are coming from. Indigenous entrepreneurs are often first-generation, so
they need start-up support. We won’t see a reconciled Canada until Indigenous entrepreneurs and business people are no longer paraded as
exceptional but instead are the norm.
Karla Jessen Williamson, assistant professor, educational foundations, University of Saskatchewan. Inuk, from Maniitsoq, Greenland.
It has been very trying for Indigenous populations to have their existence
annulled – that’s what the last 150 years have been. The 150th anniversary
has to be marked by the fact that things have to change. We must confront our colonial thinking and attitudes and redefine what Canadian-ness
means. We must move beyond the false notion that Canada was founded
by the French and the English, recognizing that we started off with the
First Nations, Métis and Inuit, and have become a society that thrives on
diversity and knows how to share resources fairly among everyone.
In a reconciled Canada, taking care of the interests of Indigenous
peoples would be done without question. The mental, physical and spiritual health of Indigenous people would be restored – what kind of Canada is it when 70 percent of people in Nunavut are hungry? For the Inuit,
it would mean self-determination.
There would be respect and recognition for Aboriginal knowledge
systems. Funding institutions currently do not recognize the uniqueness
of these, so there’s no funding set aside for Indigenous populations to
develop and systematically bring these knowledge systems into the academy. Funding cannot be obtained unless a project is done in one of the
official languages. In a reconciled Canada, it would be possible to do an
entire research project in an Indigenous language using an Indigenous
knowledge system, and which could then be reinvested into the institutions where the researchers are working.
Universities would also appreciate the special effort Indigenous researchers make to bring Indigenous knowledge into the academy in an
authentic way that is respected by our home communities. Indigenous
researchers often work with a “two-eyed” perspective, negotiating Western and Indigenous ways of seeing the world as we conduct and present
our research. There needs to be sensitivity towards this. The processes
in academia have repeatedly shown themselves to be well-oriented towards colonization and can easily bulldoze the unique contributions and
knowledge brought by Indigenous scholars.
Reconciliation has a lot of hope, but I’m hoping that real actions will
Qwul’sih’yah’maht/Robina Thomas, associate professor, school of social work,
and director of Indigenous academic and community engagement, University of
Victoria. Coast Salish, from Lyackson First Nation, B.C.
I don’t think Indigenous people are at a place where we want to talk about
a reconciled Canada. By definition, reconciliation is the action of making
one’s view or belief compatible with another. What views or beliefs are
we trying to reconcile? Who needs to reconcile with whom? I don’t think
we’re even close to beginning to do that. I get concerned that by focusing
on reconciliation, we turn away from the crimes of the past and ignore
their connections to the present.
Atrocities continue to happen that are related to residential schools:
the murdered and missing Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited people; and the alarming rate of Indigenous children who are apprehended
and placed in strangers’ care. Upwards of 50 percent of the children in
care in Canada are Indigenous, even though we make up four to five percent of the population. Some of the families of murdered and missing
Indigenous women say they feel left out of the federal inquiry process,
so whose views are we aligning? The federal government has been taken to the Federal Court and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal over
discrimination against Indigenous children in child welfare; we win that
case yet nothing really changes. We will never have a reconciled Canada
if this level of violence continues – our children continue to go missing
through the child welfare system and our mothers, sisters, daughters and
grandmothers go missing on our streets and in our communities.
Education is key. We must start with young people, sharing the true
history of the legacy of colonial policies and practices, and how they impact Indigenous people. If children grew up knowing this, they would at
least have an opportunity to understand Indigenous people in Canada
differently and would not have to “unbecome” or confront their Canadian
identity later in life – a painful process.
I am very conflicted about Canada 150. I have never celebrated July 1
– it’s hard to celebrate when we can’t honour all people, but especially
our Indigenous women and children. I do think some Canada 150 events
will be respectful and honour Indigenous people and Indigenous ways of
knowing and being; I will seek out those events.
“Reconciliation is the action of
making one’s view or belief compatible
with another. I don’t think we’re even
close to beginning to do that.”