Sovereign Forever, Never Surrender! Vancouver rally continues the long legacy of struggle against the White Paper

On Monday May 27th, a “Rally 4 Indigenous Rights” event was organized outside the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) on unceded Coast Salish territory to resist the termination of Indigenous rights through what organized called Prime Minister Trudeau’s “White Paper 2.0.” The rally opposed three Bills that had been slated for June, but which Minister of Indigenous-Crown relations Carolyn Bennett withdrew at the last minute when widespread opposition from the Indigenous grassroots showed up even when she addressed the Assembly of First Nations in May.

The rally rejected Bill C-91, ‘The Language Act’, Bill C-92, ‘The Child Welfare Act’, Bill C-97, and ‘Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Act.’ Together with Bill C-86, ‘The Land and Financial Management Act’ which passed in December 2018, these bills combine to form a new Federal government attempt to extinguish distinct Indigenous land title and to assimilate Indigeous peoples in to a fourth tier of Canadian government administration.

Organizers Dakota Bear and Casey Desjarlais put on the event as part of a broader network of Indigenous organizers and groups hosting similar rallies throughout Turtle Island. Indigenous organizers, artists, drummers, individual community members, and members of Alliance Against Displacement, the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist), and Bread Roses and Hormones gathered to say no to the termination of Indigenous rights. Speakers offered songs and solidarity messages to a crowd of approximately 100 people.

One speaker, T’uy’t’tanat-Cease Wyss, emphasized the necessity of Urban Indigenous participation against the White Paper 2.0. Cease reminded urban Indigenous people that although Vancouver is placed over the land, making it harder for urban Indigenous people to connect with their plant, animal, and rock relations, their “DNA is in these buildings”. All the materials used to create this space were mined from the land and all of us continue walking on the earth.

Speakers consistently said women’s leadership in this movement is critical, repeating that we must uproot patriarchy so that women and girls “can be restored back to their rightful place as respected members of our communities.” One speaker said resisting tactics of settler colonialism like White Paper 2.0 honours Missing and Murdered Indigenous women and girls, as well as men and boys, whose communities feel their absence, and also erodes conditions that put others at risk of this form of colonial violence.

This was the first rally resisting White Paper 2.0 in Vancouver, but the organizers have said they plan to continue mobilizing. This struggle adds to a long history of Indigenous-led struggle against the state’s attempts at extinguishing Indigenous sovereignty. The organizers invite all those who wish to resist White Paper 2.0 to message the phone number, 306-900-6798, with the word “resist”, their name, and email so that they can be contacted about future events. Organizers also invite others to look for the hashtag #theresistancecampaign to help them stay up to date.

No matter the tactics used by the state to gain control over Indigenous land, culture, language, and children, in Dakota Bear’s words, “these lands were given by the creator, and that cannot be taken away.” We struggle not only for one another, but also for our ancestors and our future generations, and we will never surrender.

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