As a former commercial fisher on Lake Huron, and as a former Chief and Regional Chief over a span of 15 years, I am quite simply appalled at the racially motivated attacks on Mi’kmaq lobster fishers that have been escalating for nearly a month now. All Indigenous harvesters across this country should be very, very concerned that their basic rights to a livelihood are not being protected.
When the lives of our Indigenous sisters and brothers become threatened to the degree that is happening right now in Nova Scotia, we must all speak out. If necessary, we must stand and help carry this fight. We are obligated to protect the next generation.
Right across this country, our rights and jurisdictions are being trampled upon – whether it is the right to protect our lands from mining or encroaching housing developments; the right to fish when and where we want on either coast and inland lakes; or the right to grow and sell cannabis. Canadians must never be ignorant of the fact that our Peoples allowed Europeans to settle on our lands. We shared the lands and wealth in good faith.
Today, we are firmly under control of the colonial Indian Act that has simply resulted in chaos and dysfunction in our communities. Our leaders have been powerless for far too long. We are subject to a revolving door of federal Ministers and bureaucrats who never seem to get a grasp on all the issues before they are replaced.
Far too many of our Peoples continue to be powerless wards of the Crown. Our children continue to be taken from families who are simply too poor or dysfunctional to take care of them. Why? Because of the legacy of residential schools and the endless cycle of drugs, alcohol, and abuse. Our leaders lurch from crisis to crisis – the current pandemic; increasing suicides; lack of housing, contaminated water, unhealthy foods, the list goes on.
We have had Royal Commissions and First Ministers Meetings since the 1980s that have produced thousands of recommendations. We have had thousands of children since then who did not see any hope and have either ended their lives or ended up as victims of violence. Again, the Indian Act is the root of all evil in the Missing and Murdered Women and Girls. The families are still waiting for a response and action plan from the government that is now one year overdue.
This is the year 2020 but it feels like 1920 when our Peoples did not have the right to vote, hire a lawyer, or leave their tiny reserves without permission from the white Indian agent. Today, institutional racism makes our Peoples afraid to go to the hospital or mainstream schools. In 1920, the RCMP forcibly removed our children to residential schools. Today, the RCMP stands idly by while our People are attacked.
We need healing and we need equality. At some point, Canada will recover from this pandemic. In the meantime, Canada and the provinces must include First Nations and Indigenous peoples in all aspects of social and economic regeneration.
The federal government wants to “Build Back Better”. This will not truly happen if our Peoples continue to be left behind. Implement those 30-year-old recommendations such as providing enough land so we can generate our own economies. End the Indian Act. Share the wealth. Honour the Crown’s commitment to be equal partners with our Peoples.
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