I am NOT proud to be ‘Canadian’. I’m not sure I ever have been.
As a young child I learned about the genocide within Canada against Indigenous people and it wove itself within me. Canada became, to me, the embodiment of storybook monsters I was read at the public library. Hahgwehdaetgah, the wrongdoer and creator of evil. Qallupilluit, the child snatcher. Wendigo, the insatiably greedy. Unk Cekula, the serpent of death. Kigatilik, the killer of shamans. Each coming alive year after year in my colonial history lessons, in myself and in the society that raised me.
Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. MacDonald made it policy to starve First Nations people to death, he criminalised powwows, Potlatch, and all religious practices and restricted First Nations from leaving their reservation without permission from their Indian agent while he continued to steal land from under their feet.
From the 1880s until 1996, the Canadian government kidnapped 150,000 Indigenous children, some as young as 4-years-old, from their parents and placed them in residential school systems in a bid to aggressively assimilate them. These church-run schools forcibly and often violently stripped children of their language, culture, identity, spirituality, parents, community, and siblings. Throughout their years of forced Euro-Canadian and Catholic education, students lived in substandard conditions and endured physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological and oftentimes, sexual abuse, for the entirety of their childhood and teen years.
The lasting cultural impact on Indigenous communities has been, unsurprisingly, extensive, widespread, and heartbreaking. Wreaking havoc on the mind, body and soul of multiple generations. It has not come to an end either, recently, the coerced and forced sterilization of Indigenous Women (and men) in Canada and the U.S was uncovered, with minimal coverage from the media.
In Canada, Indigenous people did not have the right to vote until 1960, 44 years after women were given that right to vote in the same country. Indigenous people were also not allowed to practice dances and ceremonies again until 1951 in Canada, while in America, Indigenous religious practices were outlawed until 1978.
Members of Indigenous communities still work year-round raising awareness about the epidemic of extreme violence against their women and girls. 4-out-of-5 indigenous women are affected by violence today, and there are over 5,700 Missing and Murdered Indigenous Womxn, Girls, and Two Spirit (MMIWG2S).
Police brutality continues against Indigenous communities, as we’ve recently seen at protests by the Wet’suwet’en Nation against pipelines.
I had hopes when Justin was elected in 2015 that he would do better than the colonial leaders who came before, because he has/had a tattoo of mother earth inside a Haida raven on his arm.I didn’t understand back then that to some, the ink they carry means nothing. The hypocrisy is not beyond them. That when you’re raised in a Wendigo culture, by a Wendigo father, you become a Wendigo monster yourself. Justin is the embodiment of Canadian culture in the same way Trump is the embodiment of American culture.
Protecting life should be the first priority of the Government, and it is failing on every level, worldwide. Especially on colonised lands. We, as ‘Canadians’ have the power to turn this around. To learn the true history of ‘Canada’. To do our anti-racism work. To make space for healing our relationships by disconnecting from capitalism and supporting Indigenous-led businesses and projects instead. To vote Indigenous leaders to positions of power. To support anti-racist policies which even the so called playing field. To heal and protect the land.
When the roots of a tree meet underground, the fuse. Plugging into an interconnected web of others where they share nutrients and support one another. We ‘Canadians’ (and ‘Americans’) need to learn how to be the roots of a tree, to plug into humanity, and like the “Cancel Canada Day” protests, honour Indigenous, Black, migrant, womxn, and trans people, today and for the rest of our lives.
LISTEN TO INDIGENOUS PEOPLE
An article like this, by a white person by me, is my (perhaps clumsy) attempt to bring this issue to light to my (probably mostly white) readers. My voice is not important in this issue, what is important, is the voices of Indigenous people, so educate yourself on their history, experience, and perspective. Listen to podcasts by Indigenous people, read articles by Indigenous journalists, watch movies written and directed by Indigenous people, read books written by Indigenous writers, follow Indigenous influencers, and attend open events held by Indigenous people in your community. I’ve found Simon Moya-Smith’s ‘100 Ways to Support—Not Appropriate From—Native People‘ helpful, as well as this Indigenous Ally Toolkit. The University of Alberta is also offering a 12-lesson Massive Open Online Course which explores Indigenous histories and contemporary issues in ‘Canada’.