Unsettling Canada 150
July 1, 2017 10:25 AM   Subscribe

Chief Dan George's Lament for Confederation is still relevant 50 years later. As the official celebrations of Canada's 150th begin, many are (even more than usual) expressing discomfort at flag waving, and choosing instead to discuss the challenges issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Canada's failure to address the ongoing violence and injustice of colonialism.

A protest teepee was erected on the grounds of the Ottawa Canada Day celebrations; first meeting police resistance and facing arrest, but finally winning a visit from the prime minister.

Idris Elbakri shares why he will both celebrate Canada Day and stand up for First nations rights, writing
"I think most Canadians, no matter where their ancestors hailed from, were somehow shaped by the legacy of colonialism (and some, of course, were advantaged by it). This is true of descendants of French colonists as it is true of new immigrants from the Indian subcontinent or refugees from Syria"

The glowing reports of Canada's awesomeness are disrupted in the NY Times by Gabrielle Scrimshaw's searing essay, Canada's Hidden History, My mother and me.

And comedian Ryan McMahon's excellent podcast offers a 12 step program for decolonizing canada.
posted by chapps (17 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
(I know many are criticizing Trudeau's visit to the teepee as standard PR selfie exercise, but IMO any protest that has the PM of the colonial power you protest come to you is a victory).
posted by chapps at 10:26 AM on July 1 [11 favorites]

I was disgusted by the police response and threat of arrests. However, it was an excellent way to make it clear exactly why indigenous people are protesting.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:50 AM on July 1 [2 favorites]

And thank you for this post, chapps.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:51 AM on July 1 [1 favorite]

As a Canadian I feel very conflicted about this celebration. I am proud of my citizenship and the rights, liberties, and privileges that I have.

But I know that those same rights, liberties, and privileges are not something that everyone has access to. We have a lot of work to do and we need to allow those who have been silenced to speak up and be heard. Those of us who have privilege need to learn how to step aside, support, and listen to others.

We can make our country better, for all. Happy Canada Day!
posted by Fizz at 11:33 AM on July 1 [14 favorites]

But today, in 2017, Canada, the Crown, JT, controls 99.8% of all lands in Canada. That means, Indigenous peoples, we have a say over and control of 0.2% of all land in Canada, and we wonder why we're poor?

Canada is you, too, Ryan! Crown land isn't mine, it doesn't belong to a foreign government, and it isn't the property of some symbolic white guy. It's ours as a nation.

A protest teepee was erected on the grounds of the Ottawa Canada Day celebrations

And then the protesters held a
gong show of a press conference.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 12:44 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]

As a Canadian I feel


posted by philip-random at 12:58 PM on July 1 [3 favorites]

the difference being, Pruitt-Igoe, most non-indigenous Canadians chose Canada (or their parents, grandparents, ancestors did). Indigenous folks, on the other hand ...
posted by philip-random at 1:01 PM on July 1 [2 favorites]

From the article Pruitt-lgoe linked to:
'We are not a violent people. We don't believe in violence, and right away we encountered violence.'
- Sophie, Moose Creek First Nation
This is such a common phenomenon whenever any minority or disenfranchised group protests. The authorities expect violence and walk into these situations with that mindset and it just sets such an ugly tone.
posted by Fizz at 1:06 PM on July 1 [2 favorites]

I am confused as to how the Crown owns virtually all of Canada. Can someone explains this for me?
posted by koavf at 1:19 PM on July 1

koavf: Canada has enormous land resources but an extremely small population, so the bulk of Canada is (currently) unsettled. Any land not privately owned is by default owned by the Crown. I'm not sure where the 99.8% number comes from; Wikipedia has it at 89%, with 11% privately owned. That number is from 2007, but I would honestly expect to see that number go down from 89%, not up.
Why that specific political division of North America among the First Nations of 1492 deserves to be preserved in eternal amber is something to be discussed as well.
That isn't really the issue; there are still a great many disputes around territorial boundaries amongst and between First Nations and other indigenous groups, but the larger issue isn't about political boundaries, it's about a true and full accounting of genocide, an acknowledgment that systemic racism is a real and ongoing thing, even formally in some of our laws, and finding a way to move forward ethically, which I don't think involves just shrugging shoulders and saying "oh well, this is what's like now so I guess you'll just have to deal with it." (That having been the traditional method of "moving forward.")
posted by Fish Sauce at 1:32 PM on July 1 [11 favorites]

The Crown owns virtually all land in Canada because Canada is a British colony and the Crown also owns virtually all land in Britain except that which is owned freehold by someone else.

If you own a piece of land freehold it is yours until the end of time or until you die, whichever comes first. At that point ownership of that piece of land reverts to the Crown.
posted by tel3path at 1:32 PM on July 1 [2 favorites]

The Prime Minister mentioned the First Nations issue in his Canada Day greeting.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:34 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]

Why the 'nation of immigrants' language is not just wrong but harmful.
"Aboriginal peoples were the first inhabitants of this continent and the original custodians of its lands and resources. As a result of long-standing use and occupation, they have continuing rights in the land. They also hold the status of self-governing nations by virtue of their prior standing as fully independent, sovereign entities. This sovereignty was manifested originally in the international relations that Aboriginal nations maintained with one another. After contact, it was also recognized in practice by incoming European powers, as they competed among themselves to establish favourable alliances and trading relations with Aboriginal peoples. The sovereignty of Aboriginal nations did not come to an end when colonial governments were established."
So, if the Governor General redefines Indigenous people as "immigrants," that's distorting the original meaning of the nation-to-nation relationship set out in law.

posted by Space Coyote at 1:42 PM on July 1 [3 favorites]

[A few comments deleted. It's just weird to "well actually" about indigenous claims in an abstract way ignoring all the context, come on.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:04 PM on July 1 [4 favorites]

So, if the Governor General redefines Indigenous people as "immigrants," that's distorting the original meaning of the nation-to-nation relationship set out in law.

I'd say not just distorting but a form of lying/dishonesty and the consequences would make it technically qualify as hate speech, example of institutional prejudice, etc.
posted by polymodus at 2:30 PM on July 1 [4 favorites]

tel3path, that almost makes it sound like land is on a lifetime lease. But if I die, my land still belongs to my estate, just like in the US.

Regarding the 99.8%, Ryan McMahon was probably referring to 0.45% of land being Native reserve land, and the rest being privately or government-owned.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 2:40 PM on July 1

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