Solidarity From Cuba to Cheam
By Shannon Bundock
Sunday May 29th was a cool and quiet spring day. Tayseth Fuentes had been in Vancouver for nearly three months, studying at UBC and working towards her PhD. As a Cuban doctor, visiting Vancouver for the first time, Tayseth was constantly balancing her university work with exploring life in an imperialist country and learning about the political and solidarity work being undertaken in Vancouver.
One central area of struggle that Tayseth was particularly interested in was the fight of Indigenous nations for self-determination in Canada. Cuba itself has waged historic and heroic battles against foreign influence and intervention in their country for decades. It has been 56 years since the Cuban people kicked out the dictator Batista and removed US influence from their soil. Despite the time however, with US imperialism 90 miles from their shores threats against their sovereignty still remain.
Many people coming from other countries are unaware of the history of Canada. Such as the fact that this country was built on stolen native land or such as the fact that Canada was established through the genocide of millions of Indigenous people. With an internationalist spirit, this Cuban doctor was able to swiftly push aside the shroud of secrecy held up by the government of Canada to uncover a common interest and close alliance with Indigenous nations.
Along with a delegation from the Vancouver-based social justice group, Youth 3rd World Alliance (Y3WA), Tayseth Fuentes made a historic visit to the Cheam nation on that cool spring day in May. The purpose of the visit was to meet with community leader and fighter June Quipp. June is an elder and former elected Chief of the Cheam Nation. She has been a leader in countless fights against illegal development and logging on Cheam land, along with the outright theft of Cheam land and attacks on Indigenous rights.
The group arrived in early afternoon to a meal of local salmon, caught only hours earlier. June explained the significance of this, as the government of Canada has repeatedly blocked the Cheam nation of their traditional fishing rights. Even cooking a simple meal is political in Cheam.
Throughout the visit both Tayseth and June shared stories of their people’s histories and struggles. The 4,500 kilometers that separate Cheam from Cuba were dissolving as the day went on. The visit closed with a trip down to the Fraser River, where June told stories of the attacks on Cheam by the government of Canada through the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). After an exchange of gifts, the delegation headed back to Vancouver, only 3 days before Tayseth boarded a plane back to Cuba.
The significance of this visit goes beyond the meeting of two remarkable fighters for justice. The meeting represented the unity that exists between oppressed people across the globe. June and Tayseth speak different languages, but share similar histories, similar struggles and the same objectives.
The fight against colonialism in Canada connects Cheam to the millions of oppressed people in Iraq, Palestine, Haiti, and Afghanistan who die everyday in the struggle against occupation and for self-determination. The internationalism and warm spirit of the Cuban revolution, which Tayseth brought to Cheam on May 29th, reflected the unity of 11.5 million Cubans with tens of thousands of Indigenous people across Canada. For the people of Cheam and the Cuban people it is this spirit of internationalism which connects them in their common fight for a better world.
Self-Determination for Indigenous Nations!
Defend Cuba Against US Imperialist Attacks!
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