Our Colonial History, the Colonial Program and Bill C-15
This opinion piece was written by Wendy Lynn Lerat, who teaches Native Studies at the First Nations University of Canada.
For more information on CBC Opinion Section, please see the Faq,
For another interpretation of Bill C-15, see the article by André Bear here.
The stated purpose of Bill C-15 is to begin to align Canadian law with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
When I was asked to write an article on Bill C-15, I took a day to reflect on the history of this once “free land” and my concerns, fears and my hopes.
UNDRIP offers hope for a more just, sustainable and decolonized future at a time in history when ecosystems are collapsing due to the global overexploitation of creation. Some call it “development”, but in reality it is a time of man-made climate change unprecedented in its scale and scope.
Authentic, bottom-up application of the articles of UNDRIP will usher in a future where, as human beings, we walk a new path together and have reconciled our relationships with one another and, more importantly, with the land beneath us. feet. However, one of my biggest fears is that colonial states around the world are stupidly implementing the articles of the UNDRIP from top to bottom and in doing so stand in the way of hindering this path of hope.
Canada has begun the process of unilateral, top-down implementation of UNDRIP, ensuring that Canada’s version, with its own definition of self-determination, is enshrined in law through Bill C- 15. I have concerns about the process.
First, provincial education systems have failed to teach the true history of this land, which has led to widespread ignorance and blind acceptance of the colonial agenda. There should be an education process led by informed grassroots voices that ensures that free, prior and informed consent is obtained for any decision taken that will impact our rights.
Second, as indigenous peoples, we have the right, as recognized by UNDRIP, to participate in the process through representatives chosen by us according to procedures determined by us. The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is at the forefront as the primary organization representing Indigenous peoples. The real rights holders are the grassroots voices, not the AFN.
Moreover, neocolonialism is ubiquitous among those in positions of power, authority and control within Canada’s colonial Indigenous governance system. Governance is a colonial institution that is contrary to traditional Indigenous leadership models. We are now colonized / recolonized by some of our own indigenous peoples. I fear that our foolish actions will lead to the end of ourselves as separate peoples.
Not just any individual who identifies as Indigenous can authentically be a part of this process.– Wendy Lynn Lerat
As someone who teaches the true history of global colonization and knows his inherent rights under UNDRIP, it is infuriating to see Bill C-15 being pushed by the Senate. A nation cannot be built on lies.
My take? Everything is smoke and mirrors. Bring together neo-colonials who love the taste of the crumbs falling from the master’s table, place on the podiums “native” voices who don’t know their history well enough to ensure authentic leadership, then engage in a courtesan dance like Wonderland does not melt.
My final concern is that Bill C-15 is passed during COVID when protesting in the streets is impossible or dangerous. It is unethical, false, unfair and misleading.
My hope? More real awakened human beings are quickly realizing the hope of UNDRIP and its critical importance in its global implementation today. Canadian mining companies represent approximately 75% of the world’s extractive mining companies. Indigenous peoples make up around 5% of the world’s population, while protecting 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity. Canada has an important leadership role to play today.
I appreciate the words of the late Arthur Manuel. He ends his last book by reflecting on “when we know that Canada has decolonized”. It states that “indigenous peoples exercise our inherent political and legal powers, in accordance with United Nations standards, when there has been political reform based on indigenous rights standards and we are able to live in a sustainable manner designed by indigenous peoples. .
Not just any individual who identifies as Indigenous can be a part of this process in an authentic way. There must be a deep understanding of Canada’s dark colonial history, a recognition that decolonization is crucial for all peoples of the world, and a recognition that the colonial agenda is not a thing of the past but a thing of the past. continues today.
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