Dear Federal Parliamentarians:
Rt. Honourable Stephen Harper, Progressive Conservative Party of Canada
Mr. Justin Trudeau, Liberal Party of Canada
Honourable Thomas Mulcair, New Democratic Party of Canada
Ms. Elizabeth May, Green Party of Canada
Re: “April 12th – An Annual Day of National Dialogue on Ending Racism in Canada – a Path toward Healing”
(To be carried forward by Carol Hughes MP: NDP / Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing):
“That a Motion and Private Members Bill be brought forward promptly forthwith in the House of Commons to set aside “April 12th as an Annual Day for a National Dialogue on Ending Racism in Canada
Further; that a bill be introduced and put forward, in this 41st Parliament, as a way to institutionalize a Government of Canada commitment toward the eradication of Racism in this country.”
In this Twenty-First Century, Canada is known to many as a very beautiful, safe country in which to thrive and raise families. Another reality experienced by far too many, is the corrosive and complex anomaly: Racism.
Racism is often overlooked and underrated as a major societal ill. It has plagued this country for decades. There is no argument; racism must be eradicated. As much as racism is evidenced by its destructive impacts, there currently exists no national strategy to deal with this malady. All citizens and visitors to this land deserve a society free from racism.
Background: it is clear that racism takes aim at all ethnic groups in this country. In fact, this being Black History Month in Canada, we are reminded that racism is a reality that is often ignored. In a recent article on February 6th 2015, Huffington Post contributor Adriana Addai describes:
“We like to think that racism is only a problem south of the border; one that “enlightened” Canadian society has moved past. We often fail to address Canada’s bleak history of slavery (which did in fact exist in this country for upwards of 150 years), and the implicit and systemic racism that many Afro-Canadians encounter today.”
Truth be told; many cultures and ethnic groups that seek to affix to the mosaic of Canada’s multi-culturist society, face racism on a daily basis and have faced it for many years.
What complicates racism in this country is that its effects are often compounded by attitudes and values that re-enforce the violence of racism, making worse issues such as gender inequality and discrimination in institutions.
The call for an Inquiry to the Issues of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, is just one glaring example that could prove to be one of Canada’s ugliest forms of racism stemming from decades of ‘systemic’ and ‘institutional racism.’ It is commonly known by experts that definitions of racism fall into one of the five categories – biology, ideology, culture, structure and power. It is highly suspected that these categories will have a role in coming to a clearer understanding as to why 1,181 Indigenous women and girls have went missing or have tragically turned up dead in Canada.
First Nations and the History of the Indian Act: written and oral history in Canada tells us of a time after contact when Europeans and the Indigenous Peoples co-existed through the treaty-making process. Prior to the Royal Proclamation of 1763, Peace and Friendship Treaties would historically set an important under-fabric on what is now known as Canada and the British North American Act, 1867 and the Canadian Constitution of 1982. The time period of treaty-making between 1763 and 1923 became very corrupted by the development of the only “race-based” legislation known to Canada; the Indian Act, 1876. Various policies as well as state and church initiatives that were focused on dealing with the “Indian Problem” focused on the Indian Acts primary objective – to assimilate the “Indian” into Canadian society.
This segment of Canada’s history takes place at a time when “nation building” was at the forefront of this country’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A MacDonald. In a Friday January 9, 2015 Toronto Star story by Laura J Murray, she publishes the following:
“That famous railroad? Macdonald engaged in rampant graft to get it through. His government starved aboriginal people on the prairies into submission to get it through. His government treated Chinese immigrants like dirt to get it through, and then came up with a head tax so more people of that “semi-barbaric, inferior race” couldn’t come to Canada.”
This letter is not intended to recount the lengthy history of racism in Canada and the treatment against land’s Indigenous Peoples. We can all agree that racism exists in Canada, and to deny this is the put our heads in the sand. It should be stated that this petition is not only made legitimate by the historical treatment against First Nation people, there also exists a number of systemic policies, programs, imposed legislations and institutional violations that are characteristic of racism. In an excerpt from the First Nation Child and Family Caring Society of Canada Annual Report 2011/2012;
In February of 2007, the AFN (www.afn.ca) and the Caring Society filed a human rights case against the Government of Canada (Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada or AANDC), alleging that child welfare funding inequities in First Nations child welfare amounted to racial discrimination. The case was filed as a last resort. First Nations had worked with Canada for over a decade to document the inequality and its related harms to First Nations children and families and to develop solutions to fix the problem.
This is just one issue among a long list of grievances that First Nations currently have in the media, in petitions for equitable funding, and before formal tribunals, courts, and international forums mandated for the protection of human rights. Canada, it is time to address racism as the common denominator in Canada’s relationship with Indigenous Peoples., Racism is still alive and well, especially in light of the fact that Canada’s Indian Act 1876, continues its function in Canadian society; to segregate a race of people on lands with administrative and colonial controls over their lives.
A New Narrative is an obvious goal where Canada and Indigenous Peoples could convene a “National Dialogue on Ending Racism in Canada – a Path toward Healing.” This would begin the important work of re-setting the relationship that is consistent with that of “The Peace and Friendship Treaties,” and ultimately bring a stronger nationwide focus on strategies to begin the arduous task of affecting the root causes of racism and its effects. Recognition of the role of Indigenous People in this process would also formally bring into focus other important elements to the broader solutions like Indigenous languages, jurisdictions, and a shared expression in the Nation-to-Nation relationship with Canada as full treaty partners.
There is much work and coordination needed on a number of levels; however the focus is to begin the process. Federal Parliamentarians are being asked to support this call and support it unanimously. Leading up to April 12, 2015, which is the preferred annual day to be set-aside for an “Annual day for a National Dialogue on Ending Racism in Canada,” a team will be established to work directly with those parliamentarians who will be responsible for advancing this Private members Bill and associated Motion.
Chief Isadore Day, Wiindawtegowinini
Serpent River First Nation
Council of the Federation
Assembly of First Nations
Aboriginal Organizations in Canada