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“No pride in genocide” — Indigenous leaders lead thousands who marched to honour the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Among other communities across Canada, Montreal gathers to mourn and recognize the history of Canada’s residential school system.

On Sept. 30, Indigenous leaders and supporters took it to the streets to mourn the lives of the individuals who died while attending residential schools and those whose bodies may never be found. At the start of the event, ae crowd of hundreds came together at 1 p.m. at Place du Canada near Peel Ave. and René Lévesque Blvd. in front of the former site of the Sir John A. Macdonald statue, to symbolize the genocide orchestrated by the first prime minister, who introduced the residential school system to Canada. Macdonald had a significant role in the creation of the residential school system, and after his statue was torn down by an anonymous group of activists and protestors on Aug. 29, its former site remained a powerful reminder for attendees.

Organized by the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal (NWSM) and the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador, the event began with youth from different Quebec and Labrador communities chanting Indigenous traditional music.

To kick off the march, the group witnessed several Indigenous speakers share their stories. As they proceeded to march, the crowd grew to include thousands of people.

Marchers were encouraged to wear orange shirts to stand in solidarity.  Orange Shirt Day was started by Phyllis Webstad, a residential school survivor whose orange shirt was taken away from her at the St. Joseph’s Mission residential school in British Columbia. The orange shirt symbolizes how the residential school system took away the identities of Indigenous students, and seeks to honour and remember the experiences and losses of every Indigenous community. 

With the recent announcement by Premier François Legault refusing to pass the legislation marking Sept. 30 as a statutory holiday, many voiced their anger. Among the many is Nakuset, executive director of the NWSM.

“I think it’s ridiculous. I think that if you’re going to deny this as a statutory holiday, you’re going to deny us, you’re also denying our existence, you’re denying systemic racism,” said Nakuset.

“Hopefully, when a lot of people show up, we are no longer in denial. This is the day that people have chosen to leave work, to leave school and come be with us, and maybe next year, we’ll change his mind,” she added.

Nakuset emphasized the importance of active reflection.

“The reason why I put this together is because I want this day to be a day of action. I do not want people hanging at home or at work reflecting on this particular day,” she explained. “I think when you come here and listen to speakers, then you actually learn about residential schools,” she continued.

When asked about her hopes and expectations for this march, she insisted on accountability with subpoenas.

“What I [would] like is for people that know about the law to actually start handing out subpoenas for all those residential schools. […] Come to court, share what happened and change the history books, because we need justice,” Nakuset urged.

Though Nakuset sees this holiday as gruesome, she says it is important to remember Sept. 30 as a day of action, a day to learn and a day to do something productive for the future. 

Chief Ross Montour of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke opened his speech by also acknowledging the day as historic.

“We are here to walk today to gather and to remember every life on this day who suffered through the colonization of this country… Those who never came home.”

Montour ended his speech by saying, “I’m happy to be here, but I had to be here.”

Katsi’tsakwas Ellen Gabriel, a Mohawk activist and spokesperson from the Kanehsatà:ke Nation’s Turtle Clan also expressed her thoughts.

“Thank you all for being here […] to support the children of a genocide created by Canada, and the churches that allowed children to be murdered in these residential schools.”

Gabriel continued by mourning the lost lives of all the speakers, the artists, the singers, the musicians, the traditional knowledge keepers, and the medicine keepers that could have been standing with them.

“We are mourning,” she repeated. “We mourn the losses of lives that could have been standing with us.”

“This is our land, and no amount of roses and pavement and policies and lives can change that,” Gabriel added.

She proposed a solution of enforcement of education about Indigenous history in schools. Gabriel addresses this request to the government, and demands a change to educate the youth.

“They tell us our academics can take care of that. Well, education was used as a tool against Indigenous people. Now, we want to use that to turn the tables and use education so you can be assimilated on our terms.”

When discussing the government, Gabriel said the imposed laws are not helpful but rather a form to further oppress them.

“Your laws, they are not for us, they are to oppress us. Your laws, your justice system is to make sure that there is an erasure of Indigenous history in this land that claims to be a human rights defendant.”

Gabriel ended her speech by encouraging everyone to take more action after the demonstration.

“Don’t make this the last thing you do for those children who never came home.”

The speeches ended with a poem addressed to Legault shared by Elisapie, an Inuk singer and songwriter.

Her poem read, “You continue to defend Quebeckers against these accusations of racism from a few individuals, but where are we, the Natives of Quebec, in your speech?” 

 

Photo by Catherine Reynolds.

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“Justice for Joyce” protestors march against systemic racism

Thousands march through downtown Montreal, calling for more accountability from the government

 

Thousands of protestors gathered on Saturday to demand action against systemic racism in Quebec after an Atikamekw woman, Joyce Echaquan, died at Joliette Hospital where she was racially abused by staff.

Mask-wearing demonstrators packed Place Émilie-Gamelin with drums, Indigenous flags and “Justice for Joyce” signs. Many were on bicycles, others pushed baby strollers. Protestors shuffled toward the speakers, all the while attempting to maintain a two-metre distance from each other.

The multilingual demonstration began with a prayer for Joyce. Buffalo Hat Singers were followed with a drum-pounding performance. Chiefs, local politicians, and Indigenous activists took to the stage to denounce the denial of systemic racism in Quebec public institutions and to call for a criminal investigation into the case of Joyce Echaquan’s death.

Cheers and chants of “justice for Joyce” punctuated remarks.

“I have spent the last few days wondering, am I next?” said one Indigenous speaker, fighting back tears. “Who’s next? I’m tired of hearing about intentions. We don’t want intentions!”

Manon Massé, co-leader of Québec solidaire, urged Premier Legault to engage with First Nations communities more respectfully and to put into practice the 142 calls to action listed in the Jacques Viens report, which in 2019 concluded that Indigenous people face systemic discrimination when trying to access public services in Quebec.

On whether political parties are working together in the National Assembly to address the issue of systemic racism, Massé told The Concordian that “The CAQ and the PQ don’t recognize that there is systemic racism [in] Quebec, [in] our institutions,” but she insisted that she is willing to work with other parties to advance change.

Jessica Quijano, who works at the Iskweu project and the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal said that the Indigenous community needs its own health centre.

“First Nations people often don’t seek medical attention because of systemic racism.”

However, she saw positives in the protest turnout.

“I think it’s hopeful to have this many people, but I always say that protests are dress rehearsals for what’s really to come.”

Jennifer Maccarone, the Liberal Member of the National Assembly (MNA) for Westmount–Saint Louis, had strong words for Premier Legault.

“I think he’s completely disconnected from the community he represents.”

She accused the CAQ of doing little to address racism in the province and acting without transparency.

“Joyce deserved nothing less than proper health care and respect,” she told The Concordian.

“You have to change the way people think,” Gregory Kelley told The Concordian, the Liberal MNA for Jacques-Cartier. He called for Quebec’s educational curriculum “to have more Indigenous content so people understand better who the Indigenous peoples of Quebec are and what are the challenges they face.”

The demonstrators observed a moment of silence for Joyce, then marched from Émilie-Gamelin toward René-Lévesque Boulevard and stopped at the Quartier des Spectacles. One nurse and one orderly have been fired from the Joliette Hospital, and three investigations have been launched. A GoFundMe page has been created for the family, and the Echaquan family is filing a lawsuit against the hospital.

Photograph courtesy of Joe Bongiorno

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How is TikTok spreading awareness on Indigenous issues?

The app has helped spread the word about the Mi’kmaq fishing conflict on the east coast of Canada

On TikTok, hundreds of videos under hashtags such as #treatyrights, #mikmaq, and #indigenousmovement showed non-Indigenous fishers vandalizing Indigenous fishers’ lobster traps, and even firing flare guns at the Mi’kmaq on their boats.

Towards the beginning of September, the Sipekne’katik First Nation launched a self-regulated fishery in Saulnierville, Nova Scotia. This was outside of the regular lobster fishing season, and resulted in conflict with non-Indigenous fishermen in the area, causing the Mi’kmaw Chiefs to declare a state of emergency.

TikTok videos urge support for the Mi’kmak peoples in Nova Scotia. Video by @newfie_native

The Sipekne’katik First Nation was contacted for a response but have yet to reply.

“People should care about this, because it’s been a vicious cycle for my people since the first contact with colonists,” said Stacy Katsi’tsaronhkwas Pepin, who is Iroquois Mohawk of the territory of Kanesatake, a student at John Abbott College, and a TikTok creator with over 10,000 followers.

“I raised my voice on the fisheries in Nova Scotia because the Mi’kmaq people have their birthright to hunt or fish because that is their tradition,” said Pepin, explaining that she wanted to use her platform to spread awareness.

Pepin explained that she found out about what was going on in Nova Scotia because of TikTok.

“My Mi’kmaq cousins are being threatened because of the traditional birthright to fish year round, whereas the non-Indigenous have a specific season to fish,” explained Pepin, saying that Indigenous fishers are having their equipment stolen and vandalized.

Non-Indigenous fishers are angry that the Mi’kmaq are lobster fishing “out of season,” but according to an article by APTN News, the Mi’kmaq have a legal right to do this.

According to the article, the Supreme Court of Canada released the Marshall Decision in 1999, which created the Moderate Livelihood. This stated that the Mi’kmaq are allowed to fish for their livelihood, but the federal government is allowed to regulate fishing in the interest of conservation, according to a CBC article.

“There is no place for the threats, intimidation, or vandalism that we have witnessed in southwest Nova Scotia. This is unacceptable,” said federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan in a public statement.

“I believe that TikTok, no matter the racial issues, is a fast way to get educational videos across, everyone uses it,” said Pepin, who explained that many videos about BIPOC social movements use specific hashtags, such as the Mi’kmaq fishing dispute’s #treatyrights. If a video goes viral, those hashtags allow people to hop from video to video, which spreads awareness quickly.

“Speaking about Indigenous issues is something I like to educate people on, because people need to know. We as Indigenous people will always protect each other and even though I am in a different province, I try my best to help out my cousins across the world,” Pepin said.

Pepin explained that there is a strong Indigenous community on TikTok, and this community is important because it connects Indigenous people who have become disconnected from their culture, possibly as a result of residential schools or the Sixties Scoop.

“From beautiful displays of regalia, to music, to teachings about residential schools, or the significance to how we braid our hair,” said Pepin, describing various Indigenous TikTok videos.

“Even for those who appreciate our culture, it is a great window into our world, through its beauty and chaos. It shows our struggles and it shows our strengths,” she said.

“TikTok is just the latest app to be used for citizen journalism, documenting and sharing what’s happening at the scene of an event or protest,” said Stefanie Duguay, assistant professor in Concordia’s department of Communications Studies.

She explained that TikTok’s videos are short and snappy, grabbing our attention and capturing our emotions, which compels us to become involved and share the message of the video. However, while social media creates a space for those affected by oppression to speak out about issues, social media platforms profit from the quick news cycle and the constant flow of new information, which can cause minority voices and issues to be buried under the steady stream of new content.

“I think a lot of people are realizing the historical and systemically reinforced invisibility of issues relating to minoritized groups,” said Duguay. “[They are] recognizing that longstanding news-related institutions contribute to this, [and so they’re] taking measures to ensure that people continue talking about and reflecting on these issues until actual change is brought about.”

Feature graphic by Taylor Reddam.

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Concordia celebrates five years of First Voices Week

First Voices Week Concordia celebrated its fifth year last week, from Feb. 3 to 7.

The week-long series of events was led by Indigenous students, faculty and staff at Concordia University, in collaboration with several faculty departments and organizations.

The organizing committee offered workshops, documentary screenings, a solidarity gathering for the Wet’suwet’en Nation in their land defense, an art exhibit and lectures, among other events.

Cathy Richardson, director of First Peoples Studies, said that this event series sends a clear message.

“We’re here,” she said. “You didn’t kill us all off, I know the government tried. We still face issues of structural violence,  but we’re here. We’re trying to thrive and have influence.”

Richardson said that First Voices Week is crucial.

It affirms the Indigenous presence on campus, allows Indigenous students to see themselves reflected in the institution as well as taking a leadership role in the programming,” she explained.

For example, the week-long art exhibit, located at the EV junction, featured art from current Indigenous students at Concordia. Alyssa Isaac, a Mi’gmaq artist from the community of Litsugu, Quebec, studies electroacoustics; and Morning Star Fayard, a Metis, Cree First Nation from the Cree community of Mistissini, studies economics.

Isaac’s art piece was an auditory experience that used the sound of beads running over each other, which were altered and layered to give off a “dream-like vibe.” Fayard displayed traditional winter clothing made from moosehide, like gloves and mocassins, all decorated with beadings or sewn illustrations. The clothing was coupled with a poem titled “Thankful~,” which gave her thanks to the moose who was used to make the clothing, and whose body was used without a spare.

On Wednesday, the same day as the Solidarity Gathering for the Wet’suwet’en Nation, First Voices Week Concordia published a letter on Facebook, reiterating their solidarity. As stated in their press release, the Coastal GasLink (CGL) never obtained consent to operate within unceded Wet’suwet’en territory. In the release, First Voices Week Concordia condemns the use of violence against Indigenous nations by the RCMP and calls for their immediate withdrawal from Wet’suwet’en territory.

First Voices Week also gave their “solidarity to the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs who represent all five clans of the Wet’suwet’en Nation and who unanimously reject the CGL pipeline on their territory.” First Voices Week calls on everyone to pay attention to the violence and intimidation directed toward the Wet’suwet’en nation at this time and infers that these acts are a clear indication of persisting Canadian colonialism.

At the Loyola Campus, in collaboration with the Hive Free Lunch Program, there was a special lunch made from traditional Three Sisters recipes using corn, squash, and red beans, coupled with a virtual reality short film experience. According to the presentation, the three plants were historically the base of the Huron-Wendat and Mohawk diet. It was explained that the practice of growing these plants together is still done today, as the leaves of the corn plant protect the squash from the elements, like wind, while the squash leaves prevent weeds from growing. The beans, in turn, release nitrogen into the soil and climb up the corn stalks as they grow.

“Centering Indigenous achievements and issues raises awareness of the possibilities of Indigenous rights taking more space in Canada and having others accommodate these changes towards a just and equitable society, where Indigenous treaties and lands are respected,” said Richardson.

 

Photos by Laurence Brisson Dubreuil

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Concordia First Nations advocacy group goes digital

Indigenous Directions Leadership Group to help students develop business initiatives

As one of the newest members of Concordia’s Indigenous Directions Leadership Group (IDLG), Ronald Abraira hopes to bring his knowledge of business management and entrepreneurship to help the group develop initiatives that benefit Indigenous students at the John Molson School of Business (JMSB).

“I’d like to help the group reach out to First Nations institutions and create a bridging program for [Indigenous] CEGEP students and adult education learners,” said Abraira, a JMSB lecturer. “We’re hoping to create a program that’s like Dragon’s Den […] We’re calling it INSTEP: Indigenous Student Experience.”

This program will give Indigenous students the chance to create and pitch original business ideas in a style similar to the successful CBC television series. Abraira said INSTEP will give students enrolled in CEGEP or adult education programs the opportunity to gain experience in entrepreneurship and help ease their transition into university. He added that the IDLG hopes to launch the program at some point in the next year, but there is currently no set date.

Abraira is one of four new members to join the IDLG this year. The other new members include Vicky Boldo, an interim elder at Concordia’s Aboriginal Student Resource Centre (ASRC), ASRC coordinator Orenda Boucher-Curotte and Karl Hele, an associate professor of First Peoples studies at Concordia. Reporting to the provost and vice-president, all IDLG members contribute to the group’s goal of helping Concordia respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Principles for Reconciliation and Calls to Action. A total of 94 calls to action were released by the TRC in 2015, following a seven-year federally funded investigation of the Canadian residential school system. The calls to action include ensuring Indigenous people have equitable access to jobs, training and education. Another call to action recommended requiring certain academic programs, including history, media studies and journalism, to feature curriculums focused on Indigenous history and issues.

The IDLG aims to improve the university’s responsiveness to the TRC principles by preparing a list of current Concordia First Nations initiatives, designing recommendations to increase Indigenous participation in the academic community, and offering input on Concordia’s approach to Indigenous recruitment and admissions strategies.

In addition to welcoming new members, the IDLG launched an online hub that aims to provide First Nations Concordia students with access to resources and information.

The hub, which was launched in October, features a diverse range of information relevant to First Nations students and faculty, including upcoming IDLG events as well as a list of courses and faculty members in the First People Studies program. There is also a page highlighting Indigenous research and community projects at Concordia.

Some of the featured projects include Acting Out!, a program that offers theatre workshops to Indigenous youth; Nipivut, a bi-weekly Inuktitut radio show; and Journey Women, an art project exploring the theme of healing from the perspective of First Nations women.

According to Abraira, there is no formal application or election process to join the IDLG. The group welcomes Indigenous community members from a wide range of backgrounds.

“This is a group that’s here for all Indigenous students, Indigenous faculty and those interested in outreach to the Indigenous community,” Abraira said.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

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First Voices Week wraps up

Deborah McGregor’s keynote address was part of Concordia’s annual First Voices Week

Concordia University’s First Voices Week wrapped up with a keynote address from Osgoode Hall Law School’s Deborah McGregor, who discussed sustainability, environmental justice and indigenous law.

McGregor, a First Nation educator who focuses on the application of indigenous knowledge systems to legal and policy contexts, was introduced by Shiann Wahéhshon Whitebean, the leader of Concordia’s First Voices, the group that organizes the annual First Voices Week.

McGregor’s keynote address, “Indigenous Environmental Justice, Knowledge and Law,” was open to staff, students and the general public in the Hall building on Concordia’s downtown campus. McGregor’s address focused on legal and environmental issues affecting Indigenous communities in Canada and abroad.

McGregor began her speech by acknowledging that Concordia University stands on unceded Mohawk territory. Unceded territory is land that belonged to First Nation peoples that has not been officially and legally surrendered. Land acknowledgements have become popular gestures on university campuses, but McGregor emphasized that an acknowledgement is something more complex and significant than a mere act of political correctness.

“I take land acknowledgements very seriously, not just as a token gesture,” McGregor said. “It’s not just something to say. It means something. It’s based on thousands of years of knowledge and caretaking.”

McGregor went on to discuss the definition of knowledge through an indigenous lens, and explored a number of environmental issues affecting First Nation communities. McGregor explained how, in many First Nation communities, all knowledge is considered to be both a noun and a verb, and that gaining knowledge from elders, communities and the physical environment is just as important as knowledge itself. McGregor believes this perspective shifts the idea of knowledge from something personal to something community-based.

McGregor’s talk also touched on the issue of natural resources and overconsumption in modern society. McGregor believes that the environmental issues affecting indigenous communities, such as the well-publicized North Dakota Access Pipeline, begin when people value profit and consumption more than the safety of other people and the environment. This ideology is in stark contrast with the beliefs of many First Nation communities, who are often victims and vocal opponents of such projects.

McGregor recalled that, during her upbringing in McGregor Bay in Northern Ontario, her community would focus not only on what they could gain from their natural resources, but also on what “gift” they could give back to their environment and community. She used her family’s sugar bush as an example. She claims that, rather than profiting off the maple syrup they produced, her family used it to provide for her community while protecting the farm from overuse.

“You can’t live a good life unless you’re considering all the other beings as well,” said McGregor.

She also noted that, while the issues of indigenous sovereignty and environmentalism are complex, and solutions to these issues are not easy or straightforward, everyone is capable of showing gratitude to the environment. We are all capable of making choices to either help or harm the resources available to us, she said.

“Some of us are the heroes, some of us are the villains… but we are all in this story,” McGregor said.

Graphic by Florence Yee

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Keeping up the pressure on divestment

First Nations speak on aboriginal fight for land and air

Four notable keynotes spoke at the inaugural event of the Fossil Free Canada Convergence that took place Nov. 7 to 9 at Concordia and McGill universities. The event, which focused on the growing divestment movement calling for the shedding of income and profit from fossil fuels, brought together students and activists from all around the country and gave them a chance to discuss and collaborate on climate change and environmental justice.

The divestment movement, not only active at Concordia but also on nearly 30 campuses across Canada, calls for responsible investments by educational institutions.

The event united four women activists intimately involved in different but connected movements such as aboriginal rights, climate change and the divestment effort. It was led by the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition and supported by both the Concordia Student Union and the Student Society of McGill University.

Denise Jourdain, an elder representative of the Innu community of Uashat mak Mani-Utenam and active participant in various aboriginal rights movements like  Idle No More, opened the event. She presented parts of her memoir and spoke about aboriginal identity and culture, and on the conflicting governmental policies over their traditional territories. She went on to talk about her own experience with the ever-present judicial issues surrounding the uncertain rights of the aboriginal community, going so far as to share a personal moment about her weakened mother’s desire to relate to her ancestral culture. Throughout, Jourdain underlined the importance of preserving the various and very distinct aboriginal cultures.

Following her was native youth-focused activist Heather Milton-Lightening, currently working as the co-director of the Indigenous Tar Sands Campaign out of the Polaris Institute. Milton-Lightening strongly advocated  active participation of youth in the activism process, notably on aboriginal-related issues. Her testimony about her difficult childhood with foster parents and her teenage years in Winnipeg served as an example of a generation that was subject to past and present controversial Canadian policies.

Alyssa Symons-Bélanger, an anti-pipeline activist who has participated in and organized events around Québec, talked about the array of projects she has been involved with, like the Marche des Peuples de la Terre Mère. Symons-Bélanger also recalled her background in theatre and defined what is known as theatre of the oppressed, a type of theatre that looks at people involved in power struggles against oppressors. The Cabaret Olé Oléoduc, a play aimed at protesting pipeline projects, was cited as a good example of this type of theatre.

Finally, climate and energy campaigner for Sierra Club Canada Crystal Lameman addressed the crowd, and talked passionately about issues relating to land use and exploitation by Canada’s government and private companies over the years. She encouraged people to think about how to challenge such institutions who, as she put it, “keep making stupid decisions.” This call to action on the part of Lameman closed the keynote speaker’s event and set the tone for the rest of the Fossil Free Canada Convergence.

For more information on the divestment campaign in Concordia, visit divestconcordia.org.

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Opinions

No fracking with the Mi’kmaq Community

On Oct. 16, the Harper government revealed its agenda for the new Parliamentary session through the Throne Speech. In addition to the paternalistic tone throughout the speech, it also spewed the usual vague promises aimed at First Nations, like promises to work towards building better relationships.

Photo from Flickr user ZOLA MTL

A day later, Elsipogtog happened. For weeks, an anti-hydraulic fracturing encampment was set up outside of a facility owned by SWN Resources in Rexton, New Brunswick. The Mi’kmaqs of the nearby Elsipogtog First Nation were peacefully protesting SWN, which had been conducting seismic testing, a precursor to fracking, a controversial process of extracting natural gas from shale deposits that can lead to land and groundwater contamination.

On the morning of Oct. 17, hundreds of heavily armed RCMP officers raided the group’s encampment and road blockade to enforce an injunction. The RCMP’s actions were overkill to say the least. They arrived dressed in camouflage and assumed sniper positions in the forest surrounding the protesters; protesters that included women, children, and elders.

Beanbag rounds were fired, pepper spray was used, officers had police dogs, and more than 40 demonstrators were arrested, including a band councillor.

Ignorant Canadians and certain mainstream media only focused on the arrests, alleged violent protesters, the images of the burned police cars, and a small group of protesters’ questionable behaviour towards two news agencies’ crews.

As a First Nations person, I tend to wonder why many of our stories and struggles are largely ignored by Canada’s mainstream media. That is, unless violence is involved. In the instance of Elsipogtog, only after the RCMP’s military-style raid did violence surface.

The overabundance of racist articles that present distorted accounts of the situation also paint the people of Elsipogtog as terrorists and capture mainstream attitudes towards Aboriginal people in Canada.

Recent examples of this can be seen by the intolerant and paternalistic writings of Rex Murphy at the National Post and Anthony Furey at Sun Media. Their use of images to accompany their articles emphasize the stereotype of violent First Nations people. The images featured with Murphy and Furey’s articles are of the burning/burned police cars, an image that is used throughout many news articles regarding Elsipogtog.

However, the photograph of Mi’kmaq mother Amanda Polchies, kneeling in front of a line of riot police, a photograph that certainly paints a very different story of what was happening in Elsipogtog, accompanies very few articles.

Nonetheless, the sensationalized response from the media is not a surprise. Since 1990, certain Canadian media corporations have regularly stereotyped protest actions by First Nations within a framework based upon the Oka Crisis. That is, the portrayal and perpetuation of damaging stereotypes, such as that First Nations people are violent and savage.

In their 2011 book, Seeing Red: A History of Natives in Canadian Newspapers, authors Mark Cronlund Anderson and Carmen L. Robertson argue that when it comes to news coverage about Aboriginal people, Canadian English-language newspapers have turned all of Canada’s distinct Aboriginal nations into “one heavily stereotyped monolith” rooted in colonial ideology.

Perpetuating the stereotype of First Nations inciting violence and terrorism does not do any justice to the complexity of the issues surrounding these “protests.” I use quotations because is it really protesting?

While people like Furey believe otherwise, the Mi’kmaq never ceded their traditional territory. The Mi’kmaq people were exercising their right to protect their land in light of a legitimate concern about the environmental harm caused by fracking.

The bottom line is that what happened to the people of Elsipogtog could have been prevented if the government fulfilled their obligation to consult First Nations and took their promises of forging better working relationships seriously. However, actions certainly speak louder than words. It is clear that the government has put First Nations issues on the back burner, something exactly opposite from what Harper preached in January during the height of the Idle No More movement.

Jessica Deer is a proud Mohawk from Kahnawake and is currently working towards her Graduate Diploma in business administration at JMSB.

 

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