On National Aboriginal Day, June 21, the Communist Party of Canada sends our warmest greetings to all First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. We take this important occasion to renew our solidarity with the resistance against the expansion of resource extraction industries on traditional indigenous territories, and with all those who stand for an end to racist oppression of indigenous peoples in this country.
Just ten days after June 21, hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent by the federal government to mark “Canada 150”. This year’s July 1 holiday is not a day of celebration for millions of working people who suffer from growing economic insecurity, and especially for indigenous peoples who face the highest rates of unemployment, poverty, health crises, incarceration, police violence, and countless other measures of inequality. For indigenous peoples, being forced to pay for this “party” with their own tax dollars is a bitter insult, especially since these events are being held by the Liberal Party government of Justin Trudeau, who won the electoral support of many indigenous voters two years ago, when he campaigned as a leader who would heal the damage inflicted by Stephen Harper’s Tories.
The Communist Party of Canada joins with many others in condemning this celebration of Confederation as a racist rewriting of the history of the northern half of Turtle Island. The truth is that modern-day Canada was created through a wide range of genocidal and assimilationist policies going back nearly 500 years, along with the national oppression of French Canadians and the brutal exploitation of generations of immigrant workers.
The story of genocide began with the theft of traditional indigenous territories, and the imposition of unfair and repeatedly violated treaties. This was followed by the deliberate destruction of indigenous languages and cultures, the mass removals of indigenous children from their families (the residential schools, the “60s scoop,”, etc.), and thousands of unsolved murders of indigenous women and girls. This record is usually dismissed as “past history”, giving rise to the arrogant racist view that “you people should just get over it,” and also to the liberal myth of a post-racist society.
But the legacy of genocide remains very real today, even if individual expressions of racism may have become less acceptable. Despite official apologies from politicians, and the important recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, structural anti-indigenous racism is so deeply embedded in Canadian society that it is usually minimized or even completely denied.
How else to explain that 150 years after Confederation, a judge and prosecutor in Edmonton can jail a young indigenous woman, placing her in handcuffs and leg shackles, for the “crime” of testifying against her violent sexual predator? Or that a Prime Minister elected on the promise to respect indigenous rights then endorses resource extraction and export projects with profoundly negative impacts on First Nation communities? Or that the Sureté du Québec in Val D’Or (and other police forces), still commit widespread physical and sexual abuse against indigenous women? Or that the Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women is bogged down in bureaucratic details after almost two years? Or that over 100 indigenous communities still lack clean drinking water?
Countless examples could be given, but the point is obvious: anti-indigenous racism is not “past history”, it remains a defining contemporary feature of the Canadian state and society, right up to the level of the federal Liberal cabinet which has failed to deliver on its promise of a new relationship with indigenous peoples. This failure is a reflection of “big nation” Anglo chauvinism, the ideological concept of an English-speaking, Christian, “white man’s country” which has held sway since before the time of Confederation, despite huge demographic changes after 1867.
The struggle for national equality calls for a conscious and dedicated effort to overcome the entire colonial legacy of imperialism, as a crucial element of resistance against the right-wing, racist agenda of the big corporations and pro-austerity political parties. Such resistance can only be advanced through full rejection of Anglo chauvinist and white supremacist ideologies, and unity in action of the working class and democratic forces of all nations, around policies to put the needs of people and the environment ahead of corporate greed.
The Communist Party of Canada demands to remove the colonialist structure and legacy which is at the heart of the crisis of Confederation. We call for a Constituent Assembly with equal representation of all nations, to draft a new democratic constitution, based on the equal and voluntary partnership of indigenous peoples, Quebec, the Acadians and English-speaking Canada. The Communist Party also demands urgent action to fulfill the 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and to meet the economic, social, cultural and national needs of the indigenous peoples. Such a strategy to eradicate the colonialist legacy of the Canadian state would be the only truly honourable and just way to mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation.
Central Executive Committee and the Indigenous Commission of the Communist Party of Canada