Discriminatory stereotypes about First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Indigenous peoples permeate contemporary society and disproportionately impact the social, economic, educational, and health outcomes of Indigenous men, women, and children.
Today we share words from Indigenous writers that are helping us better understand this injustice and the work we must take on to develop respectful and just relationships between first peoples and Canada. We invite you to share with us what you’ve been learning during National Indigenous History Month, and to share this learning with friends, family, and colleagues.
“I note many people up here in the Great White North acted shocked by the brutality of police officers murdering a Black man. It was as if racism existed in a far-off land or was something foreign to them. But it’s here in Canada on such a large scale and has been since this country was founded.
Indigenous people are scared for their lives every day due to racism. Do you know the story of Colten Boushie; Cindy Gladue; or Neil Stonechild? That’s only a few who fell victim to death by racism — look them up.”Brandi Morin, Canadians shocked by George Floyd’s death should face up to the Indigenous struggle here at home, The Toronto Star, June 6, 2020
“I want Canadians to understand that the right to send their child to high school doesn’t really exist for a lot of Indigenous communities in the north. Often it’s a choice between survival and education. … I feel there’s a layer of racism against Indigenous people that will always run through Canadian society. It’s starting to finally be realized and acknowledged. But it’s taking a long time.”Tanya Talaga, author of Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death and Hard Truths in a Northern City
“Of all of the hurtful experiences associated with the vanishing of a loved one, one of the most is the racism displayed when our First Nations loved ones disappear. We hear things like “I heard she was just a party animal,” or, “Was she wanted by the cops?” Or, the worst of all, that she “lived a high-risk lifestyle.” These labels have taught mainstream society that all our women and girls are just that – prostitutes, addicts and hitchhikers, and therefore not worthy of care or effort. This is not true: Tamara [Lynn Chipman] is loved, now and forever. The Government of Canada as a whole has the responsibility of ensuring every citizen is protected by the laws of the land; all people living in Canada have the responsibility to live in peace and with respect for basic human rights, including safety and justice. It is time for justice, closure, accountability, equality and true reconciliation.”Gladys Radek, National Family Advisory Circle, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
“We call upon the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, in consultation and collaboration with Survivors, Aboriginal peoples, and educators, to make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for Kindergarten to Grade Twelve students; provide the necessary funding to post-secondary institutions to educate teachers on how to integrate Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods into classrooms; provide the necessary funding to Aboriginal schools to utilize Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods in classrooms; and establish senior-level positions in government at the assistant deputy minister level or higher dedicated to Aboriginal content in education.”Recommendation 62, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
“My answer has always been: Why can’t you always remember this? Because this is about memorializing those people who have been the victims of a great wrong. Why don’t you tell the United States to ‘get over’ 9/11? Why don’t you tell this country to ‘get over’ all the veterans who died in the Second World War, instead of honouring them once a year?
We should never forget, even once they have learned from it, because it’s part of who we are. It’s not just a part of who we are as survivors and children of survivors and relatives of survivors, it’s part of who we are as a nation. And this nation must never forget what it once did to its most vulnerable people.”Senator Murray Sinclair, when asked to respond to those who ask why Indigenous people don’t just “get over” the residential school experience
“Racism pervades all levels and structures of Canadian settler society … and it creates, complicates, perpetuates and ensures patterns of Indigenous homelessness across Canada.”Jesse Thistle, author of From the Ashes
As Hamiltonians we must move from being non-racist to being anti-racist. We must break our silos, educate ourselves, and actively support anti-racist organizing in our community. We must engage in difficult conversations with our families, friends, and colleagues. Each of us has an important role in this fight.