Special to APTN National News
On July 1st, 1867, the four colonies united to become the Dominion of Canada. It is now 2017, and this year Canada will be celebrating its 150th birthday.
However, with this celebration, there are many uncomfortable and bitter undertones to its establishment and assertion as a nation.
Some, including myself, would argue that Canada is also celebrating not only its 150th birthday, but 150 years of exploitation of Indigenous lands, and 150 years of oppression of Indigenous Peoples.
I say “peoples” because Indigenous peoples are very diverse and are not all the same, and each of their identities and cultural histories should be recognized and honoured.
With its festive, and expensive, celebrations, Canada is also, consciously, or unconsciously, celebrating 150 years of assuming sovereignty for land in which it does not have a title.
Many treaties were signed between government agents and the Indigenous Peoples of what is currently known as “Canada.” These treaties, as oral history will confirm, were treaties of peace and friendship, and never did they cede and surrender the land.
The spirit and intent of the treaties and oral negotiations, in contrast to the official Queen’s Press documents, were that we were to live well together on the land, taking only what we needed to survive, and respecting Mother Earth.
This aspect was obviously not honoured, and the land continues to be exploited, ravaged, and disrespected, and this is a major footing point for the Canadian economy.
The original spirit and intent of the treaties did not always align with the official Queen’s Press documents that were signed, by people whose first languages were not English, and they were quietly written in such a way that “ceded and surrendered” the land to the Crown and did not at all honour the oral negotiations.
It can also be argued that since these treaties are not currently honoured, that Canada is and has been in breach of these treaties, which are conditions for European settlement in the lands for which the Treaties are outlined.
It can also be argued that it is not in the interest of the current Government of Canada to fulfill its treaty obligations, as that would mean a shift in the power dynamic, creating a true nation-to-nation relationship. This would mean a redistribution of land rights and an obvious blow to the Canadian economy.
The Canadian economy is based on the exploitation of lands for which it assumes sovereignty and mineral rights over.
Any government in the House of Commons has the main agenda to be re-elected. To be re-elected will always come first and trumps Indigenous issues.
The budget for the Canada 150 celebrations is to the number of at least $210 million. The Trudeau government finds room for these elaborate celebrations, while they are silent in their unfulfilled election promises, dedicating 50 million dollars to Indigenous Post-Secondary education, as well as their dedication to implementing the calls-to-action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
It is with a bitter taste in my mouth that I speak about Canada’s 150th birthday, and it is not because I do not believe that it should be celebrated, but I believe that there should some acknowledgement of how Canada’s reputation as the “number one peaceful nation” is tarnished by its hushed historical and current oppression and cultural genocide of Indigenous Peoples.
Cody Bugler is a fourth year Indigenous studies major at the University of Saskatchewan.