• Jody Upshaw

Is Canada Really "Not as Bad"? Canada's Behaviour Towards the Indigenous Peoples

Vehicle set on fire in West Pubnico

Many would consider Canada to be the poster child for equality and harmony. We say that we’re so diverse, and we welcome everyone. We’re all so kind and sorry is our favourite word. Racism and discrimination may have it’s grips on our world, but in Canada, it’s not as bad. 

If you read that and couldn’t think of inconsistencies, allow me to enlighten you with the dark greed that this country was built on, which still runs through our veins and taints our perfect, wholesome image to this day. Starting with our own home, Nova Scotia.   

Did you know that one of the earliest recorded race riots in North America and the first in Canada was here in Shelburne, Nova Scotia? In July of 1784, white British Loyalist veterans of the American Revolution destroyed and looted dozens of homes belonging to Black Loyalists. There were many injuries and Black Loyalists were driven out of town to the overcrowded poor lands of Birchtown. We would assume that from 1784 to 2020, Canada would live up to this utopian societal dream of amity and empathy between all communities. Nevertheless, the most recently recorded race riot in North America was in fact in Nova Scotia. 

Last week in West Pubnico, Nova Scotia, a malicious group of white fishermen trapped Mi’kmaw fishermen inside of a lobster pound. Vehicles have been set on fire and chemicals were poured over the lobsters that they are so desperately trying to ‘preserve and protect’. Indigenous fishers are being attacked and brutalized as the RCMP stand by and watch. The irony in it all, is that white settlers are going to great lengths to ‘protect’ crustaceans but have done next to nothing to protect the original, rightful peoples of this country. In saying that, we must question their true intentions. Are they really concerned with preserving the lobsters, or are they just racist? 

Let’s look at the facts; Before Europeans came across Mi’kmaq territory, it stretched from the southern portions of the Gaspé Peninsula eastward to most of modern-day New Brunswick, as well as all of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Now, there are seven smaller territories across what was known as Mi’kma’ki. The original founders of Nova Scotia have been forced to separate as their land was stolen, their people were killed and their culture, language, values and practices were stripped from the blueprint of the foundation in which their children were raised and generations flourished. They are the true spirit of Nova Scotia and we owe to them much more than they receive. The Treaty of 1752 was signed between the Mi’kmaq people of Shubenacadie and the governor of Nova Scotia. Indigenous peoples have the right to fish in their treaty areas all year long. It has been a law for 250 years, protected by the constitution for 38 years and it was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada 21 years ago. So, we must ask ourselves why the Mi’kmaq still have to fight for their right to fish when they uphold their end and respect agreements on preventing overfishing, while settlers habitually break treaties. 

If commercial fishers truly care about conservation, why not look into the big companies like Clearwater, who are known for gross violations and year round fishing in spawning grounds? If we are so accepting in Canada, why do we question the Indigenous peoples when they are simply fighting for their rights? If Canada “isn't as bad” when compared to other countries, define “as bad”. Who created this form of measurement and why doesn’t the continuous disregard, discrimination and disrespect towards the original people who nurtured this land tip the scale? If our national reflex is saying ‘sorry’, why do we have such a hard time taking responsibility for our actions in upholding the broken systems that oppress our very own people?

For more education on Indigenous based news in Canada, check out the Ku'ku'kwes news : http://kukukwes.com