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Comprendre la Journée nationale de la vérité et de la réconciliation

Sustainability Leaders 22 septembre 2021
Sustainability Leaders 22 septembre 2021

 

« Je pense qu’un des impacts les plus profonds des pensionnats autochtones a été le silence – le fait que nous n’en parlons pas. Quand j’étais jeune, presque tous les membres de ma famille avaient fréquenté un pensionnat autochtone ou étaient des survivants intergénérationnels, et personne n’en parlait », explique Niigaan Sinclair, professeur en études autochtones et chef du Département d’études autochtones de l’Université du Manitoba, de nouveau invité du balado Leaders et durabilité.

Dans ce deuxième épisode de notre série en deux parties sur la Journée nationale de la vérité et de la réconciliation, Kona Goulet, de BMO, et M. Sinclair parlent de l’histoire des pensionnats autochtones et de leur impact réel sur les Autochtones du Canada.

Dans cet épisode :

  • L’impact continu des pensionnats de nos jours

  • Autres politiques et pratiques mises en place par le gouvernement pour assimiler les peuples autochtones

  • Progrès du Canada sur la voie de la vérité et de la réconciliation et efforts restant à accomplir

  • Mesures visant à promouvoir la réconciliation au Canada

Écoutez la discussion complète

Le balado Sustainability Leaders est diffusé en direct sur toutes les grandes plateformes, dont AppleGoogle and Spotify.

Ce balado est en anglais seulement.

LIRE LA SUITE

Disponible en anglais seulement

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

And I think one of the most powerful impacts of residential schools is silence, the fact that we don't talk about it. When I was growing up, virtually every single relative I had had either attended residential schools or was an intergenerational survivor, and nobody talked about it."

Michael Torrance:

Welcome to Sustainability Leaders. I'm Michael Torrance, Chief Sustainability Officer with BMO Financial Group. On the show, we will talk with leading sustainability practitioners from the corporate, investor, academic, and NGO communities to explore how this rapidly evolving field of sustainability is impacting global investment, business practices, and our world.

Disclosure:

The views expressed here are those of the participants and not those of Bank of Montreal, its affiliates, or subsidiaries.

Kona Goulet:

In our last episode, we talked to Dr. Niigaan Sinclair, Professor in Native Studies and head of the Native Studies Department at the University of Manitoba about the history of the First National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and what this day means. Today, we are going to dive a little deeper on where Canada might be on the path of truth and reconciliation? What more needs to be done? And what progress we've seen so far? [foreign language] Dr. Sinclair for speaking with us today. To WOW, and [Nuninascoman], welcome and thank you for joining us.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

[foreign language], Kona. Thanks so much for having me. [Foreign language]. It's a pleasure to be here.

Kona Goulet:

Following the discoveries of unmarked graves at previous residential school sites across the country, many people are seeking answers and trying to understand this part of our history as a country. But for most Canadians, when they hear talk of residential schools they still think only of the past. However, there are ongoing present day impacts. Can you say more about this?

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

Every single thing in Canadian society comes from residential schools or the ideas that went into residential schools. So when you buy a house, for example, you'll get a deed and that deed comes from a method that Canada used to claim the land, and that goes back to the 1763 Royal Proclamation where the king said, "All the land is mine and people may live there until I arrive. Then I will purchase off them a price of my own choosing, and that will extinguish their land claim and then I will put them on a reserve." And then, of course, the logical next step to that, as I mentioned before, is take the children and teach them that everything about the king and the crown and Canadian society is pristine and perfect, and they should aspire to become those civilized ideas.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

So that goes back to ideas that are several hundred years old, quite racist in their doctrine, and still today continue to be perpetrated on the deed when you buy your house. So when you buy your house, you can say, "Oh, this is here because of the crown's idea, which relates to residential school in that, that's the very idea that perpetrated the harm that I can see today." So if you're in any Canadian city and you look around and you say, "Who are experiencing the most amount of poverty? Who are those who are in the jails the most? Who are those who are experiencing the most addiction? Mental health crisis's? Who are those who were removed the most into the child welfare system?" It's most often indigenous peoples in almost every single city in this country because of residential schools.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

So whether Canadians want to see that as a challenge to themselves, here's the challenge is that we can either help our brothers and sisters in our communities and our cities by saying how do we want to pay for this legacy? This intergenerational legacy by building more jails or helping other human beings to heal from the violence that resulted in me being able to have a house. Because people were removed off every single inch of these lands in this country in order for Canadians to have A, house to live in, B, an economy to live in, C, this bounty, these resources, which build the economy of every single life of every single Canadian comes from the ideas that went into residential schools.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

So you can see the outcome of that in the poverty and the addiction and the pain that indigenous peoples continue to suffer from disproportionately more than anybody else in this country. And we can either do that by helping people deal with it because you have benefited from that pain, every Canadian has. There are many Canadians who want that system to be maintained. Unfortunately, it is unsustainable, it is also not right. It is also genocidal to maintain a system that is so violent.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

And I don't want to live in a society where violence is perpetrated and on a daily basis, I hope others feel the same. In fact, that's what Canada purports itself to be. So why don't we live up to the very name of Canada, which by the way invested by indigenous peoples, invented by indigenous peoples. Canada means the village. The power of the village is that we all live together, nobody is going anywhere. So if we have harms here, we all suffer from the harms, we all pay for the harms, and we all can be part of the solutions to those harms.

Kona Goulet:

You've talked about it in our conversation, but residential schools were one aspect of Canadian government policies and practices that attempted to assimilate indigenous peoples. Can you say a little about what other policies and practices have had significant impacts on indigenous peoples?

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

The most devastating one has been the misuse of the treaties, which created the reserve system. So the reserve system is the system that has to blame for many of the poverty today because it's governed by the Indian Act, which bends economic abilities of indigenous communities to be sovereign or be independent. It doesn't allow for indigenous communities to be able to, for instance, have an economy or be able to create jobs or have businesses because it makes illegal the ability for First Nation to be able to make its own decisions. All the decisions for First Nation take place in Ottawa. If you want to build a building or start a business or get some kind of independence in some way, 99% of the time you have to go to Ottawa to get permission of it.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

Many First Nations through various court settlements have small pockets of money here and there, but most of their funding still relies on a top-down approach from Ottawa, which has created out of the reserve system. So the Indian Act, which governs that system make sure is that it's still illegal here in 2021 is the problem in the first place needs to be replaced. [inaudible 00:06:51] for the purposes of getting rid of Indians was eradicating them, civilizing them, turning them that so that we don't have any more First Nations communities in the country. That was the goal of the king way back in 1763 when he created the idea of the reserves, "We'll put them off to the side until they can be shepherded into becoming my loyal subjects."

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

And the problem, of course, is that indigenous peoples do not want to become loyal subjects. We're going to find any single reason to fight that, to resist that, to express our sovereignty and independence, and that's is much the conflict you can see today, which you see in marches, when you see national chiefs, or even Métis people who are basically denied out of the Indian Act, which is another problem in that we have different ways that we treat indigenous peoples in this country.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

Some are under the Indian Act, some are not and so what you create is this very uneven response to indigenous peoples. Instead of the spirit and the intent of the treaties, which originally was intended for past to share the land, not to have some people pushed off to the side of the bathroom of the house, although while others come in and enjoy the bounty and the resources available in that house. Can you imagine what it'd be like to live with someone if you were forced to live in a bathroom or a closet on a little foot by foot square, and you had a person who was outside that closet saying you're never allowed to come out, and if you try to come out, I'll hurt you? That's the Indian agent, which is another policy that came out of the Indian Act.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

And the way Canada's treatment of indigenous peoples was that they had a crown representative on every single community, which controlled movement, which refused people to be allowed to move around freely like most Canadians would have happily done. If you wanted to go to the store for example, or go hunting or fishing or simply go down and create a business, the Indian nation would stop you, make sure that you had a, you were under the draconian control of the community.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

You could certainly never do ceremonies and even speak your language in public. Or if two people were in public that were seen as committing some kind of sense of an organizing a revolution or resistance movement, or are conspiring to fight the Indian agent in some way, they could be arrested by the police. That's kind of the stuff we saw in the estoppel in Nazi times in Germany, but it was on every day in First Nations. In fact, Nazi Germany, look to see the way that Hitler was a greater affinity towards the way in which Canada treated Indian people and base that on how he treated Jewish people in Germany.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

There are many different other policies that I could describe to you, some of them are just absolutely inane. The Gradual Civilization Act, for example, had this principle that indigenous peoples had to evolve in the same way non-native peoples evolved. So they weren't allowed to use farming implements, even though they were competing against Canadian farmers who were using oxen and plows, but indigenous peoples had to do all that by hand.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

In the 1920s, indigenous peoples were banned from writing letters complaining about their treatment because what happened after World War I is so many veterans came back and saw they'd experienced equality while fighting in the trenches in Europe. And then when they came back, they realized that indigenous peoples were never being treated equally or with any sense of equity or the treaties were never meant to be that way.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

So they started writing letters and these veterans were eventually told you can't write any letters anymore, so you're banned from writing letters. You to hand your letters to the Indian agent and the Indian agent would hand on your letters to the minister, which I'm sure happened, absolutely absurd law. We were banned from hiring lawyers, for advocating for land claims, we were controlled dress in public. It was illegal to be wearing your traditional regalia in public because you were seen as acting uncivilized.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

There are hundreds of other examples, and as you can see, you can become quite overwhelmed with all the descriptions of the ways in which indigenous peoples have been controlled, have been bend and treated much in the ways in which those throughout the world, people in Nazi Germany or South Africa had been treated. Things that we have and Ben and shake our finger at as Canadians, but have happened right here. And the legacies that are happening much are still the same ideas that exist in Canadian society today.

Kona Goulet:

More broadly, where do you see Canada on the path of truth and reconciliation? What more needs to be done? And could you speak to what progress you have seen?

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

I mean, there are some remarkable things that have happened in the past two decades that I never thought was going to happen in my lifetime. We see more indigenous peoples entering into mainstream institutions than ever before. Most of us are still the first, first from our community, first of our family to enter a profession. First indigenous person, sometimes in an entire field, like the case of my father, first indigenous judge in Manitoba history, and that's only a couple of decades ago. Now there are many different judges that have come into Manitoba.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

The interesting thing is when indigenous peoples enter into a field are most often looking for how can we bring others? How can we open the door for others? And so it's kind of our communal mentality, it comes from our culture, it comes from our language, it comes from our teachings. And so you're never really just the first but to get to the first, you have to break a lot of glass ceilings. Then you also have to face off the reality that the challenge is not just entering into workplaces, it's staying there because the entrenched racism that's often within those places that has ostracized you in the first place now that you're in the workplace, now you're expected to deal with it and can counter it.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

When I was a teacher, for example, I wasn't expected to teach kids, I was expected to teach all my colleagues as well. And then I was also expected to teach every single school around me, dozens, in fact, none of them had indigenous teachers. So they are suddenly expecting me to come in and I was doing four times the job as everybody else. And any indigenous employee will tell you that being the first of something is remarkable, but you're expected to do four, five times the job as everybody else. And that hasn't changed much, in fact, that's probably exactly how it is today.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

Look at your fellow indigenous employees around you and I guarantee to you they are doing two to three times the job as you are. And that's not to say that they're better, that's not to say that you're not doing enough, it's simply to say that that's the reality of where we are at. So for many indigenous peoples who are entering into workplaces, but there's a whole heap of challenges that go with that. So that's hopeful, but it's also a challenge.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

Some of the other opportunities I see, is I see more awareness, I see more consciousness involving the issues that come out of the treatment, the violent treatment of indigenous peoples. And I think the evidence is within this awareness around unmarked graves. 20 years ago, that probably wouldn't have been a story on the media. I think back to how indigenous peoples are treated when we were out marching in the streets during Idle No More for example. During Idle No More there was tens of thousands of people on Canadian streets talking about peace and treaty rights and talking about how do we live together?

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

The most remarkable social justice in history since the civil rights movement, frankly, tens of thousands of people marching, talking about love and honesty and commitment, but yet media and I work in the media now, so I know where this is coming from, they were too interested in covering some monkey in an Ikea story in Toronto, which is inane and stupid and not worth your time as a story. But what is worth your time is tens of thousands of people marching on the streets talking about the future of Canada. But the media now I think is more cognizant, more invested, more engaged.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

If you look at the Mork at the Winnipeg Free Press, where I work, for example, almost every day, there is a cover story on indigenous peoples. Brian Pallister who is the premier of Manitoba was recently just challenged and eventually resigned because of his extremely offensive and inappropriate and factually incorrect comments around indigenous peoples. That's the first time in king history that's ever happened.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

Normally, Canada build statues and names buildings, and an honors people who are racist against indigenous peoples and says, "Look at these heroes." And you're like, they're not really heroes, they are quite racist against indigenous peoples. Maybe we shouldn't hold them up as a people that we want to teach our children and someone they want to be like. But now premiers when they say factually incorrect, offensive comments around indigenous peoples, they can't stay in office. That's an interesting development, that's happened in the most recent times in 2021.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

What I would also say is we hear more from indigenous peoples more than ever in particularly indigenous women, which is one of the very first times in history that we're doing, we have much more a longer way to go. We have particularly a long way to go because I still think that the society doesn't want to hear from indigenous LGBTQ communities, they aren't prepared or interested or engaged to want to hear from the experiences of diverse sexualities or diverse genders.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

Frankly, some of our teachings that talk about queerness like the clan system and talk about who we are as a society that we aren't built just in terms of male, female, or a White, Brown or Red or Black, that we're built in these kinds of ways that are complex and interesting and complicated. So I see more progress happening, but then I also see how much work there is left to do.

Kona Goulet:

Last question. What actions would you suggest to Canadians to progress reconciliation in our country?

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

The first is read, listen, listen twice as much before you speak, as my uncle says, and then talk to people afterwards. Once you're given a gift, it's like when somebody hands you some food or hands you a meal, or hands you something and worked really hard on an art project, for example, or a piece of painting, you're expected to do something with it, put it up at the wall, eat the food, hand it off to somebody else and share it. So when you listen and when you read and when you think then talk to your children, talk to who they are and ask them questions of what do you know?

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

What you may find is that your children know more about situations in the country, these experiences than you do, because children are smart and children are innovative. And many children have really radical teachers, really smart teachers and read magazines and online sources. And social media is probably that great equalizer where you can hear many different views in many different directions. So your children may be more educated on issues of residential schools and reconciliation and treaty rights than even you are.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

And so you may learn something, you may be able to talk about things around the kitchen table then you can make some decisions. What do we do about it now? How do we commit to ourselves in the work that we do in our workplaces, in our donations, in our voting, how do we act accordingly? Then you may want to take a step up and you may want to say how do I volunteer? How do I be part of the solution? How do I commit to asking my MLA or my MP to become engaged on this issue?

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

Because it's not just about you, it's about saying how does your community change? How does the world around you become affected by what you now know? Because you can't unknow what you know. You know it, and once you know it, you realize that something can be done about it. And that means writing emails, participating in marches, that means taking your workplace and doing an activity. What I will say to people in workplaces is look around, if you see no indigenous faces in your workplace that's the first problem right there is that your workplace should resemble the community in which you come from.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

In Manitoba, for example, 20% of the population is indigenous. If you don't have 20% of your workforce, that's indigenous, frankly, you have no right, no ability or no legitimacy to talk about representing community. So how do you change that? You can bring speakers and you can spend time with people, you can hire, you can train, you can talk about who you are as a workplace and what you want. What I've said to Winnipeg Free Press, for example, is you have no right to talk about reconciliation with any legitimacy until you have a newsroom that has 20% indigenous peoples. And they're not there yet, but they're moving, they're changing and they're growing.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

And same could be said about people from the Islamic community, same could be said LGBTQ. Those are the kinds of commitments that we should make. Those are just tangible, simple ways to think about it. We should reflect the community that we come from as one step in which I'm not saying that's going to bring reconciliation or equity, or I'm going to say, that's a beginning point where you can begin to talk.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

I also say that it's your obligation if you don't see indigenous faces in your workplace is then go out of your workplace, go get to know the community, go get to know the people that you work with or the clients or the communities that you work with and try to engage them in the terms they want to be connected to. Don't enforce your beliefs. Like people say, well, "You know why don't indigenous peoples want to reconcile with me?" Because we have 150 years of division, we have 150 years of violence and no wonder nobody trusts.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

Frankly, indigenous peoples trusting non-indigenous peoples it's going to take a long time. It's going to take a lot of kindness, a lot of humility, a lot of generosity, because you have 150 years of those who have come before you that have perpetrated violence. And so when you begin to act differently it's right to not trust you. But when you earn your trust and you come to the gatherings and you stand and you listen then that trust begins, a trust process starts. And it may take 150 years for us to all trust one another and work together and commit to one another in a kind and generous way, but that 150 years will be way more just kind peaceful than the past 150 years has been.

Kona Goulet:

[foreign language]. And thank you again, Dr. Sinclair. We really appreciate you taking the time to speak with us today.

Dr. Niigaan Sinclair:

[foreign language]. I'm very honored to be a part of this series that you're doing. I also really encourage everybody to wear an orange shirt on that day of national reconciliation because it honors the work of residential school survivors and Phyllis Webstad who started the Orange Shirt Day project, which recognizes the resilience of survivors and the important gifts that survivors have to give us. Checkout Orange Shirt Day so that you can understand of why people are wearing orange shirts on the national day of reconciliation because it connects together. So that's a really important teaching that you can learn a little bit. Wear an orange shirt on that day.

Michael Torrance:

Thanks for listening to Sustainability Leaders. This podcast is presented by BMO Financial Group. To access all the resources we discussed in today's episode and to see our other podcasts, visit us at bmo.com/sustainabilityleaders. You can listen and subscribe free to our show on Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast provider. And we'll greatly appreciate a rating and review and any feedback that you might have. Our show and resources are produced with support from BMO's marketing team and Puddle Creative. Until next time, I'm Michael Torrance. Have a great week.

Disclosure:

The views expressed here are those of the participants and not those of Bank Montreal, its affiliates or subsidiaries. This is not intended to serve as a complete analysis of every material fact regarding any company, industry strategy or security. This presentation may contain forward-looking statements. Investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on such statements as actual results could vary.

Disclosure:

This presentation is for general information purposes only and does not constitute investment, legal or tax advice and is not intended as an endorsement of any specific investment product or service. Individual investors should consult with an investment tax and/or legal professional about their personal situation. Past performance is not indicative of future results.

Kona Goulet Head, Indigenous Equity & Inclusion, BMO Financial Group

PARTIE 1

Comprendre la Journée nationale de la vérité et de la réconciliation

Kona Goulet 14 septembre 2021

  « Pour les communautés autochtones, la découverte de tombes anonymes, les disparitions d’enfants et les me…




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