One day of support is not enough

Editorials Opinions

Settlers and Indigenous people need to keep working together beyond cancelling Canada Day once

News Unsettled Native Students Union column
Graphic provided by the Native Students Union.

On July 1, 2021, there were several events in Victoria to honour the children that never made it home from residential schools. These events came with mass settler support and attendance. Instead of celebrating the genocidal settler state, many came together to cancel Canada Day and honour Indigenous peoples instead.

The morning began with a march from Fisherman’s Wharf to the legislature and a subsequent gathering on the legislature grounds. Then, in the evening, a collection of singers, dancers, and a talk by Tracy Underwood was organized by the W̱SÁNEĆ Nation. After these two events had ended, a group of Indigenous youth from nuučaanuł and other coastal nations tore down a statue of Captain James Cook and threw it into the harbour. At all of these events, there was a large number of settlers in attendance.

While this support was certainly appreciated — and needed — it must continue beyond July 1. It is one thing to take a photo in an orange shirt for one day, but it is another to continually support Indigenous sovereignty and resurgence. There are still causes that need the support and privileges of settlers.

Take, for example, the Fairy Creek blockade. Since enforcement of the supreme court injunction began on May 17, the RCMP have arrested more than 300 people. The Tyee reported that those on the ground in Fairy Creek have witnessed unsafe practices by the RCMP while making these arrests. More than that, aggressive arrests of Indigenous youths involved in the blockades have been made.

There are also problems beyond land claims that have to be addressed in the country. In November 2020, the B.C. government released the “In Plain Sight” report, which details the violence and racism experienced by Indigenous peoples in the health care system. Despite this report being released last year, there has been little to no progress made towards meeting the report’s recommendations.

Indigenous children still represent over 50 per cent of children involved in the foster care system. This is severe over representation. Despite years of advocacy, the federal government continues to claim they are changing, while on the other hand they fight Indigenous children in court.

Nlaka’pamux members from Lytton and the surrounding area had to “fend for themselves” when a fire ripped through the town on June 30, 2021. The Chair of the Nlaka’pamux Tribal Council said that Emergency Management B.C. did not aid members in Lytton when the fire began to spread, and there was also no communication about the evacuation. Many Nlaka’pamux people are now without houses, exhausted, and spread around the province.

Whether it is to do with land defense, climate change, health care, foster care, or law enforcement, Indigenous peoples need support. If together we can cancel a celebration that has been going on for more than 150 years, we can change these issues plaguing Indigenous peoples. By expressing support (whether physically or from a distance), pressuring the government, and donating to those in need, there can be tangible change in the near future.

We need to keep working together. Let’s not allow Indigenous rights and lives to become another trend that disappears into the void when white people grow too tired.