It has been seven long years since Canada’s Truth, and Reconciliation Commission completed its report, offering 94 calls to action for a meaningful reconciliation to be achieved.
Since then, 11 recommendations have been completed, three of which were quickly implemented after discovering residential school mass graves approximately a year ago. The findings briefly captured our media and political landscape, resulting in promises of “concrete action” along with significantly reduced Canada Day celebrations in a country forced to come to terms with its past.
The ongoing failure of elected officials to prioritize and enact meaningful legislation that reflects the gravity of these historical crimes against our first peoples challenges the sincerity of their words.
The 14 years our government has spent fighting complaints of racial discrimination against First Nations children in courts, challenging a Canadian Human rights tribunal decision, suggests little has changed.
And just a few weeks ago the UN Committee on the elimination of racial discrimination stated its dismay that Canada has “escalated the use of force, surveillance and intimidation” to forcibly remove Wet'suwet'en land defenders protesting the development of the Transmountain and Coastal Gaslink pipelines. These are the kinds of energy projects experts say the world cannot afford to build if it wishes to avoid climate chaos, the threat of which recently triggered over 1,000 scientists – individuals not typically associated with radical activism – into acts of civil disobedience. Important stories that challenge and expose serial government/ corporate lying and deceptions should be dominating our national dialogue.
Aggressive government responses to emergency situations (COVID) and injustice (Ukraine) demonstrate the ability of government to work expediently and with urgency. However, the selective nature in which they act exposes the myth of altruistic leaders committed to scientific evidence and as staunch defenders of justice.
A rich historical record illustrates much the opposite and confirms that rhetoric about reconciliation and concern for climate change are nothing more than hot air, or what Greta Thunberg so eloquently called blah, blah, blah.
Public awareness and action are crucial if we are to achieve real justice for our first peoples and avert the worst impacts of climate change. Without it, the opportunity to embrace a fairer, more democratic society and re-imagine how we must live in the world, discussed in bold, transformative projects such as the Green New Deal and A Just Transition, will, like us, go the way of the dodo!
Vagner Castilho is a resident of Wakefield, La Peche and member of The La Peche Coalition for a Green New Deal/La Coalition de La Pêche pour une New Deal Verte.