Canada does not address First Nation concerns when the federal government or any other agency speaks of “reconciliation.” I have coined the term “Wreckonciliation” which is what Canada proposes in its one-sided attempts to rectify historic wrongs.
As a colonial state, Canada lacks a true understanding of First Nation peoples. When claiming it is listening to First Nations, Canada prefers to hear only the select few voices of those whom support its mainstream agenda.
Canada refuses to undertake the necessary work that involves listening at the grassroots level and hearing the varied voices that make up First Nations across this land. Canada has been using a well thought-out strategy to paint a picture of Indians asking for handouts when in fact Canada is obligated by their own laws to honour historic undertakings.
Canada’s knowing duplicity brings greater harms to the First Nation peoples and continues to perpetuate the genocidal saga that has become the First Nation legacy in this land.
For example, the rush to pass Bill C-15, the “recognition” of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, did not consult groupings within the Indigenous peoples’ definition (First Nations, Inuit, Métis). Instead, Canada rushed blindly forward with a cookie-cutter approach that uses the same definition for all Indigenous people.
Canada must reconcile in this manner. Firstly, Canada must recognize the sovereignty and autonomy of the 50-plus linguistic groups and 600-plus federally recognized First Nations. Canada cannot continue to host bogus roundtables with hand-picked tokenized voices that parrot predetermined federal outcomes.
It is this process of only ever hearing from a handful of Indigenous voices that continues to present nationwide problems that make a farce of true reconciliation. First Nations function as collective voices. It is incumbent upon Canada to go to each nation and consult properly with all voices.
Under the Indian Act, Canada sent Indian agents to interfere with Band governance so that the true governance systems are not voicing the will of the people. Canada interfered with nations’ governance mechanisms with the introduction of Indian Affairs chiefs and councils who are extensions of the federal agenda. The Canadian government website details how First Nations select leadership under the Indian Act — a process Canada should never have been a part of.
From Deskaheh in the Haudenosaunee territory to the recent belittling of Wet’suewet’en hereditary chiefs in the LNG crisis of British Colombia, Canada has deflected calls from the true spokespeople who govern their respective nations. Canada believes that there is one size that fits all for First Nation people.
Canada under the leadership of Justin Trudeau showed this hand when they announced a “framework” in response to the Colten Boushie trial and its shortcomings. Instead of stating that systemic racism exists in the judicial system, Canada pushed forward with a plan to “recognize” rights.
It is over 150 years since Confederation. Surely by now Canada understands that there is specificity in First Nation held governance systems, languages and legal traditions.
It is not that Canada does not understand this, it is that Canada chooses to ignore this reality.
This is why Canada makes brash announcements of pomp and pretense at times of First Nation upheaval. The finding of 215 children led Canada to quickly announce funding dollars for uncovering burial sites located near residential schools. There was a quick apology with Trudeau’s mournful look and a quick segue into how this can be fixed with a sprinkling of dollars.
There was no outrage about cemeteries located in close proximity to “schools” or the fact that the bodies of First Nation children may lay in unmarked graves. There was no affirmation from Canada about the killing nature of the residential schools. Instead, Canadians and the global audience heard about a “sad” chapter in the history of Canada.
Worse, right wing pundits came out with theories about tuberculosis and the fact that these graves were due to family neglect and the poor health in general of First Nation children. There was no linkage to the vibrant and healthy nations that had existed freely on this land since time immemorial. Instead, there were racist overtures that suggested the First Nation somehow were responsible for the demise and kidnapping of their children.
Enter Trudeau’s national truth and reconciliation day. Trudeau has mandated that September 30 will be a national statutory holiday to show that “every child matters” to the Canadian government. This is not an adequate acknowledgement of harms inflicted on First Nations. This is not an adequate compensation against intergenerational trauma and ongoing addictions and self-harming issues that continue to exist in First Nation communities.
Canada continues to gloss over the genocide that its settler forefathers have inflicted on First Nations. Canadians and the world are led to believe that these harms were historic, only.
If this is true, then why do First Nations people still not have adequate drinking water? Is it because they were forcibly removed from their homelands and ignored while development poisoned nearby water supplies?
If the harms inflicted on First Nations were historic, then why was Gerald Stanley acquitted of shooting Colten Boushie due to a misfire theory so convoluted that only a white man could make this defense?
If the harms inflicted on First Nations were historic, why, in 2020, did Canada block access to residential school documents for St. Anne’s residential school survivors who are seeking compensation from criminal and unethical acts of abuse, possible electrocution and nutritional experimentation?
If the harms inflicted on First Nations were historic, why did Canada challenge that it owed compensation to those scooped kids under child family services who were given poverty payments if they remained on reserve versus those children who were highly paid by non-First Nations off reserve?
If the harms inflicted on First Nations were historic, why was Adam Capay held in isolation for 1,647 days while incarcerated in 2012 through 2019? If the harms inflicted on First Nations were historic, then why was Cindy Gladue’s vagina put on display in an Alberta courtroom during a trial about her death in 2015?
If the harms inflicted on First Nations were historic, why are the Mi’kmaq fishing boats under siege at the eastern door? Why are the First Nations standing to protect the land constantly under siege by the RCMP?
This is the Canada that needs exposure. True First Nation voices must speak so that “reconciliation” may actually happen. If Canada controls the one-sided narrative of goodwill to assuage settler consciences, then we, the First Nations, actually experience “Wreckonciliation.” This has not changed in 154 years.
Rachel Ann Snow is Iyahe Nakoda, the daughter of late Reverend Dr. Chief John Snow. She holds a juris doctor from the College of Law, University of Saskatchewan and is an outspoken educator, speaker, writer and co-contact person for the Indigneous Activist Networks. Rachel resides on her ancestral lands in Mini Thni which is west of Calgary, Alberta. She can be followed @RachelAnnSnow on Twitter.