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Letter: I am not Canadian, I am Anishinaabe

Algoma University, located on the site of the former Shingwauk Residential School, has a special responsibility to educate and lead the charge of reconciliation, says Meawasige
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Shingwauk school
Shingwauk Residential School. From the archives of the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library

My name is Quinn Meawasige and I am a member of Serpent River First Nation which is a signatory of the Robinson Huron Treaty of 1850. I currently attend Algoma University in the Community Economic and Social Development program. I am not Canadian, I am Anishinaabe. 

Algoma University Student Union (AUSU) unanimous decision against endorsing or participating in Canada 150 celebrations is one that goes against the grains of the status quo. Canada was founded on broken treaties and the genocide of Indigenous Peoples. Canada’s Indian policies at the time of confederation were aimed and intended to eliminate the Indigenous Peoples of the land. These attempts of extermination meet the 1948 United Nations Geneva Conventions definition of genocide. Indigenous Peoples within Canada continue to struggle and suffer as a result of these policies and inhumane attempts of extermination. The holocaust occurred within a short timeframe and resulted is devastating crimes against humanity. Canada’s Indian policies occurred over the course of generations and the intent was the same; to exterminate a people. Canada’s first Prime Minister, John A. Macdonald was racist and was tasked to get rid of the “Indian Problem”. From the forced removal of Indigenous children from their families, from deliberate attempts of assimilation and indoctrination, to policies which dehumanized Indigenous Peoples, Canada was founded on the genocide of Indigenous Peoples. What is there to celebrate? Would we celebrate the holocaust? Most definitely not. Why would we celebrate the genocide of Indigenous Peoples. 

Algoma University is located on the site of the former Shingwauk Residential School, where there are children buried onsite as a result of the policies which were designed to exterminate. Algoma University has a special responsibility to educate and lead the charge of reconciliation. It is the only University in Canada to be located on a former Residential School site. Many people might be offended from this choice of AUSU not to endorse Canada 150 celebrations but, for one second, can you imagine what it is like to be an Indigenous person? Can you imagine how insulting and degrading this can be for us? Can you imagine what it is like for your ancestors, great grandparents and even grandparents who died from such policies of genocide and can you imagine with living with the intergeneration impacts and effects today? It is quite the privilege to not have to have such experiences. 

In 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal Ruling found that the Federal government was fiscally discriminating against First Nations children on-reserve as it relates to child welfare. Many First Nations peoples live in third world conditions in first world Canada. What is there to celebrate? Many First Nations are suffering and struggling with youth suicide crises yet there is no national uproar. With over 90 boil water advisories across Canada in First Nations communities, what is there to celebrate? Indigenous Peoples are living as secondary citizens within their homelands and experience racism and discrimination from society and the governments daily. What is there to celebrate? 

Throughout history, in all of the social justice movements there has been resistance to change the status quo. If their leaders of these movements didn’t push through and fight for change this world would be terribly different. Similar to the social justice movements throughout history, there were those who would rather the status quo remain the same. What I can say is that we can do so much better for our future generations. This may be uncomfortable and may offend some people but I don’t have that privilege and time to wait. First Nations youth and peoples are struggling and continue to suffer. We are fighting to survive. I will not stop on the path for justice, for righteousness. I do not have the privilege of being able to exist free of racism, discrimination and carrying the weight of an attempt to kill, eliminate and exterminate my peoples. I will not celebrate the day of my colonizer as First Nations peoples continue to experience crises and suffer. 

Miigwetch (thank you) AUSU for standing in solidarity for what is right.

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