“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.


Liberals appeal $2.1 billion for First Nations children

On Oct. 4, the federal government appealed the ruling of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT), ordering the federal government to pay $40,000 dollars to each Indigenous child who was taken from their home under the on-reserve child welfare system.

According to CBC, over 50,000 children have been affected by the on-reserve child-welfare system.

“People are shocked about the appeal,” said Elizabeth Fast, a Métis professor in Applied Human Sciences at Concordia. Fast has worked with children transitioning out of the child-welfare system and is leading a research project aimed at improving First Nations child-welfare services in Montreal.

“It doesn’t make sense why the government is doing this,” said Fast. “So many years were spent fighting this, the court looked over all the evidence and it was a victory for the families involved.”

“People were happy with the victory, it was recognition for on-reserve children,” Fast said, referring to September when the CHRT gave the order.

Hours after the appeal was filed, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Liberals agree with the tribunal’s finding that individuals who were harmed deserve compensation.

“But the question is how to do that?” Trudeau said at a press conference in Quebec on Oct.4, three days before the deadline to file an appeal. “We need to have conversations with partners, we need to have conversations with communities, with leaders to make sure we’re getting that compensation right.”

Trudeau stated that the federal government can’t have those discussions because of the election. Thus the federal government needs time to consider all options.

The CHRT ruled there was discrimination against Indigenous in the welfare system over three years ago, according to the National Post.

Fast said she doesn’t understand why the Liberal government is doing this during the peak election period.

“It is a total disregard of First Nations voters, it moves away from reconciliation, and assumes the public will be okay with this.” Fast said.

Yet, she does admit that not a lot of people know about systemic discrimination.

“I talked about it in my class, and none of my students knew about it.” Fast said, referring to her Critical Indigenous Perspectives course.

“The media can do more, to call people to action and hold the government accountable,” she said, warning that the government tries to distract people from issues like this.

What lead to the appeal 

According to The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, Indigenous children in the on-reserve welfare system are given inadequate and under funded services.

The reason for this is because both provincial and territorial Indigenous child-welfare laws apply both on and off-reserve. However, because the children are on a reserve, provinces and territories expect the federal government to pay for the children’s services.

Thus, when the federal government does not adequately fund the child-welfare services, neither do the provinces or territories.

In 2000, the First Nations Child and Family Services Joint National Policy Review: Final Report, was released. It stated that Indigenous children received 22 per cent less funding for child-welfare compared to non-Indigenous children.

In 2007, the Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations filed a complaint to CHRT, stating that the federal government discriminates against Indigenous children by not funding child-welfare enough on reserve.

A decade of gathering evidence went into the complaint.

According to CBC, by 2014 the federal government spent more than $5.3 million in legal fees trying to get the case thrown out.

In 2016, the CHRT deemed Canada to be guilty for discriminating against Indigenous children in the welfare system.

“Canada’s flawed and inequitable provisions of First Nations child and family services is discriminatory pursuant to the Canadian Human Rights Act on the grounds of race and national ethnic origin,” stated the CHRT in the McGill Law Journal, Érudit.

APTN reports that from 2013 to 2017, 102 Indigenous children connected to child-welfare died in Ontario alone.


Graphic by @sundaeghost

Student Life

Exploring identity through film

Jackie Batsinduka explores loss and family history in Geni

“Growing up as a child of two survivors of the [Rwandan] genocide, the big thing for my family—and I think it’s true of many people’s family—is that it’s not really talked about,” said Jackie Batsinduka, a Concordia communications studies graduate. “My mom lost the majority of her immediate family, except for two brothers, and my dad lost his entire family. So imagine that, then you have a kid two years later.”

Jackie Batsinduka is a rising filmmaker and recent Concordia communication studies graduate. Photo courtesy of Jackie Batsinduka.

Starting on April 7,1994 and lasting about 100 days, the Rwandan genocide resulted in the mass murder of nearly one million people, the majority of whom were Tutsis. Batsinduka was born in Ottawa just two years after the genocide. “I guess it was easier to just forget and live your life,” said Batsinduka, “focus on this new chapter.” Although her family rebuilt their lives and eventually settled in Gatineau, Batsinduka explained how the past would come up in small ways, no matter how much they tried to push it away.

“Whenever there’d be a class project that had to do with your family tree, I’d be like ‘I don’t know,’” said Batsinduka, with a shrug. “Then as a six-year-old, having to explain to your class like, ‘yup, doesn’t go higher than my parents; unfortunately I don’t know anything else’ and everyone else can’t really relate.” Because her parents hardly spoke about the genocide, Batsinduka said she grew up feeling as though asking questions about her family’s history was too painful. “I’m kind of embarrassed to say it,” said Batsinkduka, “but I also wasn’t, like, out there seeking to know more.”

Throughout her childhood, Batsinduka was fascinated with how TV shows and movies could bring people’s imagination to life, despite not thinking of herself as imaginative. “As I got older and into high school, I realized ‘hey, I can make this stuff,’” she said, with a laugh. Batsinduka’s filmmaking career began in high school where she’d make amateur videos with her friends in media club. In CÉGEP and eventually at Concordia, she further explored her multimedia passion and continued developing her unique voice.

After graduating from communication studies at Concordia in summer 2018, Batsinduka delved into writing the script for her first project post-graduation, titled Geni. The short film tells the story of a girl estranged from her mother, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, who is invited back to her childhood home at her mother’s request. Batsinduka is both writing, directing and co-starring in Geni, which explores how one family is impacted by the genocide, the intergenerational trauma carried by the children of survivors, and how each family member’s unique experiences feed into one another.

Christine Kayirangwa, Batsinduka’s mother, was born in Kigali, Rwanda. Photo courtesy of Jackie Batsinduka.

“Whenever there’d be a class project that had to do with your family tree, I’d be like ‘I don’t know,’” said Batsinduka, with a shrug. “Then as a six-year-old, having to explain to your class like, ‘yup, doesn’t go higher than my parents; unfortunately I don’t know anything else’ and everyone else can’t really relate.”

“This project is an opportunity to heal, not just for the Rwandans involved in the making of this film, but for everyone who will watch it,” writes Batsinduka in her director’s notes. “By bringing Geni to life, I can thankfully now say that my identity as the daughter of Rwandan genocide survivors is something I have begun to claim.”

Geni is also the shortened, Americanized nickname for the main character, Mugeni. Mugeni means ‘bride’ in Kinyarwanda, one of the mother tongues of Rwanda. Batsinduka’s mother, Christine Kayirangwa, has no acting experience but is also co-starring in the short film as Geni’s estranged mother. “Having her support and her confidence in me, and trusting me that this is a story worth being told and that I can tell it, has been amazing,” said Batsinduka. “Just her willingness to embark on this exploration of how this story could change our lives, or our relationship.” Though Batsinduka’s father passed away a few years ago, before this film was conceptualized, she likes to think that he’s smiling down on her and Kayirangwa as they explore their shared history together.

Identity reconciliation is a central theme in Geni, as is profound loss and the cyclical nature of family dynamics, which Batsinduka feels everyone can relate to. “The film is for everyone, but it’s especially for my community,” said Batsinduka. “There are nuances that are very much for people of that community, and that was important to me […] to not hold back on the audience. This film will definitely leave you thinking.”

Geni is scheduled to film in early May, and is aiming to premiere at festivals in summer 2019. This year marks the 25-year commemoration of the Rwandan genocide, which took place from April 7 to mid-July 1994. Batsinduka is holding a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo from March 19 to April 16.

Feature photo courtesy of Jackie Batsinduka

Student Life

Black History Month: Walking through life in limbo

Reconciling my identity as a Cameroonian-Canadian in Uganda

It’s 2014. My excitement is so tangible, the man beside me can sense it with every fidget. I haven’t set foot in Cameroon for 15 years; the country from which my parents came of age, the country that holds my earliest memories, the country I’ve been told to refer to as home. In that moment, in the backseat of my uncle’s jeep, for the first time in my life, I felt at home.

Now, it’s 2018 and I am excited to be returning to the motherland for an internship. I’m a bit wary of engaging in a “going abroad” endeavour, but I’m confident that the organization I’ve partnered with is different from your typical non-profit. As the plane descends, my nerves betray me: there’s a dryness in my throat, my body is stiff, and my heart is thumping.

My head is full of thoughts, hopes and expectations. Front and center is the anticipation of that feeling of home filling me once more as it did four years earlier. Although I realized it wasn’t my home country, I was expecting to feel more at home than I did in Canada. Finally, the plane lands, I step out, and as I try to make my way through the crowd, I can feel my body searching for that ‘home’ feeling and failing to grasp it. I push those feelings (or lack thereof) aside and reunite with my fellow Canadians.

My days were spent on a compound with fellow Canadian and Ugandan interns. The work days were packed with various activities; on the weekend, people did their laundry, read a book or hung with the locals. I realized my dark skin allowed me to navigate public spaces in ways some of my fellow interns couldn’t. I could slip out and shop at the market without the boda boda men (those who transport people on motorcycles, referred to as bodas) screaming muzungu (“white” or “foreigner”) my way. I could walk all over town without getting so much as a glance in my direction. This was one of two times in my life I was not a visible minority.

One day, I went out with a friend, a white Canadian girl. We were hungry and wanted to try this cafe, which was filled with white people—foreigners. I noticed eyes on me, but wasn’t fazed. My friend places her order; her friendly disposition leads to a chat with the cashier long after having ordered. I am not greeted with the same energy extended to my friend just seconds before. Though my accent throws the cashier’s guard off, it is not enough to affect him the same way my friend did.

My ability to blend in—if I didn’t speak—was once a blessing, but I realized it was useless if I would still be treated as lesser in the presence of my white friends. I had always known that in Canada, the system favoured white people/white-passing people; but I had underestimated the extent of colonialism in “developing” countries. My time in Uganda showed how so many locals have an automatic association between skin colour and one’s “foreignness.” Even though I, too, was a foreigner, it was never the assumption. When I would speak, my accent would create such a confusion the english-speaking locals would rather speak to fellow locals rather than engage with me.

In Canada, I am a visible minority constantly fighting for the space to be seen, heard and validated unashamedly. I never thought I would have to fight for that same space in a country where most, if not all, of the population looks like me. I felt as if I had to fight even harder than I do back home, because the attention automatically went to my white counterparts.

The struggle on the table is not my desire for attention; on the contrary, it’s a questioning of identity. Where do third culture kids fit when they were born in one place—or their parents come from and identify with one place—but they were raised somewhere else? We spend time this month explicitly to celebrate black history, while so many black people struggle with reconciling their identity.

Should we continue trying to assimilate within the community we most identify with while negating all other parts of ourselves, or should we just create new spaces for people who are in this limbo? This isn’t the first time a black person will have questions about their identity, nor is it the last.

Feature graphic by @spooky_soda


Happening in and around the White Cube this week…

Happening in and around the White Cube this week…


Re: Reclamation and Reconciliation Through Art

In Reclamation and Reconciliation Through Art, students, artists, curators, writers and scholars come together to discuss how injustice, abuse and marginalization are portrayed in art. Saba Heravi, Adrienne R. Johnson and Soukayna Z. will lead a discussion about how their identities and art practices intersect in a “white male-centered field.”

When: Nov. 6 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Where: The Yellow Door, 3625 Aylmer St.
Admission is free


Inuit Art in International Perspective

The annual Carol Sprachman Lecture presents Dr. Heather Igloliorte, a curator, scholar and associate professor of art history at Concordia. Following the end of Among All These Tundras, exhibited at the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery in Concordia’s LB building, Igloliorte will discuss new developments in the world of Inuit art and examine past Canadian works produced within the circumpolar arctic.

When: Nov. 7 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Where: Maxwell-Cummings Auditorium, 1379-A Sherbrooke St. W.
Admission is free


VIBE workshop series: Inclusive Dance

Hosted by the Critical Disability Studies Working Group at Concordia, this workshop is part of the VIBE workshop series, which explores ableism and audism through accessible art practices. Inclusive Dance will feature live music and is concentrated on creative forms of contemporary solo and group dance, listening and connections with music.

When: Nov. 8 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: EV Building, Le Gym Studio C S3.215
Space is limited. RSVP at



Andres Manniste is an artist and teacher at Dawson College. He is heavily inspired by the role of the internet in today’s society, especially how artists use the internet to create works of art. Ensevelir or “to cover up, as in to bury,” is a collection of Manniste’s larger body of work that captures mundane moments in contemporary life. Most of his imagery is reproduced from an old television in his studio, its pixelated quality captured in his pointillist approach to painting.


Rights and respect for the Ktunaxa Nation

What the disparity between the government’s promises of reconciliation and their actions means

It seems as though every time I tune into the news, there is a story of injustice involving Indigenous peoples in Canada.

From the original injustice of colonisation and residential schools to the increasing number of missing and murdered Indigenous women whose cases have only recently been looked into, there is a large gap of inequality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians. Not to mention the housing crisis, high rate of suicide and the gap in the quality of healthcare and education, according to The Globe and Mail. Through all of that turmoil, one word shines through and gives me hope that the Canadian government wants to take positive steps to correct these wrongs. The word is reconciliation.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines this term as “the restoration of friendly relations.” The federal government seems to want to restore friendly relations with all Indigenous people, but in my opinion, the Canadian government and people still have a long way to go to achieve true reconciliation.

On Nov. 2, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that a Jumbo Glacier ski resort will be built on sacred land that belongs to the Ktunaxa Nation in British Columbia, according to The Globe and Mail. When asked about the situation, Kian Basso, a member of the Montagnais Nation, suggested: “The government should negotiate with the Ktunaxa Nation and try to figure out a way to meet in the middle.”

As an Indigenous person, he said he believes “it is only right that we respect the land and the people that were here before us. So I do not agree with the government taking this land because it does not belong to them, but I am not against the idea of building things on that land either. If they should build something, then it should be done with respect to the people living there and should be discussed between the two parties.” Basso’s statement refers to the lack of respect between Canada and Indigenous peoples—an issue that demands more discussion.

The Ktunaxa Nation has occupied the land in question for more than 10,000 years and use the land to worship their sacred grizzly bear spirit, according to CBC News. However, I believe it’s important to note that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms “protects the freedom to worship, but does not protect the spiritual focal point of worship.” This statement upsets me because it sets a double standard. I believe that if a church were to be torn down in order to build a ski resort, or any other luxury establishment, there would be public outrage. For the Ktunaxa Nation, their land is sacred to their culture and spiritual beliefs. I believe spirituality is equivalent to religion, so why are their beliefs not represented in the Canadian Charter?

Jill Goldberg, a specialist in Indigenous education, said, “When I heard the story, I thought, how is this even possible when we are in a time of improving relations?” She also pointed out the lack of representation in the Supreme Court. There is not one male or female Indigenous judge among the nine appointed judges. “If we want authentic reconciliation, we need to listen to them,” she added. “Let them lead the way, and let them participate. In short, true reconciliation cannot happen if we ignore those that are affected by the decisions.”

Realistically speaking, it isn’t surprising that the government places more importance on building entertainment establishments than respecting the wishes of a minority group. But when we see these stories emerge in the media, we should ask ourselves: when will Canada truly understand and take action against any and all types of injustice toward Indigenous peoples? When will we live in a country known for respecting not only the people inhabiting it, but their beliefs too? When will the value of words be strong enough to overcome any disparity between promises and actions?

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


Addressing reconciliation with empathy

Recognizing and celebrating our nation’s progress, but understanding there’s still more to do

It has been 10 years since the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted on Sept. 13, 2007. As such, Montreal’s city council chose Sept. 13 to mark the addition of an Iroquois symbol to its city flag.

The city also committed to renaming Amherst Street—named after British general Jeffrey Amherst, who advocated for the use of biological warfare against Indigenous peoples in 1763. These were important and complex decisions, however, they are only part of a larger, ongoing conversation about Indigenous rights and reconciliation.

The debate surrounding the honouring of controversial historical figures in the public and governmental spheres has been an ongoing conversation in Canada for some time. However, it seems to have peaked in the wake of the Confederate monument discourse happening in the United States. While I certainly agree with the renaming of Amherst Street, the issue of consistency comes into question.

For instance, the Langevin block, which houses the prime minister’s office, was named after Hector-Louis Langevin, a father of Confederation and proponent of residential schools. Back in June, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the building would be renamed because “keeping that name on the prime minister’s office is inconsistent with the values of our government.”

However, when confronted by the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario’s initiative to remove the name of John A. MacDonald—Canada’s first prime minister and a supporter of residential schools—from the province’s schools in August, Trudeau sang a different tune. According to CBC News, he said he believes this discourse is important, but “reconciliation is not just about the relationship between government and Indigenous people.” He said there are no plans for the federal government to remove MacDonald’s name from schools, and therein lies a sort of contradiction.

Some of the public’s reaction has been to label Trudeau’s Langevin block announcement and the Montreal city council decision as acts of virtue signalling. I don’t necessarily agree with that, yet when Mayor Denis Coderre proudly claimed: “If we want reconciliation, I don’t think we should celebrate someone who wanted to exterminate Indigenous peoples,” it was hard not to see his point. You can’t have it both ways.

It is important to recognize the work that led to Confederation. However, it is equally important to recognize that our nation was built at the expense of Indigenous people’s territory, culture and lives. Assembly of First Nations national chief Perry Bellegarde told the CBC that the actions of Trudeau and Ontario’s teachers signal an awakening in the minds of Canadians. “What’s hopeful for me is that Canadians are starting to get it,” Bellegarde told the CBC.

To be clear, I am not a member of the Indigenous community, nor do I mean to speak on their behalf. I believe in inclusion, empathy and reconciliation. I think Bellegarde’s words are quite poignant. This is indeed part of a slow awakening. Canada has come a long way. Two years ago, our leadership was hard pressed to even acknowledge a divide between Canada and Indigenous peoples. Now, as a nation, we are at least recognizing that our historical legacy is not perfect, and we are having a discourse to reconcile that past with the present.

I think the way forward is to recognize and celebrate the progress we have made, but not to believe—even for a second—that the past is in the past. The actions of our past have tangible, contemporary consequences. Progress is the sum total of acts of empathy, large and small. We cannot poison acts of goodwill just because they don’t address all violations at once. A single act cannot be comprehensive. But we can certainly be critical and hold our leaders accountable.

It is important to realize that total reconciliation of the past may never be fully realized, but we can work towards a more empathetic and active engagement with our nation’s past. The act of striving for a better relationship with your neighbour is certainly a noble pursuit.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

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