Canada’s abysmal record on reconciliation has achieved no benchmarks and no successes in the past decade, even as the Liberal government touts its propaganda. As we enter a new decade, how will we better our lives, and the lives of our families, to end the wholesale destruction of Indigenous communities?
Post-election, Trudeau said: “government has done more for Indigenous Canadians and Indigenous communities than any government in history.” It is a bloviating statement you’d expect more from Donald Trump than a Canadian official who knows better.
In 2016, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its final report and recommendations. The government has yet to address any of these recommendations from the perspective of the Indigenous.
Instead the 2017, the Liberal Government unilaterally split DIAND into Indigenous Relations and Indigenous Services. This rearranging of deck chairs on the Liberal Titanic has done nothing to resolve issues of mass incarceration, genocide of Indigenous women or the deaths of Indigenous children in the foster care system who are being held in greater numbers than those suffering mass detention in the U.S.
This past year celebrated the UN International Year of Indigenous Languages. But rather than taking steps to protect Indigenous language and the cultures that nurture them, our government has continued the colonial agenda to destroy Indigenous rights, sovereignty and identity through a continued assault on Indigenous lands and resources.
In this past year, the Liberal government raced two pieces of legislation through the House of Commons on: (1) Indigenous languages and (2) child and family services. The Indigenous languages bill was meant to preserve original languages with limited funds. This would only give a short window of opportunity to preserve what is known, not develop or expand Indigenous teachings in a long-term strategy. The child and family service legislation was meant to halt indigenous children going into care with a jurisdictional change. The Liberals attached no funding to the legislation.
Both bills were rammed through the House of Commons four months before a national election. This was window dressing. The Liberal government wanted to be seen as doing “something” about the Indian problem, no matter how feeble or unconstructive.
But the Indian “problem” will not go away. The Indians do not have a problem with their way of life, worldview or stewardship responsibilities. The Indians are having a problem fitting their sharing, caring, collective way of life into the Canadian individualistic, corporate controlled capitalist model.
Each time the federal government addresses the Canadian public about Indigenous issues they are careful to use economic language. There are numbers released, usually in the billions about program or service dollars, “intended” for the Indigenous. The breakdown of these amounts is not released. Canada does not state that they are using the Assembly of First Nations or other cherry picked organizations to funnel money so there is an appearance of working with the Indigenous people.
Canada does not say it has set up compromised Indigenous institutions in finances, economic development, or land departments that receive the billions of dollars to continue assimilating the Indian into the body politic.
Canada stands regretful about historic wrongs, while perpetuating the exact same wrongs in current actions. It is the definition of hypocrisy to watch Canada point a shaky global finger of condemnation at other international colonial actions. Meanwhile, Canada is profiting off the backs of Indian kids who are in poverty or in care, Indian kids without clean water and Indian kids living in worse than third world conditions.
The only difference between Trump and Trudeau is that Trump has set up border camps with cages that are highly visible. Trudeau maintains his border camps quietly on reserves away from the unseeing Canadian eyes. This is why there continue to be boil water advisories and angry councils publicly calling out Indian Affairs.
The current state of the Indigenous can also be seen in the number of state of emergencies called by reserves calling for the banning of meth or other drug dealers, and in the call for heightened mental wellness for addictions or suicide issues. This is not happening outside of Canada. This is happening across this country right now.
There are continued attacks made on indigenous women. There are continued acts of systemic racism and failures in the justice system to bring closure to incidents like the death of Colten Boushie.
Federally Canada tried to institute a “framework” that would resolve all the issues surrounding the indigenous. The framework was legislating apartheid. The framework was another attempt to subjugate or control the Indigenous through program dollars while offloading constitutional responsibilities to the provinces.
This is the Canada that speaks of “reconciliation”. Reconciliation is an empty word. The Indigenous have reconciled their land and resources with the settlers and their descendants. What have the descendants reconciled? They benefit from the sharp dealing of past settler governments while loudly screaming today about taxpayer dollars.
Out west the descendants of settlers have gone so far as to propose separation from Canada while they fail to recognize that Canada only exists as a result of historic treaties which shared the land and resources. This message is not being taught.
As Alberta put out the Wexit cry following the federal election, First Nations responded with laughter. The land would revert to its original “owners” before it would come under some wing nut province bent on subsidizing a dying industry.
So going into a second decade, what will the future hold? For one thing, First Nation people are not all the same. So a one size solution will never work. This is true for any kind of legislation. It will not fit some or many First Nations. Truth and reconciliation calls to action called for changes that would alter the system. The truth is that these changes will only come from outside these institutions. The institutionalized colonialism that functions today in Canada continues to oppress, assimilate and terminate the original people. The solution is not in this government. The solution is in reclamation of our original indigenous ways of knowing, living, respecting and living in global harmony so that there will further decades in all our futures.