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No pride in genocide

LEFT JAB by John Bell

June 30, 2021
Doug Ford canceled Canada Day festivities at Queen’s Park.
He did it in 2019, because he said attendance at the annual festivities was declining. He did it to save $400,000 budgeted for food and entertainment. He did it – along with his other cuts – so he could give tax breaks to his developer friends.
He did not do it because of a sense of shame, or contrition for the genocide that his province, and his country, is founded on.
Doug Ford cannot claim he was unaware of the shameful history of residential schools, of children torn from their families in the “60’s scoop”, or the long list of Indigenous women and girls murdered or simply disappeared. Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls had been published in June of 2019. It was huge news and subject to public discussion. The report deliberately used the word “genocide” to describe the history of the Canadian state’s policies toward Indigenous people. 
One of Ford’s first acts upon election of his majority government was to axe planned revisions to Ontario school curriculum that would have included lessons on the history of Indigenous cultures, the residential school system, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and introducing Indigenous languages in kindergarten. The move was rationalized as a cost-saving, part of Ford’s drive for “efficiency”.
In his first cabinet, Ford cut the position of Minister of Indigenous Relations. He made Indigenous affairs, the body responsible for reconciliation, a subset of the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry. In April 2019, just weeks before the publication of the MMIWG report, he cut the budget for the Indigenous Affairs department by 15%.
Beginning the day he took office Doug Ford has treated Indigenous people to one slap in the face after another.
On June 23 Ford tweeted: “My heart aches for Indigenous communities with news of more unmarked grave sites and hundreds more children who never returned home. We must confront and learn from this horrific side of history, including here in Ontario, so families may find the closure they deserve.”
Ford’s statement is hollow rhetoric. His actions speak louder than words.
Ford is not an exception. He is typical of elected officials all across what they call Canada.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that “My heart is broken”, and ladled out more smooth rhetoric about how much he cares for Indigenous people. But his government continues court cases against residential school survivors and systemically underfunded Indigenous children.  His pledge to provide clean drinking water to hundreds of Indigenous communities is just another broken promise.  
But Trudeau had no trouble finding the billions to buy an oil pipeline.
Indigenous people have had enough. They are calling for cancelation of Canada Day, for cancelation of a country built literally on the unmarked graves of the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island. For them this is a day of mourning. 
Some communities are responding to the call. St, John New Brunswick has joined Victoria BC, and dozens of other municipalities in canceling Canada Day. Polls show that more than half of the people agree that systemic racism is a problem in Canada. Statues honouring racist historical figures are coming down, either toppled by angry popular movements or moved to obscure corners by jittery civic officials.
Right-wingers and white supremacists – among them Conservative leader Erin O’Toole  – fight back with feeble arguments that residential schools weren’t all bad after all, and that the rising tide of anger and historical awareness counts as “cancel culture”. Each time they make their toxic justifications, another unmarked mass grave is uncovered. 
Some of them concede that maybe, just this once, we should cut back on the hoopla celebrating the colonial state. But the calls coming from Indigenous nations go much deeper. They call into question the very existence of Canada. The time is past due for serious reparations and #LandBack
There are still more graves to uncover, more small bodies to be recovered. The disgraceful, genocidal history of Canada, past and present, is being exhumed. We echo the demand of Indigenous people: Cancel Canada Day means cancel the settler state – no pride in genocide.
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