Canada Day in Ottawa

Canadian flag image by Pierre-Yves Guihéneuf from Pixabay

It’s Canada Day—a day to reflect on what this country is all about.

For me, it’s increasingly about understanding Canada as a creation of and a continuing space of colonization.

There are many great things about the people and lands where we live, but the narratives that dominate on Canada Day—a celebration of an inclusive, just and kind country, built through the hard work of its residents—mask the perpetuation of relationships that are based on power, privilege and persecution.

Until we can see our country for what it is, we will continue to perpetuate those harmful relationships.

There is plenty of information available on how we got to this situation, and what we need to do about it—including in the writing and activism of Indigenous people, and in successive commissions and enquiries. Some places to start:

1. Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Report and Calls to Action:

“For over a century, the central goals of Canada’s Aboriginal policy were to eliminate Aboriginal governments; ignore Aboriginal rights; terminate the Treaties; and, through a process of assimilation, cause Aboriginal peoples to cease to exist as distinct legal, social, cultural, religious, and racial entities in Canada. The establishment and operation of residential schools were a central element of this policy, which can best be described as ‘cultural genocide.’ …Getting to the truth was hard, but getting to reconciliation will be harder. It requires that the paternalistic and racist foundations of the residential school system be rejected as the basis for an ongoing relationship. Reconciliation requires that a new vision, based on a commitment to mutual respect, be developed.… Virtually all aspects of Canadian society may need to be reconsidered.”

2. Read the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Report and Calls for Justice:

“European nations, followed by the new government of ‘Canada,’ imposed its own laws, institutions, and cultures on Indigenous Peoples while occupying their lands. Racist colonial attitudes justified Canada’s policies of assimilation, which sought to eliminate First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples as distinct Peoples and communities. Colonial violence, as well as racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people, has become embedded in everyday life – whether this is through interpersonal forms of violence, through institutions like the health care system and the justice system, or in the laws, policies and structures of Canadian society. The result has been that many Indigenous people have grown up normalized to violence, while Canadian society shows an appalling apathy to addressing the issue. The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls finds that this amounts to genocide. ….Our Calls for Justice aren’t just about institutions, or about governments, although they have foundational obligations to uphold; there is a role for everyone in the short and the long term. Individuals, institutions, and governments can all play a part; we encourage you, as you read these recommendations, to understand and, most importantly, to act on yours.”

3. Learn about why Grand Chief Verna Polson of the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council is on a hunger strike outside 100 Wellington Ave. across from Parliament Hill, which like the rest of Ottawa is on unceded Algonquin territory. The federal government is set to open the building at 100 Wellington as an Indigenous Peoples’ Space, in collaboration with the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Metis National Council.

Algonquin nations are asking people to support Grand Chief Polson. You can also send a message to federal government leaders in support of the Algonquin Anishinabe call for a full partnership by using this link, and sign an online petition.

Here is more information from the Algonquin Anishinaabeg Aki Media Project:

“To all people who stand in solidarity with the Algonquin Anishinabe First Nation, we ask that you visit our Grand Chief Verna Polson who is bravely camped at 100 Wellington St. in Ottawa for 11 days now and counting. The Grand Chief is protesting the disrespect the Government of Canada and the three NIOs are showing to the Algonquin People by not including them as full and equal partners, on whose lands Canada’s Parliament Buildings are built. The Algonquin protocols are not being recognized and as titleholders to the land, we must protect it for the children of today and tomorrow. Our rights as a host nation are in jeopardy with this project. We will not be ignored.

We ask that you bring a tobacco tie, containing your prayer and good intentions of support. The Grand Chief will graciously receive your tobacco and keep it safely by her side to inspire and motivate her until the Algonquin Nation are full and equal partners. The tobacco gathered at the protest camp will then be feasted and offered into a sacred fire at a ceremonial site within the perimeters of Algonquin territory. Show your support! Show your respect!”

The establishment of new, respectful and equal relationships with Indigenous peoples and nations? That would be something to celebrate.

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