Trudeau, there is racism in Canada. You’re defending it.
Yesterday (on October 19), an emergency debate was held in the House of Commons on the subject of the violence and intimidation taking place in fisheries in Mi’kmaq territory (Mi’kma’ki), or Nova Scotia. The Indigenous fishers of the area, who are exercising their Treaty 1752 rights to a moderate livelihood through hunting and fishing, have been met with assaults, sabotage, arson and discrimination from businesses. All this from local commercial fishers who claim their own livelihoods are threatened, a claim that feels ridiculous when one considers the size of the commercial lobster industry in comparison to the Indigenous fisheries. Scientists also disagree with the claims of commercial fishermen that Indigenous fisheries would threaten the lobster population, and admit even in their discussions about fishery sustainability that the deeper issue is “a racism problem.”
So Canada is facing a crisis because of a high concentration of hate crimes against Mi’kmaw fishers. Yet, during this debate, I heard Justin Trudeau in one of his many vague statements say that “racism has no place in Canada.” I cannot express my frustration enough. Not only is this an avoidance of the severity of the issue, but it is an outright lie. Racism has clearly taken a place in Canada right in front of us, right now, and not at all for the first time in only a few months. The least the government can do is acknowledge it.
After years of repeated acts of systemic armed violence against Indigenous people, including those perpetrated by the RCMP and the Canadian military itself – a case-in-point being the raid the on Unis’tot’en blockade – it is a spit in the face to thousands of people for a Prime Minister to absolve himself of complicity by suggesting racism is an external problem not built into the fabric of the state he represents. In Mi’kma’ki now, the Sipekne’katik First Nation only asks to be given the same protection from RCMP that settler commercial fishers would be given under their circumstances. But according to Chief Michael Sack, RCMP are doing next to nothing. As much as this infuriates me, it doesn’t surprise me either. What real intervention can the RCMP do, with their history? After earlier this year they were the ones violating UNDRIP?
Jean Battiste, the only Mi’kmaw MP in the House of Commons, reminded viewers and attendees of the debate that the right to a moderate livelihood was not granted under the 1999 court decision; rather, this was a right that the Mi’kmaq have always had. It is an injustice in itself that Indigenous peoples (in multiple places – we see this happening as well in Algonquin territory with the moose moratorium) should have to wait for negotiations to subsist off their own lands. To be met with targeted violence on top of that is an absolute disgrace, and to turn responsibility away from the colonial state that allows all this adds the ultimate insult to injury.
If settlers care about breaking down the anti-Indigenous foundations of Canada, we need to place our support with Indigenous peoples wherever they practise self-determination. This government will not; the RCMP will not. It is up to us to build power together. This Google doc is currently circulating with a donation link and more ways to advocate for Mi’kmaw fishers. Harsha Walia has also compiled a helpful collection of information about the many similar struggles happening right now. October 19-23 has recently been declared a week of action for the Mi’kmaq, so keep your eyes open for initiatives and actions near you!