Prime Minister Trudeau and Reconciliation – The New Tokenism Is Still The Same As The Old Tokenism: By Brandon Gabriel, Kwelexwecten, Kwantlen First Nation Artist

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau poses after receiving a ceremonial headdress while visiting the Tsuut'ina First Nation near Calgary, Alta., Friday, March 4, 2016.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau poses after receiving a ceremonial headdress while visiting the Tsuut’ina First Nation near Calgary, Alta., Friday, March 4, 2016.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

I have been banging my head against the wall over and over again. I am speaking figuratively of course.

I keep telling people across a broad spectrum – politicians, educators, social justice warriors, raging grammas, new age hippies, bankers, religious fundamentalists, athletes, rednecks, students of all ages, fellow creatives, and so on and so on – that the newly minted Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, cannot be trusted to keep promises of a “new relationship” with Indigenous peoples. He is part of a long list of dubious colonial leaders who have set an exemplary record of ongoing autocratic Eurocentric dogma, and racist annihilation policies towards Indigenous peoples all across this country.

Yes, a general statement, but the truth.

There are many ongoing socio-economic and socio-cultural problems that affect the lives of Canada’s Indigenous population. There’s the ongoing theft of unceded lands, language annihilation policies, child apprehension, missing and murdered women, resource exploitation, dubious energy board policies, land grabs, religious persecution, poor housing, state-run apartheid overrule, demonization of urban Indigenous peoples, disparate education policies, shitty infrastructure, high rates of suicide, and abject poverty – just to name a few.

And I am not even beginning to delve into them on a case-by-case basis.

Then in comes Justin Trudeau and the dream team of ministers that formed his cabinet and he throws out a few monickers like “Because it’s 2015” when looking at gender parity in the composition of his cabinet.

Like most things born out of corrupt governance structures, these gestures are just window dressing. The governance system that has been in place all this time has not changed in any way. It is still functioning as corrupt as ever.

The system was designed to benefit a select few and continues to do so. It does this at the expense of Indigenous peoples’ rights. It also tricks everyone else into believing they have some sort of say in all this.

Justin Trudeau emerged wearing a headdress that was bestowed on him by a First Nations community that deserves no infamy. Then he allows drummers, singers, and pseudo-politicians from Native communities to do wishy washy and tokenistic territorial welcomes into the lands he plans to rule over and sell out to his friends in the oil, LNG, mining, and forestry industries.

Then people say “He’s different” than all the others who came before him.

Ok. So compared to his predecessor Stephen Harper, anything that Justin Trudeau does will be perceived as good and forward thinking. But it doesn’t make him good and forward thinking; it merely underlines and puts in capital letters “THE OTHER GUY WAS ACTUALLY THAT BAD!”

Let’s not forget Attawapiskat. More than 22 years on a boil water advisory, and dilapidated homes with multiple families living in squalor. Then a pandemic of suicide pacts by youth, and suicides that were actually carried out. That is genocide.

And it is just one community out of hundreds, the tip of the iceberg.

Meanwhile in many places across the country, especially British Columbia, the real estate market is booming and the levels of wealth by settler-colonial inhabitants have never been higher. And the wealthy continue to support the status quo of colonial state power even as their interests are served most enthusiastically by it.

In my opinion, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada played an important role in reinforcing settler colonial mastery. It was merely another legal device used by the state, with co-opted leaders from Native communities. It delivered the message in a fucked-up-polite-Canadian-way that the settlers are still in charge, the land will continue to be stolen and exploited, and Indigenous people will continue to live under the thumb of an oppressive system.

Oh yeah, and the TRC will absolve non-Indigenous people of any culpability in the ongoing genocide of Indigenous peoples in this country.

You are welcome Canada!


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