June 21, 2021
On this 25th anniversary of National Aboriginal Day, now known as the National Indigenous Day, the west Coast Coalition Against Racism takes this opportunity to offer a statement of our respect, and commitment of support and solidarity to all Indigenous People who have shown their enduring integrity by retaining their cultures, identities, ceremonies, traditions, and languages in the face of hundreds of years of genocidal oppression.
Canadians from non-aboriginal colonial settler backgrounds still have a long way to go to turn the rhetoric of reconciliation into actions that truly honour the People on whose unceded lands and resources contemporary Canadian lifestyle and standard of living have been created. Native art, music, story telling, sustainable fishing, hunting, forest practices, food and natural medicine harvesting, family and child rearing practices, settlement and governance traditions, and hereditary verbal historical records were fully operational prior to colonial intervention. It is remarkable that these elements of sustaining culture have not only endured but are once again reclaiming their powerful voice.
Indigenous People of Canada are fully aware they have much to celebrate. However, it is also a time to mourn and mark the high price that has been paid in living through the time since colonial occupation.
Non-Indigenous Canadians, and so many others from around the world, were shocked and surprised by the recent discovery of the 215 unmarked burial sites of indigenous children in the grounds around the Catholic run Indigenous Residential School in Kamloops. This of course was no surprise to the hundreds of Indigenous families who have been crying out for more than 100 years, “where are our children?”
Many comfortable middle classed non-indigenous Canadians were horrified that such atrocities could happen in a country like Canada, and why? It does seem that slowly, and reluctantly, the people of Canada are becoming awakened to the facts buried in the unwritten history of systemic racism that this country was founded on.
The “Doctrine of Discovery” going back to Roman times, is what forms the legal basis for British and French colonial occupiers to believe they own the land formerly occupied by pre-colonial First Nations. It is to their credit that Indigenous Peoples of Canada still believe it is possible to forge a better future together. However, that optimism is punctuated by the demand, “NO JUSTICE NO RECONCILLIATION.” The often referred to “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” outlined many of the JUSTICE FACTORS that remain to be addressed. They also estimated that there are still more than 4000 missing children from residential schools whose lost souls are still to be discovered.
The founding history of systemic racism has its intersectional links to racism in policing, health care, child and family services, abdication of Treaty Commitments, degradation of water and air quality, extinction of land and sea creatures, extraction of resources, annexation, and occupation of unceded indigenous held lands.
The West Coast Coalition Against Racism believes it is possible to forge a better future that will more equitably respect and sustain all inhabitants of this “Turtle Island.” However, there is much work to be done to tell the true and complete story of Canada’s history and to get past the hollow rhetorical promises without meaningful change. We stand in solidarity with Canada’s First Nations in making their voices heard and in taking the necessary steps for them to regain sovereignty over their ancestral lands and resources. WHAT A CELEBRATION THAT WILL BE.
Robert Hornsey, Executive Board Member, on behalf of
West Coast Coalition Against Racism (www.wc-cars.org)