Like many Canadians, what I have learned over the past few years about how settlers have treated / still treat First Nations and First Peoples in Canada has horrified me. That horror amplified by the reports of these past few weeks. Activities that, if occurring in any other country, Canadians would not hesitate to call “genocide” without a second thought. In fact, we have actually called out behaviour less offensive than Canada’s treatment of First Nations as “genocide” on more than one occasion.
But this historical reality does not comport with how we see ourselves. We’re Canada. In our minds, we’re always the “good guys.” Proud peacekeepers. Diverse. Welcoming. So clean. Decent.
So for many of us, the ongoing revelations of the shameful behavior of our predecessors have been hard to digest.
Some get defensive: They say “But that wasn’t us”, “That was long ago”, or “That was evil people from the Roman Catholic church” and most often “My family wasn’t even HERE then.”
But the reality is that every settler, regardless of their arrival date on these shores, has benefitted from the abysmal way in which Canada treated Indigenous Peoples. Every settler has benefited from the remarkable natural wealth taken from the land; wealth that built our settlers’ commerce, built our infrastructure that delivers us clean water, our decent housing, our reliable energy, our strong education system, and most importantly, our freedoms, and our prosperity. All the very reasons still more settlers came to Canada, and things we largely take for granted.
And all things we have systemically denied to those from whom we took the land.
So as the evidence of Canada’s genocide is laid bare, what matters now is how our generation responds to this moment. What we, as individual Canadians, demand of our government, and – in some cases – demand of our religious leaders and the institutions which perpetrated these crimes.
There have been too many broken promises. Too many delays. While there are often challenges, and complex reasons for our broken commitments, the solutions simply cannot wait any longer. We can no longer look away and say “I didn’t know”. Now we know.
We must all work to meet this moment. “Reconciliation” needs to be more than just a word.
There can be no more prevarication. Indigenous peoples deserve justice. And beyond justice, reliable sources of clean water – and training on how to maintain them. Decent, safe houses – and better training on how to maintain them. Equal educational options that meet First Nations’ unique needs, supported by funding that is at the very least, equal to the amount spent on children in every other provincial school system. Combined with better health care, infrastructure in the North that meets their needs – not just the needs of those extracting resources.
The list is long. But it’s long because it’s been ignored for centuries.
In acknowledgement of a need to right these wrongs, and as a visual representation of our standing up in support of First Nations peoples, the Clean50 logo as seen on our social media identities and website has been modified in advance of Canada Day to clearly show that support.
We urge all Canadians to consider all these circumstances, from the past to the present day, and reach out to their MPs and ask our government for meaningful action on an urgent basis.
Executive Director, Canada’s Clean50
CEO, Delta Management Group
Two useful links providing further links to curated useful sites providing a variety of relevant content:
Other links of interest:
- Indigenous mental health resources in Canada
- Garnet Angeconeb residential school survivor + activist
- Decolonize Myself: A 2 spirted and Cree advocate aims to explore colonization, decolonization, healing, and culture
- Shayla Oulette Stonechild: Host and founder of an online platform, podcast and non-profit focused on amplifying Indigenous women’s voices and providing wellness workshops intertwined with meditation
- CBC report featuring 5 indigenous teens
- Elle Canada profiles 15 indigenous women to know in Canada, including Clean50 Emerging Leader Autumn Peltier