Idle No More – A Learning OpportunityPosted: January 11, 2013
The vision of the Centre for Race and Culture is an inclusive society free of racism. We believe that this will happen when we all work together to examine the causes of, manifestations of, and solutions to racism in our society.
At this time when Aboriginal people are sending our messages through peaceful protest, we need to be listening intently and learning all we can about what they are saying to non-Aboriginal people. Our first peoples welcomed newcomers to this land, helped them to survive those first winters, and entered into Treaties between nations, in good faith. There have been many violations of those treaties.
Are we aware that the tiny pieces of land allotted to Aboriginal peoples were mostly not useful for sustaining life? Do we remember how traditional means of subsistence were severely limited by restricting movement? Do we know that Aboriginal peoples needed a special permit to leave their “reserves”, and that Apartheid South Africa used this as a model to restrict movement of Black South Africans? Are we aware that traditional ceremonies were made illegal? Are we fully cognizant of the ways Aboriginal children were forcefully taken from their families to residential schools? “Schools” where students were punished for speaking their own language, often not seeing families for many years, where most experienced abuse of all kinds, including death. Do we know that these residential schools operated until very recently? Can we even imagine the cascading effects of all of this on individuals, families, and communities? Are we aware of the racism that Aboriginal people experience on a daily basis in Canada?
Are we aware that Aboriginal peoples are contributing to our communities and country in many significant ways – Are we aware that many First Nations, Métis and Inuit are at the forefront of art, culture, economics, business, education and environmental innovation? Do we realize that Aboriginal Canadians are one of the fastest growing, youngest and most urban communities in the country and will drive economic and cultural growth into the future? Do we understand how important the Idle no More movement is for all of Canada?
Yet stereotypes abound and are rising to the surface. Mainstream media and mainstream responses are tinged with subtle and unconscious discrimination. Many of us believe that Aboriginal people choose not to work and would rather collect welfare. We are told repeatedly that our First Peoples get everything for “free” and are not appropriately grateful. The motives of Chief Theresa Spence are questioned, with one headline wondering whether she had the “moral right to hunger strike”.
The discrimination we are witnessing is violent and shames all civilized societies: the recent rape of an Aboriginal women in Thunder Bay whose attackers made reference to the Idle No More movement is an abhorrent and unacceptable example.
The Centre for Race and Culture fully supports the Idle No More Movement and respects the words and peaceful methods being used. We urge all Canadians to speak out against racism and to unite in the voice that demands the racialized violence against Aboriginal communities and in particular Aboriginal women stops. Finally we ask everyone to take the time to listen and learn at this important time in history.
Centre for Race and Culture
Please direct all media responses to Ian Mathieson, Senior Consultant, Centre for Race and Culture: 780-425-4644, ext.2, firstname.lastname@example.org.