EVAN: Denizens of the internet, today brings back your two favourite Canadians as we discuss our home and native land, the true north strong and free. While I most definitely cite Canada as the birthplace and country I am proud to bear on my passport, I truthfully don’t know as much about it as I could.
Taking all that into consideration, Kat provides the topic this week [just like she did last time we did this] that covers a number of topics very near and dear to my heart: Canada, First Nations people, and environmentalism.
KAT: It’s really the full package.
So, those of you in both Canada and the States may be familiar with a new way to harvest natural gas, called fracking.
So, as the video above explains far better than I could, fracking is a risky process that can actually lead to natural gas leading into local water sources. There are even reports of homes near fracking sites being able to light the water coming out of the tap on fire because natural gas is escaping out the line at the same time.
EVAN: I’m actually pretty sure I wrote about The Hulk reacting to all that once. By which I mean I did a post way back that included covering Mark Ruffalo and his take on that exact environmental issue. I’m sorry, please continue-
KAT: Well, here in Canada it’s become more than just an environmental issue as several groups of First Nations have begun to protest fracking in New Brunswick.
According to one website the reason they are protesting is not only because of a concern for the environmental degradation but also because of a lack of First Nations consultation in the project.
On Oct 17th the RCMP was sent in to “deal with” the protesters and the resulting violence has been causing a pretty big debate all around Canada.
First of all because it’s poorly written [read the second and third paragraphs for evidence], and secondly because of the overall tone that it exudes. Now, I realize that you also sent me a response article that was along the same lines of what I’m about to say, but I had a really hard time getting past this line in response to what some First Nations people have been saying:
“When Canadians hear ‘settler’ or ‘colonialist’ or ‘genocide’ tossed scornfully at them, they quite reasonably ask themselves whether everything done to right our historical wrongs has been for nothing”
KAT: At which point he is probably referring to the Truth and Reconciliation trials and the “massive amount of money we throw at them all the time.” I say that last part in quotes because I heard that as a kid. A lot. From a variety of different sources. And it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve realized just how racist, and quite frankly, inaccurate that statement is.
I really like Wab Kinew’s breakdown of several Native stereotypes in this Video. It gives you a bit of a context of just how far “that massive amount” of money has to stretch.
EVAN: I mean, my main deal with that line is how it just oozes with this tone of “haven’t we done enough?” and I just hate that. It’s like, okay, hold on-
It’s like if a big kid came over and took your toys and then slowly, over the course of the next few years, gave them back to you one at a time but kept some for himself. Sure, you’d be grateful on some level, but what they did hasn’t changed and you know you’ll never get back what you started with.
That might be kind of a broken analogy, but I guess what I’m saying is that he sounds whiny and forces me to fall back on a saying I’ve coined which is “Better doesn’t equal good.” Just because we’re doing better than we used to doesn’t mean we are actually doing good.
Sorry; doing well.
No, I meant doing good. That actually works in this context. Dang it, Tracy!
KAT: Exactly. That being said, I can understand how settlers (i.e. us) are scared by the “warrior culture” that is starting to present itself more and more at these sort of protests. The reality is when Canada was settled our government made a whole bunch of treaties (promises) that would be pretty impossible to actually keep at this point. So as much as we’d like to sweep this issue under the rug it is going to come up more and more as First Nations people start to recover from the abuses they’ve experienced in the past and start trying to take back some of the things they have been promised.
At my University there is actually a professor who is Mohawk and he often uses extremely controversial language, often calling out for more “warriors” to challenge the injustice of their situation.
EVAN: So here’s a question, though. Are all of these First Nations protests actually fully supported by those taking part in them? The number one comment on Rex Murphy’s article is as follows:
And there’s a lot of sense to it, because really, torching police cars is no small matter [for most people]. What are your thoughts about all that?
KAT: Good question. And I really don’t think it has an easy answer. Heck, I certainly don’t have an answer. But I think to attribute a care for the environment to just some rich white group is a pretty big misnomer. In many of the environmental protests I’ve heard about here in Canada First Nations groups were very much involved because their foundational beliefs value the environment more than ours do.
I’m not saying all First Nations groups feel that way, quite frankly several generations of First Nations were actually cut off from their elders so they were never able to learn those beliefs anyways (residential schools, the 60’s scoop, etc). But even if larger environmental groups were involved I personally wouldn’t mind. With our government system the current party essentially has (what my Political Science textbook called) a “friendly dictatorship.” With a majority hold in parliament they can continue to approve environmentally degrading processes (like fracking) despite an overwhelmingly negative response from the population.
That being said, I can understand why the general population is pissed off, because there is this general perception that First Nations get away with far more than the average Canadian. But that just isn’t true. Our prison population is an ideal example of this. While there have been recent steps taken to reduce the tendency towards a harsher punishment for indigenous offenders, we have a history of giving them far stricter sentencing than a white co-conspirator.
EVAN: And this is why I rarely ever write about the great white north, because I truly know so very, very little about it.
But in response to your response, I really do think that it matters. There are of course First Nations people who are strongly against fracking and love the environment, but what about those who aren’t, what if people are being used? I present the follow-up comment to the one I provided above:
KAT: Okay, perhaps I spoke too quickly. You are certainly right that it is a problem if indigenous communities are being taken advantage of for the sake of a cause. But that idea presupposes an absence of educated First Nations leaders in the movement. I think you could also argue that a lot of average individuals at a protest couldn’t explain the ins and outs of the problem they are protesting, but they are there under the leadership of someone they trust who has been able to fully study and understand it. In the video of Taiaiake Alfred (the Mohawk professor) linked to above he discusses how warrior movements (like what took place at the New Brunswick protest) are often led by “chiefs and clan mothers,” elders who have familiarized themselves with the issue at hand.
EVAN: I mean, clearly no one wants to trade one form of manipulation with another, so it’s pretty important stuff. We agree on that, though, and we also agree that Rex Murphy needs to get over himself, but, to finish off our talk, what do we feel about First Nations people using language like “settler” and “colonialist” and “genocide”?
KAT: Well, I cringe at the use of the word genocide, although I do believe the events that took place in Canada (and the States) were led by a genocidal attitude towards First Nations (viewing them as subhuman). But I think the mere fact that we strived to assimilate them (by destroying their connection with their culture through separation and abuse) rather than completely eradicate them is the only thing that allows us to view what happened in Canada as anything less than genocide. I think the terms settler and colonialist are fair. It sucks, but we can’t just ignore our history to make ourselves feel better. We are adopted Canadians, not blood children. But we are going to have to navigate some way to get along because I don’t think any of us have a “homeland” to return to, and (as we’re seen in the past) trying to assimilate the real Canadians into our culture essentially means the perpetuation of abuse towards one group of people.
So it will be interesting to see where things go. More and more First Nations people are becoming aware of the ways they’ve been screwed over in order for us to create the thriving Canadian culture we have today. And I don’t think they are going to just shrug it off.
That being said, there is no way the government is going to just hand over the lands they were promised. It’s a stalemate.
KAT: Haha. I talk a lot, so I have to steal a lot of words to keep on going.
EVAN: It’s alright. I forgive you.
EVAN: And really, though, you nailed it. Canada’s relationship with the First Nations people is never going to be easy, and the existence of Nunavut doesn’t and won’t ever erase the memory of the residential schools. We’ve got a long way to go, basically, and I just hope that we’re headed in the right direction.
KAT: Me too.
So I guess this is the part where we should ask how our readers feel?
EVAN: Why, I suppose it is, though we don’t necessarily have to end every one of these with a poll. Though readers should of course feel free to offer their two cents on the matter down in the comments section.
KAT: I wasn’t even going to suggest a poll! I was hoping to prompt some comments! But a poll is nice and anonymous… now that you mention it.
EVAN: Well then. Dear readers, please leave your general opinion in the poll at the bottom of this post, and a more specific and nuanced opinion in the comments section below that if you feel so led.
That is going to end what I’m going to call a pretty successful installment of Evan and Kat Talk. Thanks for reading, and stay frosty. [I don’t know what that means; nothing bad, I hope]
KAT: Thank you all for checking in with us at CWR. Come back soon because I’m missing you already.