At least 1,252 unmarked graves of Indigenous children have been discovered at just six forced assimilation schools in Canada in the last two months.
As migrants – students, refugees, workers, and undocumented people – many of us came to Canada in search of a better life. We were told that Canada is a country of freedom and opportunity where rights are protected. We did not expect thousands of children in unmarked graves.
Today, actions online and in-person are taking place across the country. Join and learn more.
Canada’s policies against Indigenous people
For thousands of years, Indigenous people lived here, and had governments, institutions, and societies before colonizers arrived and created what today is known as Canada.
Colonizers established Canada through the theft of Indigenous lands, and that theft is continuing. Today, 89% of Canada’s entire land mass is called “Crown land” – land controlled by the provincial and federal governments. But Indigenous people have claims to these lands that even Canada’s Supreme Court has upheld. Yet governments continue to try to increase their control over these territories – in the courts and by subsidizing mining and resource extraction projects.
To steal these lands, Canada tries to destroy indigenous communities and cultures, and the ‘residential school’ system was a central way of doing that. At least 150,000 indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families, prevented from speaking their languages and practicing their cultures, abused and subjected to neglect and starvation. Many never returned to their families.
Every day, in a thousand different ways, Canadian governments and officials are working to undermine Indigenous rights and people to assert control over this land:
- Indigenous children are 7% of the youth population, but they represent 52% of children in foster care – continuing to be forcibly separated from their families.
- Indigenous education and housing is chronically underfunded. Dozens of communities still today don’t even have safe drinking water.
- Indigenous people are policed and jailed at a much higher rate than others.
- Police and government have looked away and allowed the abuse and exploitation of Indigenous women, resulting in thousands missing or murdered.
As recently as 2019, Canada’s ongoing treatment of Indigenous people was termed a “genocide” by a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
What does this mean for us as migrants?
The goal for many of us is to get citizenship. Citizenship is just a mechanism through which we access rights and reunite with our families. Getting citizenship does not mean agreeing with or supporting what Canada does.
As migrants, we can and must open our eyes to the colonialism taking place here. That begins with unlearning what we have been told about “Canada the good”, and seeing the truth. To get started, watch this conversation about Indigenous and Black liberation in Canada.
Many of us have seen the impact of colonialism in the places we come from. And we see those places continue to suffer under policies made by western governments and profit-making for the rich. The same is happening in Canada.
As people who have also been displaced – whether by conflict, persecution, environmental catastrophes, or for economic reasons – we cannot ask for equal rights for ourselves here while accepting the continued violation of the rights of others.
We migrants are excluded from equal rights, forced into bad jobs, face racism, and are separated from our families. These things happen to us because of Canadian laws. Indigenous communities are displaced from their lands, families torn apart, and are subjected to racism and without equal rights – because of Canadian laws. As migrants we are responsible to Indigenous communities not the policy makers and governments who exploit us all.
Our call is for full and permanent immigration status for everyone here now, and everyone that arrives in the future. We are demanding that everyone have the same rights and opportunities – not just migrants, but all residents, and that must include Indigenous people.
Therefore our fight must always include supporting Indigenous peoples’ fight for justice. Take action today by finding an action near you and watching this short animated short-video about Indigenous people calling for Land Back.