice. IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, 21(1), 40-48.