By Jessica Lee
Right now I’m owning the title/stereotype/image/whatever you conjure up in your mind about “angry Natives” because along with the usual colonial-type affronts to our people and communities, there are some notable racist extremities happening across Canada as of late. Initially I felt like there was just way too much going on to even write a single post about – but I thought to at least round up a few of the points of why I’m so flippin’, screaming, ANGRY that may shed light on what some of you may not be aware of yet. And we also need y’all to do something about this stuff in your communities too:
- The continuous denial of racism towards Aboriginal people in the education system. A new study from the Canadian Teacher’s Federation interviewed 59 Aboriginal teachers teaching in public schools throughout the country. The teachers reported a disregard for their qualifications and capabilities, a standard lowered expectation from Aboriginal students; and general disparage of the long-lasting effects of colonization.
- The “Free Native Extraction Service” placed on the http://www.usedwinnipeg.com/website (of course taken down now) advertising that it could “get rid of those pesky buggers with extraction services to relocate them to their habitat.” To top it off they actually illegally used a photo in their advertisement from the Native Lens Film “March Point” which I wrote about here some months back – which is, incidentally, a film about environmental justice and what Native youth are doing positively in our communities.
- Tuberculosis is 185 times higher in the Inuit population than in the rest of Canada. I repeat 185 times the national average – according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. The recently released data from their Tuberculosis in Canada 2008 publication shows these appalling numbers contributing factors include “inadequate housing, as a result of both overcrowding and construction ill suited to the Arctic climate, and immune systems severely compromised by a general lack of healthy, affordable food’.”
- Harmonized Sales Tax or HST coming to the provinces of British Columbia and Ontario. Not that the government ignoring treaties is news by any stretch of the mind – however this is a big one to throw out the door of rights. The imposition of HST means that instead of seeing 8 per cent provincial Retail Sales Tax (RST or PST) and 5 per cent Goods and Services Tax (GST), consumers will pay a combined 13 per cent HST. Yet for the first time since the introduction of the provincial sales tax, HST means status First Nations will be subject to the 8 per cent portion of the tax. This is a total and blatant violation of our treaty rights, not to mention the Canadian Constitution. This is a good article to find out more and you can go here to do something about it.
- Massive cuts to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, along with other insulting highlights from the Throne Speech, which is essentially an outline of the Canadian federal government’s budget. (Sign the online petition to reinstate funding here.) The Aboriginal Healing Foundation has provided support to residential school survivors and their families for a decade, in addition to funding major projects in communities across the country. My colleagues and friends at the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal and Inuvialuit Regional Corp in the Northwest Territories will have to axe some of their most necessary programs like health promotion and community wellness worker certification. In total it means 134 community projects across Canada will no longer provide culturally-based healing services to Aboriginal people. Oh sure Harper said he was “sorry” for residential schools in 2008, but just last year he said that Canada has no history of colonialism, so I guess this is right in line with the$199 million promised to address the legacy of residential schools not being committed to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. But don’t worry, in this same speech they said that Canada thinks the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women is a “pressing criminal justice priority.” Uh-huh.
- All of the racist garbage and lateral violence people are spewing on the internet and in person about the proposed changes to Indian Status which would restore treaty rights to about 45 000 people. This decision is based mostly off of the Sharon McIvor court case, which addressed the specific gender discrimination of the Indian Act where even after the laws were changed in 1985 to restore status to Native women who lost it if they married a non-Native man, it didn’t extend past the children of those unions. However the new changes would now extend to grandchildren. I definitely don’t think the government should be able to regulate who is and is not considered “status”, but I don’t anymore appreciate the internalized racism that we are doing to each other by adding extra jumps and hoops to go through within the community for who is really recognized as having rights on reserve and who is not.
- These are just some of the latest oppressive occurrences against Indigenous people in Canada. On the regular I suppose I’ll also mention since it was International Women’s Day week last week, I didn’t find it any easier to get chastised by white women at the many events I spoke at when I brought up the mostly white academic industrial complex that mainstream feminism still lies in, and really doesn’t appear to care about the origins in Indigenous societies or the realities of Indigenous women for that matter – up until now (well, sort of) since we’re all of a sudden making the media with the thousands of us being murdered and going missing.
But it’s been going on for the last 500+ years, anyways.