Canada’s treatment of its First Nations

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Added: Wed, 04/25/2018 - 9:44pm
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Gord Downie - singer, songwriter and activist - was posthumously honoured at the 2018 Junos recently with an emotional tribute and three awards: Artist of the Year; Adult Alternative Album of the Year, and Songwriter of the Year.
On indigenous issues, Downie acknowledged Canada’s problematic history with Indigenous Peoples. His dying wish was to start a conversation. “History will be
rewritten. We are all accountable,” he wrote about Canada’s treatment of its First Nations, including residential school abuse. “'White Canada' knew nothing about this. We weren’t taught it in school.”
‘White Canada’ has established a relationship with Indigenous groups that it needs to confront. Our national identity doesn’t include minority groups, and they are unrepresented in government legislation. Racism in Canada happens behind closed doors. Canada tends to think of itself as the epitome of tolerance and inclusiveness (and we LOVE to smugly compare ourselves to our neighbors to the south), but our actions tell a different story. We tend to push issues that affect Indigenous communities—such as low-quality schooling, high suicide rates, and missing and murdered Indigenous women—from our minds. Perhaps the first step, as Downie proposed, is to learn about our past. The more difficult step, which, as a nation, we have not yet taken, is to make real concrete changes in our thinking about our identity, and our relationship with all of the inhabitants of our country.
At the last Tragically Hip concert, Downie told the crowd: “We’re in good hands folks, real good hands. [Trudeau] cares about the people way up north.” Trudeau had established himself as an advocate for Indigenous rights. However, Hayden King, assistant professor at the School of Public Policy at Carleton University has commented, “I think this government is particularly exceptional for showing up to class, but just failing to do any of the work.” According to CBC, “during the 2015 election campaign, Justin Trudeau told First Nations that if [they] elected him, he would absolutely respect [their] legal right to veto any development on [their] territories.” We need only to look at Trudeau’s approval of the Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline and the Kinder Morgan Pipeline to see that the promise was quickly disregarded.
If we really want our relationship with Indigenous Peoples to change, we need to commit to the less glamorous side of the movement. We need to hold our politicians accountable for the promises they make to those communities. We need to empathize with people in different social positions from ourselves, and ask how issues such as oil pipelines affect these groups. We need to work to better our relationships with Indigenous Peoples all the time, not only when it is
attractive or convenient.

Tyson Burger
Éditorialiste Invitée
Guest Editorialist