Is it time for indigenous peoples to form a government?

“I would vote, except the homeless don’t have an address, so I can’t register with Elections Canada to vote”

To the Expositor:

The federal election is a scant few days away, and on October 19 voters will decide who will form the next government. Usually less than 50 percent of the eligible voters vote, but of those who do, the majority of votes for a particular party lead to the next government. How many Anishinaabek vote? Who knows? There’s no accurate count of indigenous peoples who live in Canada’s cities, towns and villages. There’s no accurate count of First Nations people who live on the reserves in Canada. But for sure, the aboriginal population in Canada is the fastest growing population with nearly 50 percent under 24 years of age. Aboriginal youth between 15 and 24 years old numbered 254,515, making up 18.2 percent of the aboriginal population, and 5.5 percent of all youth in Canada. The aboriginal population of Canada stands at 1,400,685 who identified as aboriginal in 2011. This is 4.3 percent of the population. How many of these are of voting age? How many will actually vote?

There’s a big flap over whether or not a woman can cover her face while she takes Canada’s citizenship oath. Interesting that recent immigrants can bring their religions, customs, practices, and languages to Canada, when over the last 200 years or so, Canada tried hard to eradicate indigenous peoples who already had religions, customs, practices, and languages of our own. Canada tried to do away with indigenous peoples through questionable land grabs of indigenous lands; prohibiting indigenous peoples from growing, marketing, and selling produce, livestock and other commodities on the open market; wholesale kidnapping of indigenous children for installation in “Indian” residential schools; scooping children up with buses, removing them from homes, families, and communities; and the imposition of foreign education and governance systems upon peoples who already had well established systems and institutions. Picture Indian children getting their long dark hair cut, having their own clothing taken away and replaced with institutional uniforms, being placed in dormitories with other children who were also removed from homes and families. Picture Indian children being punished for speaking their own languages.  Picture Indian children being forcibly indoctrinated with foreign religious customs and beliefs.  Now tell me that the flap over whether or not a woman can wear a face covering isn’t continuing racism and misogyny.

There were recent commemorative events across Canada to remember murdered and missing indigenous women and girls, almost 1,200 at last count. Why is it that violence against women, domestic violence, wrongful evictions, homelessness, elder abuse, and loss of indigenous women’s rights to indigenous homelands is allowed to continue? Why does Canadian society turn a blind eye to this?

So the election campaign drones on. Talk of the Trans Pacific Partnership being good for Canada’s economy is bandied about. Weren’t there abattoirs on the Island once upon a time? Weren’t there mills operating here and there to make grain in past times? Why is it that an animal has to be shipped all the way to somewhere else for slaughter, inspected there, and shipped all the way back here as supermarket meat? Who was it that put all his eggs in the “oil basket” as the Holy Grail for the Canadian economy only for us all to see the price of oil bottom out? Somebody is pulling the price strings of oil somewhere and it ain’t in Canada. The national prime time election talk doesn’t even refer to the income inequality that indigenous people face in Canada; the poverty; the inadequate, overcrowded housing; underfunded First Nations education; disproportionate warehousing of young aboriginal people in Canada’s prisons; the glacial pace of First Nations land claims negotiations; disproportionate chronic health conditions among aboriginal peoples in Canada; unacceptably high rates of suicide among aboriginal youth; and other structural inequities designed to keep indigenous peoples dependent and reliant upon government’s largesse, or lack thereof.

Over in Spain, the Catalonian people voted overwhelmingly to separate from the rest of Spain. The Government of Spain ridiculed the Catalonian people suggesting that their desire to be an independent people was ludicrous. Actually, when you look at the history of the world since the end of the Second World War, more small nations were created than at any other time in world history. One of the smallest nations in the world is Vanuatu in the Pacific Ocean, with a population of 272,264. Hmm…wonder if it’s time for indigenous peoples in Canada to form a government? Can’t be any worse than what the feds haven’t done with their fiduciary obligation. Oh yeah, I would vote, except that the homeless don’t have an address, so I can’t register with Elections Canada to vote.

Marie McGregor-Pitawanakwat

Whitefish River First Nation