Transforming Canada 150 into Colonialism 150

Two years ago, Angela Cardinal (not her name), the victim of a horrific physical and sexual assault, found herself in jail as she testified in the trial against her assailant, career criminal Lance Blanchard.

And so Ms Cardinal, a Cree woman from Maskwacis, joined the ranks of thousands of Indigenous women who discover that Canada’s so-called justice system is not designed for them.

Tomorrow, Canada celebrates its 150th birthday; which, as Indigenous activists and their allies tell us, would more correctly be called a celebration of 150 years of colonialism. There will be barbecues, picnics, red and white parades, fireworks and speeches galore. Royals Charles and Camilla will visit Ottawa. The Canadian Tire store near my house is selling special red and white petunias for the occasion, and I imagine the suppliers of Canadian flags are enjoying a banner year of sales.

Much will be made of what a wonderful country Canada is. Little will be said about the shameful treatment by colonizers past and present of the peoples who lived here long before any of our foreparents arrived.

The list of offences and indignities that settlers have imposed on Indigenous peoples is long. Don’t listen to me, though – skip the fireworks and barbecues this weekend and, instead, take the time to hear the voices of Indigenous peoples in Canada, to learn more about the legacy of colonialism and to support important work being done by Indigenous activists across the country. Here are a few suggestions:

Read Mi’kmaw lawyer and Ryerson University faculty member Pam Palmater’s story about what made her an activist when she was just seven years old.

Check out the “Remember, Resist, Redraw” poster project of the Graphic History Collective; a collaborative project featuring works by artists and writers committed to promoting art, activism and alternative history in what is today known as Canada. The goal of this project is to create a series of accessible radical history posters that can serve as a resource for activists as they struggle to bring about radical social transformation.

Listen to Jesse Wente’s talk about cultural appropriation on CBC radio.

Read Indigenous journalist Robert Jago on cultural appropriation in The Walrus.

Learn more about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls from the Native Women’s Association of Canada.

Read the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Support the Native Women’s Association of Canada with a financial contribution to its work.

Contribute to the Emerging Indigenous Voices Literary Award by making a donation on Indiegogo.

Buy and wear a Colonialism 150 t-shirt.

Call for the upcoming vacancy on the Supreme Court of Canada to be filled by an Indigenous judge.

And, if you are in Ottawa, visit the teepee erected on Parliament Hill earlier this week by a group of Indigenous activists, the Bawating Water Protectors, to educate the settler population about the treatment of Indigenous peoples.


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