Canada Day +1, Our Quiet Genocide

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A banner drop during last night’s Canada Day celebration in Toronto’s Mel Lastman Square. (Photo: IdleNoMore.ca)

Canadians are so nice. We have such a happy, positive self-concept. This makes it quite hard to address the quiet genocide of first peoples that our nation has conducted for centuries.

What is genocide? The UN’s Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide includes this [I’ve bolded a few that stand out for me]:

…any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

We have no concentration camps, but we do have impoverished first nations reserves. And for the most part, most settler Canadians pay little attention to these things our governments do on our behalf. But I am reminded of our nation’s treatment of, and relationships with, the first peoples in two articles I read yesterday, Canada/Settler Day: Dr. Lynn Gehl‘s Genocide, Racism and Canada Day: An Algonquin-Anishinaabekwe Love Letter and Megan Kinch‘s On Being Canadian.

Love Letter:

  1. Canada pushes Indigenous people into unsustainable living conditions, and then imposes policies on them that assure their termination as distinct social political entities.
  2. Canadians do not have the time and mind space to determine for themselves that genocide is what it is. 
  3. This is the way that genocide sometimes operates — right in front of people’s eyes, yet these same people can’t see it because Canada has blinded its citizens’ ability to see it.  Genocide in plain sight is the worst form of genocide to raise awareness about.
  4. The story of Canada has no real cultural depth beyond that of a song, a flag, and a fictional story of two founding nations: the British and the French. [And I would add mixing in military images into the Canada Day pre-game montage of the Blue Jays highlights: leader, country, sport, military = recipe for totalitarianism].
  5. Nation states such as Canada have been very successful at monopolizing people’s mindsets in a way that they are convinced that they are “people of a country” rather than “Indigenous people of the earth.”
  6. Nationalism has also been successful at convincing Canadians that Indigenous knowledge philosophy and culture is primitive, non-progressive, and thus unworthy of being respected as a valid source of knowledge.
  7. Nationalism has been successful at convincing proud Canadians that their hard earned tax dollars are being squandered by the Indigenous people of Turtle Island.  In doing this, Canada creates a blinding system where proud Canadians are unable to see the source of the environmental destruction, and the very real value of earth centred Indigenous knowledge systems.
  8. Canada will only teach you what will serve their paradigm — even if that paradigm is harming all life on earth, your children’s lives and their children’s lives included.  Do not underestimate the role that state nationalism has had on your mind set and practices.
  9. Gehl’s piece ends with a litany of cultural genocidal legislation and policy that Canada enacted to solve the Indian Problem.

On Being Canadian:

  1. Canada is a settler state, founded on racism and genocide and whiteness and never had the chutzpah to actually break with Britain.
  2. I used to feel feelings of pride as I heard the national anthem “Oh, Canada we stand on guard for thee”. Now I’m not sure what I feel. I don’t like that anthem, I don’t like the flag, I feel complicit in this stupid project of Canada and unable to extricate myself.
  3. But when people who are clearly plain vanilla white who have to do genealogical research in order to claim some other origin reject Canada… when White people show an upside down Canadian flag or say fuck Canada and whatever…I’m not sure how progressive this is.
  4. If I, from a very white Canadian background, can become progressive and anti-imperialist, then other people can too. I’m not better or smarter than other people, I’ve just been exposed to different stuff.
  5. I’m clearly White, and I walk around being White every day. And I’m also clearly Canadian. I also want the categories of Whiteness and Canadianness to cease to exist as they are based on oppression and fuckery. But my own wishing doesn’t make it so. The only thing that can do that is a systemic dismantling of the oppressive structures, and a building of new cultures and systems that are for actual justice and the rights of all peoples.
  6. So, I’m anti racist and anti imperialist, but I’m also Canadian. ug… I don’t even like saying it. Because I just can’t untangle my own identity from all this other crap until all of the structures that build this – capitlism, racisim, imperalism- until they are undone as well.

So, we need to ask ourselves: are we part of the solution, or not yet aware of the facts of our history that perpetuate injustice still today?

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Stephen Elliott-Buckley

Post-partisan eco-socialist.
Stephen Elliott-Buckley is a husband, father, former suburban Vancouver high school English and Social Studies teacher who changed careers because the BC Liberal Party has been working hard to ruin public education. He has various English and Political Science degrees and has been writing political, social and economic editorials since November 2002. Stephen is in Twitter, Miro and iTunes, and the email thing, and at his website, dgiVista.org.

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