How would you feel if some invaders killed your grandparents, stole their farm and the land of the entire community, stuck your parents and the rest of the surviving community on a remote patch, forbade their culture, and then forced the children to school in the culture and language of the invader, and finally decades later the invader says sorry about just the coerced schooling?
The Canadian government has apologized to the Original Peoples who remain de facto occupied and colonized.1 The government apologized for the incarceration of indigenous youths within the colonialist education system. Canadian churches ran the euphemistically titled residential schools that sought to “civilize” the children by imposing colonial language and colonial religion while forbidding indigenous languages, religion, and culture.2 Some go further in their denouncement, such as the controversial ex-United Church minister Kevin Annett who claimed in his self-promoting documentary Unrepentant: Kevin Annett and Canada’s Genocide that there was a genocide of 50,000 children within the residential schools. Arnett, at least, deserves some credit for pushing the issue of a residential school genocide to the public forefront; there is a truth and reconciliation commission now investigating this dark Canadian history.
Of course an apology is in order, and it is long overdue. But what exactly does an apology mean? What about reparations? Is waging a war on Afghanis of higher priority than addressing the state’s crimes to citizens it calls its own?
What about the denial of justice?
Canada refuses neutral jurisdiction to adjudicate grievances between Original Peoples and the state. What about the refusal of the government to recognize indigenous rights?5
I have followed the plight of the rightful owners of the land6, and the assault on the Original Peoples is not a creature of the past. It is ongoing. Just to portray a sampling:
- The corporate exploitation of resources on traditional indigenous territory.7
- The undermining of traditional indigenous self-governance.8
- The destruction of the environment.9
- The struggle of the Haida to protect title and the land.10
- The non-recognition of the Lubicon Lake First Nation and the theft of their forests and oil.11
- Dealing with toxic legacies.12
- The struggle of the Mi’kmaq for treaty guaranteed fishing rights.13
- The usurping indigenous title for ski resorts.14
- Basing an Olympics on stolen land.15
- The opposition to corporations threatening wild salmon stocks.16
With all the longstanding and ongoing crimes against the Original Peoples, what really does an apology, which just grazes the tip of the iceberg of colonialization, really mean?
- “Canada apologizes for trying to ‘kill the Indian in the child,’” Cape Breton Post, 12 June 2008. [↩]
- Kim Petersen, “Behind Closed Doors: Tales from Canada’s Hidden Holocaust,” Dissident Voice, 24 September 2007. [↩]
- The Law Society of Upper Canada admitted to attorney Bruce Clark: “The ‘genocide’ of which Mr. Clark speaks is real, and has very nearly succeeded in destroying the Native Canadian community that flourished here when European settlers arrived…We are sympathetic, moreover, to Mr. Clark’s assertion that the courts have been unwilling to listen to his argument.” “Gustafsen Lake-Leave to Appeal,” Solidarity with Six Nations, 18 September 1997. [↩]
- Hillary Bain Lindsay, “Home On Native Land,” The Dominion, 19 April 2006. [↩]
- Kim Petersen, “UN-Justice in Canada,” The Dominion, 29 September 2006. [↩]
- If land, indeed, should be owned. Traditionally, Original Peoples do not adhere to such a capitalist concept. [↩]
- Kim Petersen, “Corporate Rights Trump Indigenous Rights in Ontario,” The Dominion, 5 June 2008. [↩]
- Martin Lukacs, “Coup d’état in Indian Country,” The Dominion, 16 March 2008. [↩]
- Kim Petersen, “Oil Versus Water,” The Dominion, 15 October 2007. [↩]
- Kim Petersen, “The Struggle for Haida Gwaii,” The Dominion, 6 November 2004. [↩]
- Kim Petersen, “Canada’s Oil Invasion,” Dissident Voice, 25 April 2005. [↩]
- Kim Petersen, “Canada, Racism, Genocide, and the Bomb,” The Dominion, 5 April 2005. [↩]
- Gary Zatzman, “Marshall Decision: What is the trouble and who is the troublemaker in the East Coast fisheries?” TML Weekly, 28 November-5 December 1999. [↩]
- Kim Petersen “‘I take this as genocide,’” The Dominion, 30 December 2004. [↩]
- Maya Rolbin-Ghanie, “‘It’s All About The Land,’” The Dominion, 1 March 2008. [↩]
- Media release, “First Nation Chiefs Declare Skeena Watershed ‘Fish Farm Free Zone’ at Public Aquaculture Hearings,” Friends of Wild Salmon, 19 June 2006. [↩]