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Looking Back, Looking Forward:
The Political Consequences of Uncovering Genocide in Canada
By Kevin D. Annett (Eagle Strong Voice)
Squamish Nation territory
2008 was the year the impossible happened in Canada .
Our national network known as The Friends and Relatives of the Disappeared made history this past year, and forever changed the political landscape of Canada. In the words of Dora, an elderly survivor of the Kamloops Indian Residential School,
“You’ve finally put our people on the map. They can’t ignore us, ever again.”
In a nutshell, we have forced Canada to admit to its genocide of native people, issue a formal apology for the residential school crimes, and acknowledge that thousands of children died in these schools. Our allied hereditary chiefs proclaimed sovereignty over indigenous land and issued eviction orders against the churches responsible for genocide.
Quite simply, after years of effort, we have forever changed the image of Canada in the world and ended an official regime of Holocaust Denial.
It has been a joy and an honor for me to help win such a moral victory for people who have never been “on the map”. But what has this victory meant for such people?
On Palm Sunday, March 16, 2008, fifty of us - natives and "whites" - walked quietly to the front of the Holy Rosary Catholic Cathedral in downtown Vancouver and stood there, facing the congregation, holding a banner that read, “All the Children Need a Proper Burial.”
We had been warned to stay away from that church. But I remember walking unafraid to the front of the sanctuary with all our people, led by three clan mothers. Among us were William Combes, Rick Lavallee and Bingo, homeless survivors of hideous tortures at Catholic residential schools.
That moment was a pinnacle for me, and for the survivors, for in the very heart of that which had tried to kill them, they were able to face it and say, We are still here, and we want our friends returned to us.
Past the angry threats of the priests, and the police who later descended on us, we were reaching out and touching the hearts of people in the Catholic church that day.
And it worked. For, after a few minutes, as our procession left the sanctuary led by the drumming of the clan mothers, the entire congregation rose spontaneously as we walked by.
It was then that I knew we had won. And sure enough, the walls began coming down after our moral victory that day.
In the wake of our March action, the missing residential school children have, for the first time, preoccupied the conscience and public discourse of Canada . It is as if the entire dominant culture is now standing, as did the Catholic parishioners, to acknowledge what they know is true, in remembrance of the missing children.
In opposition, both church and state have done their best, since that day, to belittle our work and downplay the reality of murders in Indian residential schools, and their responsibility for them. But such is always the behavior of those with their backs to the wall.
If our simple act of speaking of the dead and holding up the survivors has begun to shake loose centuries of Holocaust Denial in Canada , it has also caused us to ask ourselves, Where do we go from here?
We are no longer asking for anything from the churches and state that are responsible for genocide. Rather, all our actions in 2008 have laid the groundwork for an even greater step: drawing the broader political consequences of our exposure of Canada as a colonial and genocidal settler state, and creating an altogether new society.
Who are We and What Can We Become?
Our exposure of the Canadian genocide has simultaneously indicted the social order that gave rise to it. Euro-Canadian Christian society as a whole stands condemned in the dock alongside those persons who ran the residential schools, sterilized and murdered children, spread smallpox, and dug the mass graves.
Despite their best efforts to ignore this fact and contain the whole matter with pseudo “apologies”, the Canadian government and its partner Catholic, Anglican and United churches now face the same kind of historical reckoning that Nazi Germany did after its defeat in 1945: an awakening to their own criminal nature.
On April 20, 2007, Canada and those churches suffered a fundamental moral defeat in Parliament, when the first cabinet minister in Canadian history publicly acknowledged that untold thousands of children had died in Christian Indian residential schools.
The extent of this defeat has yet to be appreciated by most Canadians, or even indigenous people. But its impact is nevertheless reverberating throughout every level of society and undermining the very basis of Canada ’s existence.
The question now is how to draw the larger conclusions of this defeat in order to reinvent Canada from the top down, and the bottom up, with a basic purpose: the establishment of a decolonized, secular, and genuinely democratic federation of sovereign nations – the Republic of Kanata .
Shedding the Past, Creating a Future
Canada has never been allowed to become a sovereign and democratic nation because of its historical role as a resource base and captured market for first the British and then the American empire. That dependency required that Canada remain frozen as a colonial, church-dominated, semi-feudal society: a condition that has caused the sustained genocide of indigenous peoples and the destruction of their lands, and now threatens the lives of all of us.
The two attempted democratic revolutions in our history – the abortive rebellions in 1837 in Upper and Lower Canada, and the Metis Insurrection of 1885 in the Red River basin – had as their aim the ending of an Imperial oligarchy and the creation of a democratic Republic in which aboriginals and Europeans could co-exist equally. The crushing of both rebellions ensured that oligarchy and apartheid would remain the political norm in Canada .
And yet, the same vision of freedom that propelled these revolts had been originally offered by the eastern Six Nations to the arriving Europeans through the “Two Road Wampum” Great Law of Peace, in which both cultures would share the land and not seek to dominate or conquer the other.
That offer was rejected not by Europeans as a whole, but by the religious and commercial elites who ran the foreign policy of both the French and British Empires, especially during the European Religious Wars of the formative 17th century.
Time and again, the Catholic and Protestant churches subverted peaceful relations between whites and natives, and among aboriginal nations such as the Huron and Iroquois, as part of their plan to exterminate all non-Christian peoples and take their land. In the words of the Jesuit missionary Jean Brebeuf,
“There can be no peace or parity between the savages and Christians. This is required by our Faith and the fur trade.”
Canada as we know it has arisen on the basis of this basic philosophy of Christian Superior Dominion.
There is still no equality between natives and non-natives in Canada because of an apartheid Indian Act that relegates “Indians” to a separate and inferior status, and holds most of them in a state of permanent sickness, landlessness and poverty on their own land. Such permanent internal colonialism is required by the foreign and domestic corporate interests that run Canada as a fuel pump and watering hole.
Quite simply, in a neo-colonial regime like Canada , where “the Crown” legally owns all the land, native people must continue to be killed off, legally and methodically, for such theft to continue. A constant aboriginal death rate twenty times the national average is the deadly proof.
This genocidal reality will never change in Canada as it is presently constituted, since the maintenance of natives, and the poor generally, as a disempowered cash cow for others to exploit is an institutionalized part of Canadian society.
The nine billion dollar Indian Affairs industry requires a sick, dependent aboriginal populace, and a compliant class of collaborating native elites to administer this sickness. For the resulting totalitarian control of native people at every level is precisely what resource-hungry corporations need to take the last remnants of oil, timber, minerals and water from what is still aboriginal land.
Such a structurally criminal regime cannot be tinkered with or reformed, resting as it does on the oppression of most of the population, whether native or non-native. The existence of Canadians as “subjects of the Crown” under the ultimate authority of one person – a Governor-General accountable only to a foreign monarch – amounts to a state of legal slavery utterly repugnant to democracy and sovereignty.
“The only way to reform a colonial system is by dismantling it” said the great Irish nationalist, Bernadette Devlin. And the key to dismantling the Canadian oligarchy is to establish responsible government by severing ties with the English monarchy and creating a federated and secular Republic of sovereign indigenous nations with full public ownership of the economy, the land, and all its resources.
In short, every vestige of the system that spawned genocide in Canada needs to be abolished, if we are serious about ending its legacy and doing justice to aboriginal people and residential school survivors.
A Program for Ending Genocide
Legal genocide in Canada has rested historically on three pillars: a colonial political oligarchy under the authority of the English Crown; a powerful, unaccountable and state-protected religious oligarchy in the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, and later, the state-created United Church ; and a foreign-controlled, dependent economy.
To dismantle the root causes of genocide in Canada, we must replace all three of these systems, through a process of active de-construction and reconstruction: undoing what caused the wrong and building an altogether new political and social regime in its place.
To commence, our general aim must be the following steps of “decolonization and de-construction” in order to lay the basis for a true democratic and secular Republic:
I. Politically: Active disaffiliation from the English Crown and the Canadian state and its courts;
II. Spiritually: Disestablishment of the Roman Catholic, Anglican and United Church of Canada ; and
III. Socially: De-corporatizing our economy and the creation of local, self-sufficient economies under public ownership.
A real Program of Justice for all victims of genocide in Canada must restore social equality, the health of the land, and democratic sovereignty of all nations within Kanata , through these and other measures:
1. Abolish the Governor-General and issue a formal Declaration of Independence from the British Crown.
2. Abolish the Indian Act, the federal courts, the Senate, the RCMP and the Indian and Northern Affairs department.
3. Reconstitute Canada as a federated and secular Republic of Kanata , based on a recognition of the root title sovereignty of all indigenous nations and of the common ownership by all citizens of the economy, wealth, lands and resources of Kanata .
1. Tax the churches: Revoke the charitable tax-exempt status of the Roman Catholic, Anglican and United Church, nationalize all church property and land, audit and assess all payments owed by these churches to the people and indigenous nations since their inception, and return all lands and effects stolen by these churches from native people.
2. Revoke the legal charters and legislation governing the Roman Catholic, Anglican and United Church of Canada, and thereby end their official, legal status.
3. End diplomatic recognition of the Vatican and expel the Papal Nuncio.
4. Separate church and state: no funding for religious schools or churches, no religious oaths or functions connected to the state, no state protection for clergy or churches (ie, revoke sections 176 and 296 of the Criminal Code of Canada).
5. Establish a public, international inquiry into crimes of these churches against native people, including in Indian residential schools, with the power to subpoena, try and jail offenders.
A Jubilee Campaign to restore the land and economy to the people:
1. Cancel all debts and mortgages, and return all land to its original owners.
2. Place banks, money supply and credit under public ownership and control.
3. Impose a 100% tax on all wealth gained by inheritance, interest and speculation, and the abolition of all income tax.
4. Establish a maximum wage and redistribute all surplus income to the lower paid.
5. Collect all back taxes owed by corporations and a special tax on the super wealthy and on corporate profits.
6. Abolish foreign ownership of the economy.
7. Abolish all land speculation and the commercial trading in land.
8. Nationalize all resources.
9. Socialize all housing, medicine, education and transportation, freely available to all.
A Gaia Campaign to restore the health and harmony of the land:
1. Impose a Green Tax on all privately owned vehicles.
2. Abolish nuclear power and the uranium industry.
3. Develop wind, solar and tidal energy industries.
4. Phase out petrol vehicles, and replace with non-polluting, mass-transit systems.
5. Immediately nationalize all polluting industries and abolish or eco-convert them.
6. Legally limit the size of all land ownership to 100 hectares.
7. Collectivize all farming and agriculture, and abolish all pesticides and herbicides.
8. Abolish the sale and commercialization of water: Provide free, universal access to water through the establishment of public ownership over all water resources.
Acting on this Vision and Program
These proposals are but a beginning in a long process of social and spiritual emancipation from corporate genocide.
Our purpose as a de-colonizing movement is to create a new society within the shell of the old: to bring about a parallel social order in opposition to “Canada” through a massive democratic movement from below. We can only succeed through a conscious, activated citizenry who take control of their lives and the land.
Consequently, we reject any reliance on or involvement in the existing parliamentary or electoral system, which is based on an undemocratic allegiance to a foreign monarch.
Instead, we will seek to create new popular assemblies and courts through which the people can express their will freely and openly, justice can be directly enacted, and the present political system can be overturned. We will use mass civil disobedience, strikes, withholding of taxes, and other direct actions to undermine and replace Canada and its institutions with a truly democratic republic.
To coordinate and lead this campaign, we look to a mass revolutionary party to engender but not dominate our movement. The creation of a democratic and secular Republic of Kanata will unleash the greatest freedom and diversity among the people, who will learn through their own struggles the meaning of self-government.
Our underlying recognition is that true democracy and sovereignty cannot come into being or survive without the complete public ownership of all of Kanata by all the people. The poorest person has as equal a right to the land and its wealth as the richest, and we shall work to create a society where all class distinctions and the private ownership of the economy have been abolished.
We encourage you to share this Program and Vision, and begin to act on it.
As a first step, we call upon all people who are in agreement with this Vision and Program to take the Pledge of Allegiance to Kanata (below) and to form organizing committees in their communities to prepare for the formal launching of the Republican Party of Kanata.
In solidarity and hope for our common future,
The Elders and National Council of the Republican Movement of Kanata, in alliance with traditional Squamish Chief Siem Kiapilano
Pledge of Allegiance to the Republic of Kanata
I do solemnly swear allegiance to the Federated Republic of Kanata, and to the principles of sovereignty, natural law, unconditional democracy, and public, collective ownership for which Kanata stands.
I swear to defend the Republic of Kanata against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and to sever all ties and allegiance to the British Crown, and to the government known as Canada. I pledge to stand in solidarity with all those who take this oath and to defend them unconditionally.
I take this pledge freely, without coercion, mental reservation, or ulterior motive, according to my honor and freedom as a natural and sovereign person.
(Name, Address and Date)
Please send a copy of your signed Pledge to:
The Secretary, RPK
260 Kennedy St.
Acting under the authority of traditional Squamish Chief Siem Kiapilano, on his territory
1 January, 2009