Justin Trudeau meets a group of Indigenous women on the campaign trail. Image: Justin Trudeau/Twitter

Canada desperately wants this election to be about “first world problems.” Party leaders want to talk about the economy, jobs numbers, healthcare (in terms of COVID-19), and there is a hesitant optimism that normalcy and recovery are just around the corner.

This snap election is a political calculation pitting the status quo against a dearth of ideology.

For months, Trudeau snuck around planting political favours in the right constituencies in the hopes that Canada’s collective shrug and disinterest would benefit him come election day.

A political appointment here, a token representative there. The theory is that satisfying each constituency with a little favour — offered begrudgingly — might instill loyalty in a political system teetering on collapse.

It was a cynical calculation that sought to ensure that nothing really gets done and nothing really changes.

Indigenous communities are still struggling to get fresh water, basic services, jobs or justice. They are left in the lurch come election time, with another round of empty promises to do something about the third world conditions that affect many reserve populations. Families are forced to live overcrowded in shoddy two or three bedroom homes with extended relatives and multiple families. God forbid someone in the group has an addiction or psychological issue that spirals the entire household into chaos. The challenge to make ends meet means nothing to those living a first-world life of privilege.

There will be no rescue package that will undo the generations of systemically stolen land and calculated deprivation of resources that every Canadian takes for granted.

There is no interest in First Nations as a voting bloc because many are geographically distant from each other and from spaces that would allow them to unite. The places Indigenous people inhabit are substandard, dilapidated, discarded, ghettoized. Even within the urban centres, Indigenous people are relegated to the back alleys and questionable neighborhoods that a white middle class suburban condo dweller would never lay eyes upon.

We live within a shadow world of structural and economic apartheid that is so ingrained that many no longer question it.

We no longer question the efficacy of changing laws in ethics and corruption to stop corporate and bureaucratic interests from killing the planet. Instead, we offer incremental changes to a broken system that will only amplify its shortcomings.

On June 3, Trudeau tried to change the narrative after the discovery of a mass grave of 215 children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. The bodies dumped in a mass grave signaled a genocide that had been carefully hidden by those administrators, clergy and nurses that kept the bodies of so many children a secret. Canadians woke up briefly to the guilt and shame of their ancestors behavior, but little, if anything, has been done about it.

Take Orange Shirt Day. After the discovery of the genocide of children, many took to wearing orange shirts, changing their Facebook avatars and leaving out shoes. A movement began to take hold and in true Trudeau fashion, he stepped out at the front of the parade and turned Orange Shirt Day into a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

It was a political move, not co-ordinated with Indigenous communities and activists seeking to achieve the long term goals of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls To Action, but to add a quick diversion to try to show the government was doing something, anything, to respond — just to stop the bad press from burying their chances for another term in office.

Still, the catastrophic state of Indigenous communities sits in the balance as Canadians ponder which party has the more progressive policies for some future, amorphous “reconciliation.”

Canada and its political parties are clueless about the original peoples, the First Nations who occupied this land for millennia. Canada under any party likes to parade a cadre of Indigenous candidates hoping to get the elusive “Indian” vote. It worked for Justin Trudeau in 2015, because the First Nations wanted an end to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s reign of corporate theft and tyranny.

Enter Justin Trudeau, the lesser oppressor. His initial talks in 2015 fooled many First Nations into believing that Canada would hear their worldview and take action.

Trudeau’s henchmen listened with big ears then strategically used the same words to sell their version of municipal-style governance back to the First Nation people. Trudeau showed his true colours when his then-justice minister Jodi Wilson-Raybould issued ten principles for dealing with Indigenous people without consultation and began splitting the department of Indian Affairs (Indigenous Affairs).

Canadians can’t seem to understand that there are three distinct groups of Indigenous peoples in Canada. The First Nations have always been here along with the Inuit, and the Métis came later. The First Nations were subjected to the residential school horrors. The First Nations were herded onto reserves. The First Nations were restricted through the Indian Act — they were allowed only to leave with a pass system with an Indian Agent/warden holding rations or restricting agricultural contributions until non-native farmers sold their goods. The First Nations were not allowed to hire legal representation to argue for equity. What part of this arrangement is known history for Canadians?

Canada and its electorate are voting for their vision and their placement as settlers in Canada. First Nations may be a crucial voting bloc in some ridings but overall, their voting power is limited by design. The geographic distance between reserves and First Nations communities means that in most ridings, First Nations have only a small fraction of the vote.

This is why many First Nation people do not vote. It was only 1960 when the Indians gained the right to vote without enfranchising themselves (giving up their “Indian” status) — a colonial process of de-Indianizing themselves.

Political parties want to turn the page with slogans like the three musketeers’ “all for one and one for all” — like we are in this together. In reality, for First Nations, the political parties talk a good game but when they come to power, they are more apt to say things like the three stooges: “Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk, we fooled you again.”

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.

Image: Justin Trudeau/Twitter

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Rachel Snow

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...