First Nations in Northern Canada have relied on caribou for millennia, for food, clothing and more. They've followed, observed and hunted the animals. They've seen changes in habits and populations as their territories face increasing development pressures. They've handed down knowledge through generations.
Justin Trudeau announced on International Women's Day that a Canadian woman will appear on the next series of bank notes expected in 2018. And the Bank of Canada is now inviting nominations as to who should appear on the bill. This is our chance to have a say and perhaps at the same time make a statement.
Canada's federal power shift provides us with the opportunity to view the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals through a new lens. Our new government faces many challenges to restore the protection of Canadian ecosystems. After a decade of Conservative rule, I find myself, like many other Indigenous people in Canada, cautiously optimistic for the future social and ecological well-being of our nation and its role on the international stage. However, our new government will face significant challenges in living up to and improving upon their campaign promises.
While the climate discussions in Lima are focusing on what nation states need to do to reach a binding climate agreement a year from now, what is missing is a discussion about how corporations are not held accountable for the climate damage they cause in developing countries -- damage that those countries are held accountable for.
The kind of stories I learned in Mi'gmagi will never make it into the mainstream media, and most Canadians will never hear them. Instead, Canadians will hear recycled propaganda as the mainstream media blindly goes about repeating the press releases sent to them by the RCMP designed to portray Mi'kmaw protestors as violent and unruly, in order to justify their own colonial violence. So we are faced with a choice. We can continue to show the photos of the three hunting rifles and the burnt out cop cars on every mainstream media outlet ad nauseam and paint the Mi'kmaq with every racist stereotype we know, or we can dig deeper.
There is no Aboriginal system of education in Canada. This fact is sometimes obscured by misunderstandings of reserve or band schools, or even charter schools that may provide 'indigenous content'. Nonetheless, the system of education that exists in Canada is wholly Canadian; the outcome of failed top-down initiatives to 'do what's best for the Indians'.
In January, the Morris Mirror ran an editorial by the community paper's editor-in-chief Reed Turcotte, that likened First Nations to terrorists and decried our "corruption and laziness." Not to be outdone, 80-something Nanaimo resident Don Olsen submitted a letter to the editor in March, detailing our supposed total lack of achievements and inability to survive in a modern world.
According to the federal government Canada is a human rights leader, but this status was openly questioned at the Human Rights Council last week in Geneva. Under review for the second time as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, Canada found itself facing recommendations to step up its efforts to fulfill human rights and explain why little has been done to date.
The Indian Act is the most glaringly anti-democratic impediment to Indigenous self-government. Although they are elected, Chief and Council have no democratic authority to govern because they are constrained from above by the Act rather than from below by their people. The arrangement is insultingly arbitrary.
Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat did not launch a hunger strike over a single piece of legislation. In short, this is what we have always been talking about. Whether the particular focus has been on housing, or education or the environment, or whatever else. What lies at the heart of all these issues is our relationship with Canada. And Canada? This relationship is abusive. We have been backed into a corner and we are literally fighting for our lives. We are literally dying, in so many preventable and unacceptable ways. I'm not being poetic or hyperbolic here and I don't just mean culturally. We are dying. I need you -- WE need you, to see the forest and not just the trees.