OTTAWA—Now that the hysteria over the audacity of a national inquiry’s use of the word “genocide” has died down, let’s take stock of how the Canadian government continues to proactively perpetuate systemic and systematic racism against Indigenous peoples.
In Grassy Narrows First Nation, children have been suffering (sometimes fatally) from mercury poisoning for the better part of the last half century. Community activists have been fighting to bring attention to this issue, while all levels of government drag their feet, at best, and at worst, laugh off the issue. The community is still without answers, far from receiving any form of justice, while the current government pats itself on the back for vacuous iterations of ostensible progress on reconciliation.
Furthermore, on June 12, a mere 90 minutes after an Indigenous mother gave birth, British Columbia Children and Family Services arrived at the hospital to take her child away saying they received a report of neglect, despite no investigation into said report, while the infant continues to be held in foster case. This is one of countless stories of the forcible separation of families—the legacy of residential schools and the “60s scoop” persists.
It took a protracted human rights complaint by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, led by Cindy Blackstock, for the government to finally acknowledge the neglect of First Nations children. The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled in 2016 that Ottawa discriminated against First Nations children by underfunding child welfare services on-reserve. Although some of these issues are addressed in Bill C-92 (the law that transfers child welfare to First Nations communities), which passed in Parliament on June 20, the federal government has still not paid a cent to First Nations children, despite four orders from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to comply with their 2016 ruling.
In another episode of this bad reality show, this winter, the United Nations Human Rights Committee stated that Canada still discriminates against First Nations women and their descendants in the Indian Act. Despite amendments in 1985, which made it possible for women with “Indian” status who marry non-Indigenous men to maintain their status, in reality their status is far from equal. Again, it took a B.C. Court of Appeal decision, owing to Sharon McIvor’s human rights complaint, for there to be any government action. Despite this, cabinet cannot be bothered to pass an order-in-council to eliminate sex discrimination from the Indian Act.
So much for gender-based analysis.
Last week, an important bill died in the Senate. Bill C-262, a private member’s bill from NDP MP Romeo Saganash, which would have implemented the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada (UNDRIP), was defeated by the unelected Senate. The initial Liberal government line was that UNDRIP was “unworkable” in Canadian law, even though it was among their myriad of 2015 electoral promises; however it wasn’t until backlash from folks in the Indigenous community that the bill was backed by the Liberals.
This winter, the RCMP forcibly removed Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and supporters from their unceded territory to allow for the LNG pipeline. And now, despite passing a motion that declared a national emergency on climate change, the federal Liberals charge ahead with the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, paying no mind to the toll exacted on and the land forcibly stolen from Indigenous communities.
These perversions of justice, in addition to the countless findings in the MMIWG inquiry report, are only what took place in 2019.
Justin Trudeau will have you believe that no relationship is more important than Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples. He’ll don a pair of moccasins and flash his Haida tattoo, but like his land acknowledgements, this is nothing more than window dressing.
This is not reconciliation, it’s Wreckonciliation, an ongoing colonial project of systemic and systematic genocide, and the Liberal government is one of its chief proponents in both actions, words, and sometimes, criminal negligence. Stolen land and stolen sisters are not part of Canada’s past, a shameful history we can simply apologize for.
Acknowledging colonialism, and recognizing that we occupy stolen land is the bare minimum. Failing to say that stolen lands should be returned, and failing to fight for reparations for Indigenous people is tacit approval of the colonial and genocidal system from which all non-Indigenous people reap immense benefits.
Your land acknowledgements are nothing more than lip service. You need to do the work and dismantle Canada’s genocidal regime. Because the Liberals sure as hell won’t.
Erica Ifill and Amy Kishek are co-hosts of the Bad+Bitchy podcast.
The Hill Times