June 21st marks National Indigenous People’s Day in Canada. It is a day to celebrate the cultures and contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples across these lands.
However, we know that this date is also being marked with renewed resistance and pain this year, following the horrific discovery of 215 children’s bodies at a residential school in Kamloops, and ongoing colonial violence which is being inflicted by the Canadian government on a daily basis.
Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV) supports the call made by Idle No More and other Indigenous land and water protectors to cancel Canada Day celebrations this year. The city of Victoria has already done so, and we call on other cities and towns to follow suit. On July 1st this year, we should not be celebrating colonization and genocide. Rather we should be coming together to uplift Indigenous communities, and support Indigenous-led decolonization efforts. To that end, Idle No More has put together a list of #CancelCanadaDay actions happening in different parts of the country. We encourage you to join an action, or to organize one in coordination with Indigenous leadership wherever you live.
The discovery of the mass grave in Kamloops was only the most recent reminder of Canada’s violently colonial past and present. Joyce Echaquan and Raphael “Napa” Andre are two names among many that stand out, victims of Canada’s daily systemic violence against Indigenous people who should not be forgotten.
In recent years, IJV has supported Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs resisting pipelines, Mi’kma’ki fish harvesters asserting their treaty rights, and land defenders at 1492 Landback Lane in Six Nations. We continue to call on the Canadian Jewish community to stand with Indigenous people in their decolonization efforts, because our Jewish tradition of tikkun olam (“mending the world”) compels us to do it.
As a Jewish organization that works towards peace and justice for all in Israel/Palestine, we have come together over the last month, arm in arm with our Palestinian siblings, to resist Israeli colonial violence in Jerusalem and Gaza. And while our movement has made incredible strides towards liberation and decolonization in Palestine, we know that the work always begins at home. Stopping the theft of land and erasure of communities and cultures is a global effort, from Palestine to Turtle Island (North America).
Our ancestors came to this country we call Canada, often fleeing persecution, or to make a better life. But we must acknowledge that we are still visitors on these lands, many of which were never surrendered, or were subject to broken treaties. This year, let us take pause to reflect on the stolen lands we inhabit, begin to repair relationships with Indigenous communities, and #CancelCanadaDay.