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Cancel Canada Day pushed back against celebrations of land theft. Now it's time to continue pushing for change

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Image: Colby Rex O'Neill

On July 1, Idle No More and allies organized #CancelCanadaDay actions and a live broadcast to stop the annual celebration of stolen Indigenous land and stolen Indigenous lives.

Instead, people honoured the lives lost to the Canadian state and spoke of the struggles we must continue for future generations. We listened to speakers who spoke about the need to continue to take action for missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit peoples, police and RCMP reform, child welfare system reform, birth alerts, forced sterilization, and the systemic injustices faced by Indigenous peoples.

Now we must continue to push for changes that were called for during the #CancelCanadaDay actions. The Canadian government, particularly the current federal government, is very good at looking like they are taking action but actually doing very little. Systemic change requires long-term and sustained action. First Nations and allies have been pushing for change for decades. Here is a sample of what has been accomplished and what is underway.

Policing

Before the shootings of Chantel Moore and Rodney Levi, the government of New Brunswick was likely to pass a bill which would have increased the powers of police but, in light of recent events, that bill has been scrapped. First Nations chiefs in New Brunswick are demanding an inquiry into the policing and the justice system in the province.

The charges against Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam have been dropped and the fact that the RCMP officer who attacked him was already under investigation for charges of assault, mischief and unlawfully being in a dwelling has been disclosed. Chief Adam and the the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation are also calling for comprehensive reforms.

Across the country, people are organizing to stop the assault and murder of Indigenous people and people of colour by police by demanding overdue changes to the RCMP and provincial and municipal police forces. Join campaigns in your province and your community to defund police and demand accountability. 

Child welfare

According to Statistics Canada, in 2016, Indigenous youth made up 52 per cent of foster children younger than 14 in Canada, despite representing just eight per cent of that age group.

This number reflects the fact that more Indigenous children have been entering foster care than leaving it. Between 1989 and 2012 Indigenous children spent more than 66 million nights in foster care -- the equivalent of 180,000 years. 

Here is an interview with Cindy Blackstock about the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and Assembly of First Nations' efforts to address the child welfare crisis. She discusses the historic Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision which ruled that the federal government must pay $40,000 each to every First Nations child -- along with some of their parents and grandparents -- who was taken away from their family and community after 2006 through the on-reserve child welfare system.

The federal government has tried to offload child welfare responsibility, potentially as an underfunded mandate, onto First Nations -- an act which has been criticised by activists working on First Nations child welfare. This is a critical time for this issue. Please continue to work with groups like the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society on this issue. 

Birth alerts

Birth alerts are warnings from social services agencies to hospitals intended to flag the history of a mother who is considered "high-risk."

The alerts may lead to a baby being apprehended from their mother in the hospital. One of the calls to action in the MMIWG report was to end birth alerts. Effective April 1, 2020, Manitoba, which has the highest per capita rate of children in care in Canada and apprehends about one newborn every day, has ended birth alerts.

British Columbia ended the practice of birth alerts in September 2019, and the The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) in Saskatchewan is currently campaigning for the practice to end in Saskatchewan. However, the Saskatchewan government said in June it will continue the practice.

In March 2020, Women's Wellness Within sent this letter to Nova Scotia's minister of community services advocating for an end to birth alerts. You can write a similar letter to the minister responsible for social services in your province demanding an end to the inhumane and discriminatory apprehending of infants from their mothers.  

Forced sterilisation 

Currently, over 100 Indigenous women are part of class-action lawsuits which are filed or being filed in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan over forced sterilisation. Canada has also been roundly condemned by international human rights bodies for this violation of women. Here are some actions you can take to support the efforts to end this practice.

Missing and murdered and Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited people

On June 3, 2019, the decades-long fight to investigate the disappearances and murders of Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people led to the MMIWG report.  

More than one year after the report, the Trudeau government has cited COVID-19 as the reason why no action plan would be tabled in June, and there is no timeline for creating such a document.  

In response to this announcement, Lorraine Whitman, president of Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) said the pandemic cannot be used as an excuse for failing to protect the vulnerable Indigenous women of Canada who face increased risk of violence as a result of the disease and required social isolation.

"Rather than a national action plan, Indigenous women have been given a lack-of-action plan," Whitman explained. "Indigenous women are still dying and disappearing in Canada, families are still being left in the dark about the loss of their loved ones."

"The time to act is now, not years or even months from now," she added.

Support NWAC's efforts to force the government to move forward. 

This is just some of the work being done to honour some of the lives which have been lost due to the Canadian colonial state. As Canada Day becomes a memory, let's stand for the people whose lives have been lost.

Image: Colby Rex O'Neill

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