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Ben Powless

Ben Powless's picture
Ben Powless is a Mohawk citizen from Six Nations in Ontario, currently based in Ottawa. He works primarily with the Indigenous Environmental Network. He is an avid photographer and sporadic writer.

The 'Death of Evidence' and attack on Indigenous knowledge

| July 11, 2012

Yesterday, a large rally was held in Ottawa, with around 2,000 people showing up to mourn the "Death of Evidence". You can read a report on the rally here.

The following is adapted from a speech delivered to yesterday's The Death of Evidence rally.

I've had the dubious honour of attending the past five UN climate negotiations, as well as the Rio+20 Earth Summit last month in Brazil. I can honestly report that our government has been almost alone in standing against the rest of the world, and is becoming known for playing that position.

By their efforts, this government is putting our lives and planet at risk. They are not only ignoring scientists, but also Indigenous Peoples in Canada, who have firsthand knowledge of climate impacts, for instance, as well as sustainable lifestyles. Our peoples' traditional knowledge is not only being ignored, but berated.

Currently in the North, there are ongoing protests over food security and the high costs of food. People not being able to afford food broadly is a serious issue, in Canada, right? The United Nations thinks so, and in May issued a report on the "desperate situation" of Indigenous Peoples in accessing their right to food.

However, the Minister for Health, Leona Aglukkaq, herself from Nunavut, disagreed. She said Indigenous Peoples in Canada "hunt every day" and therefore face no problems. She dismissed the UN mission's findings, saying that most hungry people in the world don't live in Canada. Wow. (Some friends joked on Facebook about calling up the minister to bail them out of jail when they showed up at Loblaws to hunt some turkey.)

But we have to understand that this is a government that's not just interested in denying science. They're not just interested in denying human rights, particularly of those impacted by their decisions. They're not just interested in denying reality when it doesn't suit them (see: long-form census).

They're increasingly using these as tools to pursue their brand of economic (neo)colonialism, at the expense of First Nations and all Canadians. This is nowhere more clear than in their unrelenting pursuit of Tar Sands expansion and pipeline colonization of western Canada. They are not just ignoring traditional knowledge in these cases, but actively trying to silence First Nations and anyone else who disagrees with their plans. This comes at the sacrifice of our peoples' cultures and the world's climate.

But that is precisely why everyone gathered here today stands so powerfully as we stand together. We join with doctors protesting the changes to refugee health care, with lawyers marching against anti-freedom-of-speech laws in Quebec, with people standing up for democracy everywhere.Because we must work together to overcome this government, to stop Harper, and reclaim our democracy - for the sake of First Nations, Canadians, generations yet to be born, and all species of this planet.

Nia:wen - Thank you.

For more photos please see Ben's Flickr account.



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