Since 2017, I have refused to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of Canada, because Canada, and many Canadians, continue along a path that fails to acknowledge our history of genocide, systemic racism and the dearth of meaningful remedial action that’s needed for true reconciliation with First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples.
This year is different because COVID-19 has shown Canada to be a country that is inequitable to Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC); 2SLGBTQIA+ folk; disabled folk; the working poor and those living in poverty, as well as the migrant workers who grow and harvest our food, take care of our children and elderly, and do the work Canadians refuse to. All of these folks are more vulnerable to the coronavirus and generally have more serious outcomes, especially when experiencing several intersecting oppressions.
It’s imperative that voices from all marginalized communities are included in designing the post-pandemic vision of Canada. However, these voices need support from privileged Canadians who often have more import with representatives at various levels of government. So, in order to be ready when called upon to be an ally, here are some resources that will help you see life through a Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) lens to better inform your allyship.
The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has put together a booklet called “Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action.” The booklet is divided into three sections: the 10 principles of reconciliation; the 94 calls to action; and the 46 articles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
These documents are essential to repairing relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. The calls to action are specific actions that need to be undertaken to redress the residential school legacy and promote reconciliation. UNDRIP establishes and maintains mutual respect between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada.
Elementary aged children can learn about the 10-year long legal battle fought against the federal government to establish and enact Jordan’s Principle guaranteeing on-reserve children the same rights to health care as all Canadian children in the book, Spirit Bear and Children Make History.
Go Show the World: A Celebration of Indigenous Heroes by Wab Kinew is a way to get your children interested in finding out more about these amazing women and men while they’re home over the summer.
Four volumes make up the Canadian Geographic Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada: Truth and Reconciliation; First Nations; Inuit; Metis. The set is a wealth of knowledge for children, youth and adults to explore, including maps, artwork, history, culture and so much more.
Future History, available for free on Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) as well as CBC Gem, packs each 20-minute episode full of information about the history of First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples. More importantly, it shows how richly wonderful a reconciled future could be.
Today’s political climate makes the episode about “Museums, Monuments and Living History” particularly important.
The B.C. Museum Association recently released a video titled “#MuseumsAreNotNeutral: White Supremacy in Museums and Calls for Immediate Action.” Sharanjit Kaur Sandhra successfully argues that museums’ focus comes through a predominantly white, male lens. What gets displayed, how it’s experienced and those welcomed to that space or those who visit these cultural spaces are all subject to this lens.
Her observation that BIPOC artists and employees are hired to be seen and not heard is echoed in the book, Towards Braiding by Elwood Jimmy, Vanessa Andreotti and Sharon Stein.
Tasha Hubbard’s documentary, We Will Stand Up, available free on the NFB website or on CBC Gem, explores the legacy of Colten Boushie and his family’s struggle to get justice for his murder by a Saskatchewan farmer.
Music is an important part of culture and also learning. Here are a few song suggestions for an enjoyable summer: “Blackbird” in Mi’kmaq; “Heart of Gold” in Cree; Twin Flames’ song, “Porchlight,” about missing and murdered women, sung in English and Inuktitut; and Jarrett Martineau’s weekly radio program, Reclaimed.
According to the United Nations definition of genocide, Canada is not only responsible for trying to destroy Indigenous but also Black peoples and their history in this country.
Christina Sinding is a professor in the school of social work and department of health, aging and society, at McMaster University. She recently wrote an article addressing the importance of discussing the history that we not only want to preserve, but honour.
Statues and street names don’t teach history. Instead, they honour individuals and hold them up as exemplary while simultaneously ignoring the intergenerational trauma inflicted, and, as Sinding states in her piece, “Makes this harm lasting, preserves it and allows it to continue.”
Sinding mentions the NFB documentary, Speakers for the Dead, which looks at the erasure of the history of Black settlers in the town of Priceville, Ontario. The Black community was eventually driven from their homes and their graveyard was cleared of gravestones leaving no trace of their existence. That is until the late 1980s when efforts to recover the missing stones led to Black and white people working together to piece together the missing history.
For those who have grown up and are living with white privilege, it’s time to understand the history that you defend. Go to School, You’re a Little Black Boy, is Lincoln Alexander’s memoir of his life living in a racist country.
Desmond Cole’s award-winning article, “The Skin We’re In,” which became a documentary and recently a full length book by the same name, chronicles acts of racism, cover-ups and social justice activism during 2017.
Teaching for Black Lives is an American-based book designed to help white teachers rethink the way they teach racialized students, but it’s also an eye-opening read for everyone who is not marginalized and has not been the target of racism.
Haymarket Books is more than a publisher of ground-breaking works, it’s also where you can sign up for informative teach-ins. July 1, Eddie Glaude and Cornel West are discussing the enduring legacy of James Baldwin and lessons from his work for confronting racism today.
On July 2, you can get a better understanding of what’s meant by, and involved in, successfully defunding the police and the policing system.
Film-maker and actress, Ellen Page, used social scientist Ingrid Waldron’s landmark book, There’s Something In The Water, as the foundation for her exposé on the health and environmental destruction forced onto Black and First Nations communities in Nova Scotia. This is what environmental racism looks like.
For some social justice inspiration, listen to Marvin’s Room with host Amanda Parris. Here’s a great episode to learn about empowerment.
This July 1, take time to reflect on how Canada can move forward from it’s racist and exclusionary history to create an inclusive, caring country that actively listens to and incorporates all voices into its post-COVID reincarnation.
Then, decide the role you’ll play in making sure the well-being of diverse folks and the health of our land and water take priority in the post-pandemic recovery. I hope you will be part of this living history that is calling for a Canadian revolution!
Doreen Nicoll is a freelance writer, teacher, social activist and member of several community organizations working diligently to end poverty, hunger and gendered violence. This article first appeared in Raise The Hammer.
Image: Sally T. Buck/Flickr