Lately I’ve been reading news articles about issues affecting Indigenous people and blog posts by other Metis and First Nations people (even book reviews of Indigenous titles on Goodreads), and I’ve come across comments from Canadians saying that they’re tired of hearing Indigenous people “complain” of being oppressed by white colonial government. “Every racial group on earth has been oppressed by someone,” a commenter wrote. “Get over it.”
Another mentioned that she thought the world was getting more “homogenous.” It’s a melting pot, and Indigenous people should just call themselves Canadians and let themselves be “integrated.” The tone of this comment was self-congratulatory: look at me for possessing an inclusive mindset! It shows how deeply racism is embedded in the general population.
I didn’t really have much to say about it until I read today’s article by Nancy Macdonald for Maclean’s, Welcome to Winnipeg: Where Canada’s racism problem is at its worst.
Very thoughtful piece, but I found one paragraph particularly interesting. Apparently in early December 2014, Winnipeg’s police chief “asked Winnipeggers to “recognize white privilege, suggesting their ‘affluence resulted from historic inequity, that some Winnipeggers think that Indigenous people choose to be drunk on Main Street or they choose to be involved in the sex trade. We need to have those specific conversations,’” he went on to say, “’and try to understand why those individuals are living in those conditions.’”
This statement from the police chief of one of Canada’s major cities should constitute an invitation for a federal inquiry. How else are “difficult conversations” instigated over national issues? Vigils, art exhibits, and citizen outrage bring awareness to the growing urgency of missing or murdered Indigenous girls and women, but we need more.
Responding to the Macleans article, Winnipeg mayor, Brian Bowman, called a news conference today and had a few things to say about racism in his home town.
What’s it going to take for Stephen Harper to listen to the growing voice asking for an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women? The government is centre ice settler colonialism. Conversations addressing white affluence and historic inequity are decolonizing conversations. But talk is not enough. Real solutions must be implemented.
Indigenous issues became Canada’s issues when the first British explorer put his country’s flag on native land. There needs to be a bigger response from the white populations in Canada, who continue to think (wrongly) that First Nations are getting a free ride, and willfully drink and prostitute themselves, causing their own problems.
So to those who demand Indigenous people “shut up” or “get over it,” or “integrate,” please educate yourself before complaining that we are complaining too loudly. For many years we did not have a voice.
We aren’t going to shut up and integrate into your white culture. And our issues aren’t just our issues. They’re yours too.
Next post: How Winnipeg became a racist hotbed between whites and Indigenous people.