Honouring the Indigenous People of Canada

July 1st, National Holiday

July 1 is a national holiday so-called Canada day. Although it should’ve been the day beloved by all the people who are living in this country, unfortunately, we didn’t get much agreement on this. While some parties are celebrating the freedoms we have in this land, others are offended by celebrating genocide.


Reconciling those ideas is something Canadians must have struggled to do for generations. But this year, we especially need to confront this problem since anti-Black and anti-Indigenous violence, which happen constantly, are now impossible to ignore.

Canada 150 is a celebration of Indigenous genocide

Lots of immigrant communities celebrate Canada Day because of the freedom the country offers them. Not all, of course, but for many people fleeing persecution and tyranny, finding a home in a country that allows them freedom is something to be celebrated.But that can’t be the excuses of the ugly truth about Canada’s history. We have to reconcile the fact that we’re able to live a good life here — a better life than we might be able to live in our parents’ or grandparents’ homeland — with the fact that that promise came out of an existing culture’s suffering.

Maija Kappler, Associate Lifestyle Editor at HuffPost Canada

Like it or not, Canada is rarely honest about the cruelty in our history. Not many of us are being educated about which led to our country being formed and residential schools from our schools.

 

The government of Canada tried to make indigenous children live like Europeans. Many were taken away from their families to residential schools to be taught the religion and lifestyle of Europeans. Starting from 1894, residential schools existed until 1996. It’s been only 14 years from the atrocities ended and the number of school-related deaths reaches 6000.

“Laws were enacted in Canada offering bounties for scalps of Indigenous men, women and children. The treaty negotiation process itself was conducted under conditions of starvation or threats of violence....While some argue that these acts were committed pre-Confederation, it must be kept in mind that they are in fact how Canada became Canada.”

Pamela Palmater, Mi’kmaw Citizen Member of Eel River Bar First Nation

February 6, 2020, Near Belleville, ON, members of the Mohawks of First Nation begin a blockade of the Canadian National Railway just north of Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. Many travelers in Canada have been affected and billions of dollars worth of freight traffic delayed while this blockade continued for about 3 months.

Even though the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation have been offered $1.15 billion over 40 years in exchange for their consent for a natural gas pipeline and terminal in their territory, they’ve declined. Because for most of Indigenous peoples, the natural world is sacred, consider themselves as an element of the natural world, and that it needs to be preserved for future generations. They even see themselves as stewards of the land and in some cases, such as the Tsilhqot’in, as its owners. It is not that they are anti-development but more that they are pro-environmentally-responsible-development.

“throughout the lifecycle and value chain of economic activity in Canada, indigenous peoples appear to be disproportionately located in close proximity to actual and potential sources of toxic exposure. Indigenous peoples live next to refineries and other manufacturing facilities. Existing and proposed pipelines crisscross their lands. Landfills, incinerators and other waste disposal sites are often closest to their reserves.”

Baskut Tuncak, Special Rapporteur on Hazardous Substances and Wastes

Conflicts arise not just because Indigenous communities wish to protect the natural environment for future generations but also because they seek to assert full agency in shaping their economic and social development. They seek to participate fully in decision-making processes that respect Indigenous peoples’ own laws, right to self-determination, human rights, and responsibilities of environmental and cultural stewardship. 

Comprising less than 5% of the world's population, indigenous people protect 80% of global biodiversity. We now need to respect and learn how they protect the environment. To do that, we must listen to what they are talking to and find a way to go reconciliation. I believe we can finally get there soon since we have one crucial thing in common that we all love our nation, Canada.

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