Are Land Acknowledgements Justified?

Commentary, Aboriginal Futures, Culture Wars, Frontier Centre

Recently, Canadians have seen various institutions implementing Indigenous Land Acknowledgments (ILAs) to recognize the institution as situated on previously occupied Indigenous land. They are widely accepted, but privately disputed.

It is obvious that the moral outrage regarding Canada’s First People prevents open discussion. Instead, we have been told to be quiet and ashamed. Our ancestors have been labeled simply as “visitors” or “white settlers.” People from all over the world call Canada home, yet it is largely those of European descent who are vilified. We are brainwashed into thinking we committed genocide by building Indian residential schools (IRS) and erasing Indigenous languages by not allowing pupils to speak them.

There is no doubt that some atrocities were committed, as in any long-term human institution, and that evil must be condemned and punished. Every legitimate perpetrator should be brought to justice and punished accordingly in a court of law.

We are also told we attempted to eliminate Indigenous culture by creating Indian reserves. But ownership of land was resolved by signing treaties between Indigenous chiefs and the Europeans, who then settled their portions and eventually created Canada.

However, my home province of British Columbia only existed when the last treaty was implemented in 1921. No treaties in this province have led to a myriad of disputes over whose land is whose and whether or not land was stolen.

Nevertheless, if you ever have the misfortune to attend any woke Canadian event, like a modern church service, a university function, or a parliament session, you will hear something like, “We acknowledge that this [insert institution here] is on the unceded territory of the [insert Indigenous group here] and we apologize for the crimes of our ancestors,” et cetera.

On the surface, this acknowledgement sounds respectful and caring. Underneath, however, it is condescending and rude, addressed to a people regarded by those who claim to care as an infantile mass, not unique individuals with a rightful potential to succeed like any other Canadian.

Several reserve schools still do not have running water. Several reserve churches have been burned to the ground because of the Kamloops IRS mass grave claims. Many reserve inhabitants still live in squalor and poverty all over the country.

I know this because I have seen it.

Canadians should be uniting and helping one another, not proclaiming self-righteousness to satisfy their egos. Progressives who shout propaganda from the rooftops live in a bubble of (though I cringe as I use the word) enormous privilege and ignorance. They do not know those whom they claim to protect, nor see the effects of both their actions and inaction.

For example, the Inuit, who definitely cannot afford an electric vehicle, have been told that the fossil fuels they rely on to survive are bad for the land they have lived on for thousands of years and will certainly prevent our country from reaching Net Zero by 2030. The water in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory still runs brown instead of clear like that of every nescient “Indigenous ally.” And, finally, after turning to drugs, alcohol and sex work to survive poverty, Indigenous women make up almost one-quarter of all female Canadian homicide victims, another infamous result of neglectful government policies.

I have visited a number of reserves, met and worked with Indigenous people who are very aware of this situation. I find it unacceptable that 21st century progressives have the temerity to spew this rhetoric while simultaneously undermining the success of our Indigenous population. Why is this group of people still living a lower quality of life than the rest of us? Why does the government pour billions of dollars into this “Indian (Inuit, and Métis) Problem” with no results? Where is that money going?

It appears that those who rule us govern with division and deceit. They want this disparity to be a perpetual problem, sowing the seeds of segregation and disunity. They are Canada’s real enemy.

That money will never go to the people in any other form than government handouts, ensuring their dependence on the state. No matter how many ILAs are introduced, the root problem has not changed.

Land acknowledgements are blatant hypocrisy masquerading as compassionate concern for a genuinely victimized population. Those pushing for them only appear to have the answers: their words are meaningless, their acknowledgements, unjustified.

It is time to solve the real issue. It is time for all Canadians to be proud of this country, what we have built, and how we treat each other.

 

Sophia Leis is a student intern at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. She is a third-year university student majoring in political science. She is passionate about Canadian indigenous issues, economics, and Western cultural influence.

See related discussion You are Now on Treaty Land, Brian Giesbrecht, April 29, 2018.