Do I think Justin Trudeau is the nicest and best Prime Minister Canada has maybe ever had? Yep. Do I think it will stop Canada from destroying land, polluting water, giving industry priority over water and life, building pipelines, or expanding the tar sands? Nope. Do I think Trudeau and his government will be the best yet in terms of the relationship between Canada and Indigenous Peoples? Yep. Do I think things for our people will fundamentally change as a result? Nope. Do I think there will be fewer child suicides, fewer children stolen by CFS, less poverty, lessened effects from residential schools, fewer murders and less violence? Nope. Why? Because no matter how nice the PM is, no matter how much “we” (Canadians and Indigenous people) like each other and are getting along, Canada is built upon beliefs and values that uphold the rights of government to make and enforce laws upon us, that uphold the theft of Indigenous lands, that replace our governance with British systems, that instate laws to have complete control over our lives, and above all, that uphold the rights of the economy over ecology.
The system, no matter how nice or well-intentioned the people are who run it, is a machine that will fight us every step of the way in our attempts to have our lands and sovereignty restored. Nor can the system stop industry from destroying the earth, because the system itself is designed to support the economy, industry, and above all, itself, no matter who is elected. Pipelines are going to proceed even if the PM himself personally goes out to meet and greet the grassroots. Because, truth be told, the Canadian Government wants pipelines, and the government is only listening to the AFN, MNC or ITK. For all this talk of “nation to nation,” the government has not demonstrated that it will listen to Nations or to the people who make up the 1.4 million Indigenous Peoples. So far, they have only listened to registered non-profit corporations — non-profits that consistently ignore the grassroots and traditional/community leadership that are actually making change on the ground. Not nations and not the people. Whatever they discuss and decide will never reach the people they purport to represent. If they bothered to speak to the grassroots they would hear a different story. And our elected Indigenous leaders in these corporations know this, so they don’t bother communicating with the grassroots either. Most of them support “resource revenue sharing.” Why? Poverty. I get it. But no amount of “resource revenue sharing,” and the destruction of our lands and the environment that is its trade-off, is ever going to fix this goddam gaping wound of the last 400 years. In the end, it’s only going to make things worse. What we really need is full restoration of our lands, languages, and the ability to govern ourselves — not under the Canadian system. And Trudeau may be the best Prime Minister, but he will never agree to our sovereignty, because that would mean relinquishing stolen lands and returning them to Indigenous nations. So in the end, we are asked once again to compromise. Take a pittance and forget that the lands were stolen. This is why I question “reconciliation.”
Our well-being and future health as Indigenous Peoples is directly tied to our lands and languages. Canada would need to have a major shift in consciousness as a country if we were to truly reconcile and get our nations up to 100% again. One that would recognize our sovereignty, return lands to our full jurisdiction, stop imposing Canadian education systems on our children, fund our language restoration efforts to at least 20 times what they fund French language programs. And we would need a complete shift in our consciousness as human beings, to one that is built upon our shared responsibilities to the land, waters, animals, and future generations, a shift away from destruction of the earth and waters.
If two people were in a relationship that deteriorated, and one was willing to reconcile, while the other said, “I hear you, I feel your pain, but I’ve only got five minutes to do this, and I’m keeping the house, the car, all the money in the bank, and the land. Our children will now and forever be educated by you, but will be taught only what I approve of: they must speak my language, learn the lessons I set by my standards, by my priorities, following the way that I think. And if, in the first minute, you don’t get over our past of all the times I beat the crap out of you and tried to kill you, and spend the next four minutes with me negotiating over how anything we agree to will benefit me in the end, that ultimately I have full veto power and full control over everything you do, everything we discuss, then I’m gonna walk away and blame you for your poverty. I apologized, get over it already.” — chances are, any attempt at “reconciliation” isn’t going to work. No matter how much the jerk smiles, talks softly, or sincerely wants to stop being the dominating abusive ass he was in the past.
The air, the waters, the earth, the trees, the animals, and all the children yet to enter this world are all counting on us. Things need to change. The earth is telling us that at every second, and we are running out of time. We need different thinking for the next generations. We need open-mindedness. Fresh ideas. We need Canadians to support the idea that their laws are not the only ones on this land, that there are laws in nature that no one can ignore. We need Canadians to support the idea that there should be mass voluntary return of lands to Indigenous Peoples. Not under “Canada,” not held by the “crown,” not “ownership” by Indigenous people under Canadian Law. Sovereign territories.
Reconciliation isn’t sitting in assemblies in hotels with powerpoints. The first steps that need to take place before reconciliation can even be considered are restoration, correction, restitution, repatriation… to get to a place where both partners are on equal footing… in order to decide how, when, and if both partners are willing to proceed with reconciliation.