*Due to privacy issues, the individual interviewed for this piece will not be revealed.*
When thinking about xenophobia, welfare chauvinism, exclusionism and other concepts, we are more than likely, a Canadian would not think to look within the country to see these things. There exists the presumption that negative attitudes towards immigrants and minorities is scarce in Canada. After all, we define ourselves by way of a multicultural society right?
If we were to define a Canadian national identity, it would most likely be founded on this notion of a “cohesive” and “all-inclusive” society. Something that gets washed up in all this talk about (what I believe to be) a utopian, imagined community is the discriminatory attitudes that are still held towards some socio-demographic groups. When I say this, I specifically think about Canada’s First Nations, Métis and Inuit populations. Both status and non-status individuals who live both on and off reserve are still being completely disregarded by the system. While we have this societal ideology of a catch-all system, it is still to this day being manipulated through the implicit coercion of the state. Yes, there is this idea of a multicultural country, but, the question is, does it really exist?
The Indian Act, initially introduced in 1867, continues to be recognized as a damaging tool to the cultures of Indigenous individuals all across Canada. In an effort to assimilate the Indigenous population into a Western-idealism, this statute has not only created an extreme divide within the nation but has also left the possibility for the self-actualization of the Aboriginal community to be seemingly hopeless. As a poor attempt to mend the relationship between the Aboriginal community of Canada and the federal government, the act has undergone several amendments and the reform of this piece of legislation has been suggested. With the amount of hardship that the Indigenous people of Canada have endured through the implementation of this act, these efforts seem extremely apathetic.
In order to get a better understanding of the effects of colonialism on the Indigenous population, I interviewed one of my good friends, who will remain unnamed, who is recognized as non-status. This individual is originally from the East Coast and moved to Ottawa a couple of years ago for their undergraduate schooling. Growing up as a non-status indigenous individual, my friend was not subject to much direct negativity, but they were witness to a lot of unfounded and racist things being said about indigenous communities in Canada. In stating this, they have found it difficult to embrace their cultural and familial roots as a member of their specific Indigenous community. Specifically, the nuances of “status Indian” have created a major separation between individuals who would otherwise be members of the same community. An example given to me was what is happening currently in Newfoundland and Labrador with the Mi’kmaq. My friend states that “members of the same nuclear family are being sorted in terms of being status and non-status.[this creating] a real divide where there should be unity.”
Although ethno-nationalism isn’t an explicit problem for many in Canada, the historical memory of colonialism that Indigenous communities were subject to only years ago still produces extreme levels of racist and exclusionary sentiment towards these communities. In my opinion, the idea of Canadian nationalism only works to perpetuate these stigmas even further. As a “multicultural” country, my friend recognizes that we have be known for a long time to base our country’s successes off of the failures of other countries. Other countries don’t accept as many migrants as we do, therefore we are superior. Furthermore, *unnamed* states that “if our only measure of success is that we aren’t ‘as bad’ as others, then we have a lot of work to do. This country needs to come together to take care of communities that are being neglected instead of spending all of our time pointing accusatory fingers at other countries.”
Furthermore, in order to achieve reconciliation with Indigenous groups in Canada there is a lot that we can do, and should be doing more of.
“To keep it short,” *unnamed* says, “the saying ‘reconciliation means no saying
sorry twice’ speaks volumes. Reconciliation begins small – in communities
and between individuals. Make sure that non-indigenous people in this country
understand the history and the terrible things that were done. Very importantly,
politicians and lawmakers in this country need to follow through with the promises
they make to indigenous communities now. Also, people who are not indigenous
need to speak up as allies and also hold politicians to their word on these issues.”