Why there is No Reason to Celebrate Canada Day:
Upholding Genocide and Apartheid
By Aaron Mercredi
While Ottawa prepares this year’s celebrations for Canada’s 140th anniversary, for Indigenous people in this country July 1st marks another year of being denied their rights to their land and resources, to their way of life, and to their right to sovereignty. While the government of Canada and the ruling class engineer their nationalist propaganda for working people in this country, the people whose land was taken and whose livelihoods were attacked in order to build Canada have no reason to celebrate.
Rampant Poverty Among Indigenous People in Canada
One good look at the differences of basic living conditions between Indigenous people and Canadians is enough to see the contradictions that exist in this country and the results of an apartheid rule. Applying the United Nations Human Development Index, First Nations communities in Canada would rank 68th among 174 countries. At one time, Canada was ranked first, but dropped to eighth place due in part to the housing and health conditions of First Nations communities.
According to a recent report by the Assembly of First Nations which looked at the rampant poverty among First Nations communities, 80% of First Nations people have personal incomes below $30,000 per year, while half of all households have a total household income below that level. More than half of First Nations people are not employed.
The long-term effects of colonization and abuse have left Indigenous people with a much higher rate of health problems than other people in Canada. Diabetes among First Nations people is at least three times higher than the national average. Tuberculosis among First Nations people is 8 to 10 times more common than in the general Canadian population. These are only some of the examples that have brought the life expectancy of First Nations men to 7.4 years less than the general male population in Canada, and the life expectancy of First Nations women to 5.2 years less than the general female population in Canada.
Indigenous children fare the worst of all in these conditions. One in four First Nations children live in poverty, while one third of First Nations households with children are overcrowded. The graduation rate is half the Canadian rate, making Indigenous youth a big target for Canadian Forces recruitment. The rate of disabilities among First Nations children is almost double the rate of Canadian children. Suicide accounts for 38% of all deaths of First Nations youth between the ages of 10 and 19.
While overcrowding in First Nations homes is almost double the Canadian rate, nearly 3.7% live in homes without running hot water and nearly 3.5% do not have cold running water or flushing toilets. More than 6% of houses on-reserve are without sewage services. While mould contaminates almost half of all First Nations households, about one third of First Nations communities consider their main drinking water supply unsafe to drink. 12% of First Nations communities have to boil their drinking water.
Knowing the roots…
The reasons for these substandard living conditions are rooted in Canada’s history of war against Indigenous people. For the Indigenous nations on this land, European colonialism was an invasion force, and the so-called ‘founding’ of Canada was just a way to legitimize the occupation of their land, theft of their resources and control over their lives. Today, much the same scenario is played out by the imperialist media that applauds elections in Iraq and its ‘new road,’ despite the fact that it is a country occupied by over 160,000 officially declared occupation forces.
Once Indigenous populations had been decimated through murder, starvation and disease, a more established Canada went to the task of continuing the war through different acts and legislation. This is when the Indian Act was born, which imposed government control over Natives. Through the treaties that were set up with blatant lies by the colonial agents, to the establishment of the reservation system that divided Indigenous nations, Indigenous people were uprooted from their traditional territories, economies, and ways of life. The legacy of the residential schools, whose purpose was to destroy Indigenous identity and make it more difficult for them to collectively stand up for their rights, still sends shockwaves through the generations of survivors who went through those schools.
…And into the present
A common misconception among people who learn about Canada’s shameful history is that although Canada has made many mistakes throughout history in its relationship with Indigenous people, together, Indigenous people and the government of Canada need to get over the past. This is part of the Canadian ruling class attempt to cover up Canada’s true past. Canada Day used to be called Dominion Day, but in 1982 was given the new name in an effort to cover up the holiday’s colonial origins.
Its important to note that first, the genocide committed against Indigenous people was no accident, and second, that Canada’s objective in dealing with Indigenous people remains the same today, and is carried out by its continued war against Native people. The goal is still to take land and resources from Indigenous people, and to deny them their right to govern their own affairs.
For the record, Canada was one of only two countries who voted against the proposed UN declaration to uphold the rights of Indigenous people last June. How can someone honestly say that Canada is somehow trying to improve the situation at all when on the international stage, it boldly shows that it will not respect the inherent rights of the Indigenous people within its borders?
Because of this, the situation for Indigenous people has not changed, and has progressively gotten worse. From the refusal to deal with the people of Six Nations on a nation-to-nation basis, to the ongoing assault on Native land in BC in the build-up to the 2010 Olympics, the government of Canada and corporations continue to take and plunder more territory and resources from Indigenous people.
Indigenous People Fight Back!
Throughout all the years that Canada has been waging this war, Native people have been fighting back, and this resistance continues today. Despite Canada’s criminalization of Native people who stand up for their rights, Native people continue to make a stand. Recently, the Canadian Armed Forces counter-insurgency task force included Native resistance in its list of terrorist organizations, but later removed it out of the controversy it spread around the country. This was nothing but a written confirmation of the way that Canada portrays Indigenous people as terrorists for standing up for their rights.
June 29th was called as a national day of action by the Assembly of First Nations, who encouraged Native people throughout the country to organize a show of force to the government of Native people coming together. The actions are varying from marches and rallies like one that is happening in Vancouver, BC, to direct land confrontations like the Mohawks have done by blocking the CN rail tracks near Deseronto, Ontario, which is Canada’s busiest highway and rail line.
What is needed is continued action to demand that the inherent rights that Indigenous people have to their land and resources be upheld, and that Indigenous people have the right to govern their own affairs without being controlled by force from Canada. With the active support of non-Indigenous people, this is a step we can take to move on to bigger battles together.
Back to Article Listing