The definition of truth is a hard one. In ancient Greece truth meant: the bringing out into the light that which was once hidden. The definition of reconciliation is: an act of reconciling, as when former enemies agree to an amicable truce. With both parties agreeing to put truth and reconciliation together to form the title of a process tasked with creating a better relationship between the federal government and the indigenous people of Canada, one could mistakenly assume that both the Federal government and indigenous leaders were trying to bring out into the light the hidden history of European contact with this land’s indigenous people, while reaching an amicable truce. I believe that this was never the case, and this is why.
If the definition of these words are to be taken literally, Truth and Reconciliation was achieved many years ago. What appears to be happening under the vail of truth and reconciliation this time around, is an attempt to renegotiate the terms of a not so amicable truce.
Indigenous people were never happy with the treaties and agreements that their leaders signed. Ancestors of those chiefs who signed the agreements wish to renegotiate, because the truth is that the treaties and deals were signed to prevent the unnecessary deaths of their people. To stop fighting a war that they had no hope of winning. This accurate accounting of historical facts makes it understandable why the indigenous people, seek to make updated terms to the treaties and agreements that their ancestral chiefs signed.
Indigenous leaders however cling to the fabrication that their ancestral leaders signed treaties and agreements that gave Canada’s forefathers paternalistic power over all indigenous people, without coercion, and of their own free will. If this is to be taken as truth, then by what reason should the Canadian government even consider renegotiating the terms, other than, on compassionate grounds and to demonstrate moral conscience?
Is it possible for two former enemies, whose ancestors signed treaties and agreements to sit at a negotiation table many years later and expect to agree to new terms, if one or both are saying, “I only want to keep what is good for me from the original treaties and agreements, and replace everything from the original deal that does not sit well with me, with things that suit me better?” This is part of what has been happening between the indigenous people of Canada and the Canadian government, and therefore this fight will go on and on, without the possibility of a negotiated end.
Truth and reconciliation at best, is a way for indigenous leaders to show their people that they are not afraid to shame the Canadian government. This is good politicking and will get indigenous leaders re-elected, but does little to improve the lives of their people. Truth and reconciliation at its worse, allows for the federal government to use money to buy absolution for Canada’s founding fathers.
If Canadians are going to be forced to re-visit this process again and again, can both sides at least try to stick to the facts?
- European colonization was barbaric, cruel and unjust, but there is no turning back the clock.
- The present-day situation between Canada’s indigenous people and the government is a horrific mess.
- Indigenous people believe that Canada has not lived up to what they say are their treaty rights as found in signed treaties and agreements.
- The Canadian government’s position is that indigenous leaders are misinterpreting and over-stating what was signed and agreed upon.
- The Canadian government will never acknowledge nor adopt what First Nations People understand as their right to nation to nation sharing of this land.
- The Canadian government will not allow itself to be surrounded by 360-364 independent nations, because it would mean the end of Canada, and would be political suicide.
- The federal government cannot deal effectively with the province of Quebec. Why would the federal government willingly encourage and help to make 364 volatile, hard to deal with, quasi nations?
- No indigenous chief walked up to the European colonizers and said, “Welcome to my land, let us not fight.” Let us live together in peace and share this land, nation to nation.”
- Indigenous people lost the fight to keep their land, as many an indigenous people have done historically the world over, as other nations sought to carve out empires.
- Surrendering to the enemy through treaties and concessions does not negate the fact that a war was fought and one side lost; it is proof of the war and the loss.
- That indigenous leaders were not happy to have signed such deals before the ink was dry, is normal. The terms were rarely fair in these types of treaties and agreements, because the victor usually dictated the terms.
- History proves, that treaties between indigenous people and colonizers, by design, were not meant to be fair.
- The purpose of such treaties was to humble the enemy; to subjugate the enemy, and to ensure that the enemy could not become a future threat. The aim was no different in Canada.
- Even if it were possible, there is no political will to achieve Truth and Reconciliation on either side.
- There is still too much money to be made and too much power to be won by the respective leaders.
- There is not enough time in an eternity, money in the world, or words in the dictionary to make indigenous people forgive and forget and never again mention the horrors of colonization, which include, Residential Schooling.
- Residential Schooling was a dark place in time where the Canadian government attempted to strip indigenous children of their language, culture, religion and heritage and replace them with the ways of Europeans. It was a time when The Canadian government was guilty of attempted genocide and ethnocide.
- Canada’s indigenous leaders are partial responsible for the deplorable state their communities are in.
- Unclean drinking water, substandard housing, child abuse, drug addiction and alcoholism, are in part a direct result of indigenous leader’s mismanagement of monies. All that is wrong with life on the reserve cannot and should not be blamed on the government of Canada.
- Indigenous people of Canada must stop letting the horrors of the residential schooling system be used as an excuse for abusing their own, becoming alcoholics, drug addicts and under achieving in school.
- The reality for Canada’s indigenous people is that there is no going back to the way things used to be.
- Indigenous people must never forget, but they must move forward and stop allowing what was to pull them down, like crabs in a bucket.
- Most non-indigenous Canadians care about indigenous people’s past, present, or future, and want to do the right thing, until what needs to be done affects them. No non-indigenous Canadian is willing to give up the land they now consider theirs to make things right.
- Non- indigenous Canadians who once cared and thought that truth and reconciliation was attainable are now growing desensitized and tired of the ongoing argument.
- Most non-indigenous Canadians worry more about the financial cost as one case after another, from every individual indigenous group is fought up to the Supreme Court of Canada. This is because unless shown on television the non-indigenous Canadian will never see the suffering up close and personal.
- Non-indigenous people are denied free and clear access indigenous land.
- Most non-indigenous Canadians only get to see indigenous leaders on television and band members who work on the perimeter of the reserve.
- The average non-indigenous person only gets to see and interact with the indigenous drug addicts, alcoholics and homeless, on a daily basis.
- This is indigenous people denying non-indigenous Canadians access into their communities, and nothing to do with the government of Canada.
- Non-indigenous people are welcome to spend their money in the smoke shops, casinos and other shops that circle the reserve; march in solidarity with indigenous people, but access to indigenous communities and community life is barred to them.
- Indigenous people are guilty of practicing exclusion, while trying to prove how sharing and inclusive they have always been and still are.
- Causing professional harm to non-indigenous artists like Amanda PL. Artists who dare to learn and create art using bright colors and bold outlines often associated with an indigenous art style, is so wrong and not worthy of anyone, including indigenous people.
- This type of action does little to show the sharing people indigenous people claim to have been, and claim to still be.
- Adopting laws that ban non-natives from living on reserve is not nice. There would be such push back, if the rest of Canada demanded that all indigenous people wanting to live off reserve must first give up any claim to their indigenous heritage.
- Forcing band members to move off reserve for marrying a non-native, is mean-spirited and does not show a willingness to be inclusive. The policy of, “marry out, move out,” is reverse discrimination, racist and exclusivist.
- Everyone knows about the damage done to the indigenous people of Canada by European colonialism.
- The things that were not taught in school have in recent years been exposed and brought into the homes of every person, who listens to the radio, watches television, or has a digital device.
- The international world knows of Canada’s dark past and of its inability or lack of political will to meaningfully change its relationship with its indigenous people.
- Racism, reverse discrimination and fear have become the face of the Truth and Reconciliation process, instead of hope, equality, dignity and justice for all.
- Violence is not an option for indigenous people.
- Indigenous people will need the support of every non-indigenous person they can muster, if a negotiated settlement is truly what is being sought.
- Indigenous leaders must present their wishes/demands clearly and succinctly. Too often all that is heard are slogans, talking points and a lot of rhetoric about reaching unattainable goals.
- Shaming politicians and non-indigenous Canadians is not enough. This tactic will work to further their cause in the short-term, but it will most assuredly turn non-indigenous people against their cause in the long run.
- Indigenous people, must decide before sitting down at the negotiating table who represents them and come to the table as a unified force.
- It is frustrating and counterproductive for a government to negotiate with an organization made up of Grand chiefs and other indigenous leaders, come to a deal, sign off on it, only to find out that local band members will not accept it, claiming that the leaders at the negotiating table did not represent them. This renders the entire process moot, a waste of time and effort.
- Indigenous leaders need to be at the negotiation table and every other table where politicians gather and discuss the rights and freedoms of indigenous people.
- Boycotting First Ministers conferences that they are invited to should never be a part of their strategy, because it is counterproductive. First Ministers who invited them to attend, can now say without lying, “We reached out and tried to consult with indigenous leaders, but the indigenous leaders were too busy trying to look good and prove a point, to even listen to what we had to say.”
- If indigenous people decide that a financial compensation package is what they want, then they must take money from the government with the understanding that they cannot seek any further recompense from the Canadian government for the historical wrong doings of Canada’s forefathers.
- Indigenous people suffering under third world conditions on the reserve never knew that their chiefs were making salaries in some cases higher than parliamentarians. While water filtration broke down, housing began to crumble and children started to commit suicide because they lost all sense of hope, some indigenous leaders continued and still continue to draw huge salaries, instead of using what monies were and are available to fix what was and is still wrong.
Truth can be a very hard thing to practice and even harder to accept when you are trying to explain the history of one’s ancestors. Both sides of this debate have proved not to be any good at it, or even willing to try.
Note: As a Black person, I know what it is to lose my language, culture, heritage, religion and homeland. My ancestors were taken by force and sold into slavery. The reality for us and Canada’s indigenous people is that there is no going back to the way things used to be.
My ancestors had to deal with racial discrimination and public segregation in some parts of the USA until 1964. In 1964 The Civil Rights Act, officially ended this sort of practice. I would and could not continue to support any government, or people who adopted such racist, segregationist policies and laws.