Why I’m NOT #Proud of #Canada150

Electoral Reform?

For someone generally proud to be lucky enough to be Canadian, instead of being excited about Canada Day on our nation’s 150th Anniversary, I was embarrassed to be a Canadian. Not because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau believes himself to be an all powerful autocrat with the right to over rule his own party’s overwhelmingly adopted policy and thumb his nose at the majority of Canadians who believe Canada ought to provide citizens with fair representation.   That was bad, that was really, really bad, but that isn’t it.

Money?

We had a big coast to coast half a billion dollar party CBC reports that More than 70% of Canada 150 swag made outside the country

Oh, but that’s not the government’s fault:

The government argues that international trade agreements don’t allow it to restrict the competition for government contracts to Canadian companies or manufacturers — even when it comes to Canada 150 merchandise.

Its all the fault of those pesky “free trade” agreements, not the governments who negotiated these agreements in secret then sign & ratify them so they have no choice but to require massive changes to our domestic law (and now unaccountable international corporate trade tribunals to fine us if we fail) to comply.  This excuse is a classic case of adding insult to injury.

Annoying as that is, that is not my problem.

Colonialism150?

Bingo!  The problem is colonization, something that didn’t just happen hundreds of years ago, but a process continuing as Canadian government policy to this day.

It is simply unfathomable to me that, KNOWING about all the horrors of “residential schools,” instead of embarking on a path to Reconciliation, our Canadian Government is continuing policies of Cultural Genocide. Residential Schools killed many more victims — all children — than people died in the 9/11 Twin Towers.  In response to the Twin Towers Canadian Governments were quick to change our laws to increasingly erode the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.   But Canadian Governments had to be legally compelled to establish the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  And now, instead of working hard to implement TRC recommendations, the Canadian Government has gone to court to fight for the right to continue to discriminate against Indigenous children and Indigenous women.

I’m not Indigenous, I’m a settler whose paternal ancestors arrived here before Confederation.  Some suggest “settler” is pejorative term, but it’s not.  It’s a simple statement of fact. Although my earliest ancestors came to this place before Confederation, I am not Indigenous.  My ancestors came from Alsace, Germany, the Netherlands and Russia, places I have never been.  Indigenous people’s ancestors came from Turtle Island.  While I make my home on native land, I acknowledge that Turtle Island indigenous peoples have prior claim.  Although I was very interested in history, I spent most of my life ignorant of the real Canadian history.

I am certainly not trying to speak for the Indigenous people’s of Canada; they are doing a brilliant job of speaking for themselves.

What does it mean to be safe and free in the context of a colonial state? The frontlines of Indigenous struggle are everywhere, now: from the prairies and rivers to city streets, and in classrooms. In a world where our movement is criminalized and our presence is resistance, Indigenous curiosity is radical vulnerability, memory, and futurism. Travelling toward an Indigenous feminist conception of freedom, we reclaim our homes in the world.
Erica Violet Lee, Nēhiyaw writer, student, and community organizer from misâskwatôminihk (Saskatoon), Treaty 6 Territory and Métis Homeland


Settler colonialism relies on occupation and home-making of settlers on Indigenous land and a perceived legitimacy of the settler to the land that is settled. For settler colonialism to legitimate itself, Indigenous peoples must be removed. This removal can be ideological, as seen in how colonial doctrine emptied the ‘New World’, deeming Indigenous peoples as sub-human and Indigenous land, subsequently, virgin, uninhabited, and available for the taking. The removal can be physically; estimates of Indigenous populations on Turtle Island (America) range as high as fifty million people which, in short time, was reduced to the hundreds of thousands. This removal can also be cultural; residential schooling in Canada and the United States was based on an ideology of “Kill the Indian, Save the Man,” an ideology that sought to decimate Indigenous cultures, languages, and ways of life, which were deemed barbaric and savage.

Settler colonialism demands Indigenous erasure for the purpose of claiming Indigenous land, it is the symbolic and real replacement of Indigenous peoples with settlers who attempt to claim belonging. Indigeneity cannot simply be about ‘who was here first’ – as if we are all Indigenous to some place – or about merely long-term occupancy. Indigeneity stands in marked opposition to the imperial agenda. Indigeneity is contentious, disruptive and insurgent. But it is also healing and loving, working to restore and resurge right relationships within communities, between communities, with the land, and with the self. This is the way of the ancestors.
Eric Ritskes, This Is The Way Of The Ancestors: Idle No More And Indigenous Resistance

No, I’m writing this for other settlers. To explain why I sat out Canada Day for the first time. To explain why I bought my husband a Colonization150 Tshirt.  But most of all why I’ve spent the last little while reading and sharing articles about the real Canada that so many Canadian settlers still don’t know about.  Some over and over.

I am still learning myself, because, like most people, I bought into the idea of the mythological Canada the Good.  The Canada full of nice, polite people who respect human rights and care about each other. The Canada that helped fight and stop South African Apartheid.  The Canada that chose to be a Multicultural mosaic culture, the nation that made peace and not war and helped write the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, our own Canadian Bill of Rights and then the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Canada willing to dabble in socialism to ensure everyone has healthcare and the necessities of life, the representative democracy that looks out for our most vulnerable population.

But that, my friends, is the public relations version, not the real deal. The real deal is a country that sells arms to Saudi Arabia, one of the most egregious human rights abusers in the world. The Canada that unequivocably supports Israel’s unambiguous Palestinian Apartheid.   Of course it does: Canadian Governments have been perpetrating its own policies of Apartheid and Cultural Genocide for well over 150 years, and are still doing it today.

One of the ridiculous things I often hear Canadian settlers say is that the land issue was over a long time ago.  But we Canadians believe in property ownership. Our society is built on property law.  Canadians buy and sell property, we can own it and our heirs can inherit it from us when we die.

If I can inherit my father’s house, a house that he inherited from his father, who inherited it from his father before him, why should it be any different for Indigenous people?

Their ancestors made treaties — contracts — with the British Crown.  But instead of living up to these agreements, the British then later Canadian Governments have been trying to erase them one way or another ever since.  The Canadian Government took the land one way or another, and gave or sold it to settlers.   That’s the land we buy and sell and inherit today.  The authority for this high handedness dates back to a papal decree known as “The Doctrine of Discovery.” which was predicated on the idea that any land not populated by European Christians was empty.  After all, only European Christians were human beings with rights.

It’s 2017

Instead of living up to our obligations to the Indigenous population of Turtle Island, Canadian Governments have worked hard to enforce assimilation, to suppress Indigenous culture, eradicate Indigenous languages, and coralled them on a tiny unsustainable percentage of the land… a miniscule part of the land of Turtle Island, the whole of which they once roamed freely.  The full might of Canada’s government continues its anti-Indigenous policies, all of which are geared to dispossessing them further.

Money:  It would cost the Canadian Government a fraction of the money it is spending on Canada’s 150th Party to comply with the Human Rights Tribunal’s order to stop discrimination against Indigenous children.  What is more important than children?

Electoral Reform to Proportional Representation is necessary.  It took me a long time to understand why our supposedly “simple” electoral system never actually provided me with representation in Parliament.  The Representative Democracy we Canadians supposedly enjoy is hollow so long as some votes are worth more than others but most don’t count at all. If we used some form of Proportional Representation, the result would be more democratic governance.  This would empower us to elect politicians who would actually represent most of us.  And maybe even govern the way they promised they would.

Further Reading:
Three years later, is Canada keeping its Truth and Reconciliation Commission promises?
Why is Trudeau Government Opposing Charter Equality for Indigenous Women?
Cultural Genocide of Canada’s Aboriginal People
Chief Justice says Canada attempted ‘cultural genocide’ on aboriginals
Canada was ready to abandon 1948 accord if UN didn’t remove ‘cultural genocide’ ban, records reveal
Residential school system was ‘cultural genocide,’ most Canadians believe according to poll
The Canada most people don’t see
Canada 150 is a celebration of Indigenous genocide
Eric Ritskes, This Is The Way Of The Ancestors: Idle No More And Indigenous Resistance
The long history of discrimination against First Nations children
Rights and Reconciliation: The future of Canada rests on adopting the balanced world view of Indigenous people.
12 Easy Steps For Canadians To Follow If They’re Serious About Reconciliation 
Dear Canada, It’s Not Me, It’s You It’s complicated.  
ACCOUNTING FOR HISTORIES: 150 YEARS OF CANADIAN MAPLE WASHING

IdleNoMore: Turn The Tables


Postscript:

This original article included a laudatory link to the G&M column ostensibly by NDP MP Roméo Saganash, “150 years of cultural genocide: Today, like all days, is an insult.” Unfortunately it turned out that the reason the article was so good is that it plagiarized the work of two Indigenous writers, Erica Violet Lee, and Eric Ritskes.  The Globe and Mail says it “did not properly attribute work by two different writers“.  

As a writer I am apalled by plagiarism.  I know Mr. Saganash has apologized, (blaming an assistant) and the G&M suggests he’s taken responsibility … but only after having been publicly busted.  I understand politicians may use speech writers and publicists.   Using a ghostwriter is bad enough.  But publishing an Op Ed he had not himself written under his name— particularly one with such a personal slant— is a giant step beyond that.   Adding plagiarism on top of that is a million times worse.

3 thoughts on “Why I’m NOT #Proud of #Canada150

  1. Well said. But – My take on the events of our nation’s history, as well as the history of most nations, is that the people (referred to as indigenous), who lived here when Europeans arrived, were conquered by the arrivals. History appears to be a series of new arrivals and invasions. Conquered peoples are seldom treated well or fairly. Until invasion and war cease, conquered peoples will always suffer. Somehow humans need to stop invading, warring, and conquering.

    • Thanks. But I only know bits and pieces of the history of Indigenous in Canada, and what I know is that it wasn’t so cut and dried. Among other things North America was the site of English & French colonial competition, with each side forging alliances with different Indigenous nations in their respective Colonization efforts. The alliances were recorded in treaties– essentially what we call contract law today. The Haldimand Tract where I live is unceded territory purchased by the British Crown from it’s Indigenous owners and given to the Mohawk and other Six Nations in perpetuity. This was compensation for the loss of these First Nations people’s own traditional homeland as a direct result of fighting for the British against the American invaders (which is why Canada is not part of the USA). I have come to think the Canadian conquest was more a matter of defrauding the Indigenous than defeating them in battle.

      The thing to remember is this isn’t just history; Canada has institutionalized its Colonialism in ongoing policies designed to dispossess and erase the Indigenous population one way or another. And it needs to stop.

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