In 1941, a local Indian agent in Nova Scotia suggested that the cost of supporting the Mi'kmaq in that province had risen dramatically over the past 40 years. He recommended centralizing the Mi'kmaq on two reserves, at Eskasoni on Cape Breton Island and Shubenacadie on the mainland, in order to reduce costs and improve services. The same basic idea had been around since the end of the First World War, but the financial crisis arising from the Great Depression finally prompted action. Between 1942 and 1949, about 2,100 Mi'kmaq in 20 places were pressured to relocate to the new reserves. They proved reluctant to move but were promised jobs, schools, and other services. In some instances, coercion was used. The policy, however, was a failure. Not everyone moved so the goal of centralization was not accomplished. Furthermore, the new communities were rife with unemployment and almost completely dependent on welfare. The policy had taken the Mi'kmaq off the land, cut them off from their usual, if limited, means of livelihood, and forced them to live on two unprepared and inadequate reserves that rapidly became overcrowded. The Mi'kmaq experienced a loss of control over several aspects of their everyday lives, with increased interference by outsiders in health, education, and administration. Perhaps the only benefit, at least from the government's point of view, was that centralization facilitated assimilation efforts by making it easier to send children to schools. Amidst considerable criticism on all sides, the project was ended in 1949, having failed either to save money or to increase the self-sufficiency of the Mi'kmaqs.

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