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COLUMN: Truth and Reconciliation requires more than 'token gestures'

Federal government’s plan to 'compensate First Nations’ children harmed by its underfunding of child welfare and to reform the system' step in right direction, local Indigenous activist says

Truth and Reconciliation is more than token gestures 

The federal government’s announcement earlier this month it would compensate First Nations’ children harmed by its underfunding of child welfare and to reform the system is a step in the right direction towards reconciliation.

But is this non-legal binding agreement just a token gesture to calm the flames of truth as unmarked graves continue to be discovered at Canada’s former residential schools?

Compensation of historical injustices is one of many calls to action in Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report; however the underlying truth of Indigenous Nations land title and right to self-determination often gets buried in such settlements that compensate for past wrongs.

Canada’s policy for Indian residential schools was to remove the upcoming generations of Indigenous Peoples from their lands and assimilate them into the Canadian population in order to usurp the rest of their territories that were not surrendered in treaties.

An article entitled Tiny exploring whether its taxing aggregate companies ‘correctly’ in MidlandToday triggered a sensitive issue in the current political climate we are in regarding reconciliation and the lands discussed in the article.

In 2019, I was part of a collective of Indigenous and Settler Communities of Tiny Township that stopped the proposed Dump Site 41, which threatened the Alliston Aquifer on the traditional territory of the Wendat and Chippewa of Lakes Huron and Simcoe.

The lands of the Chippewas of Lakes Huron and Simcoe (Beausoleil, Rama and Georgina Island First Nations) were not properly surrendered in Pre-Confederation Treaties 5, 16 and 18 nor were they properly compensated.

These First Nations submitted a claim to Canada’s Specific Claims Branch in 1990 on the outstanding claims, but was rejected and hasn’t yet been rectified.

Circumstances like this across Canada highlight the issue as the Indigenous continue to live in substandard conditions like clean drinking water.

Statistics Canada reported in 2006 that $26 billion is created annually from our natural resources; exemplifying how such injustices First Nations  face is the ‘tax’ they pay as a result of misappropriated lands.

It is the local Indigenous Nations that have the legal right as title holders to be the one’s issuing such permits that approve or deny resource exploitation in its territories and in respect to environmental protection.

NAFTA and the U.S-Canada softwood lumber dispute illustrate how Canada allows multinational companies to operate as if they own our forests without paying stumpage fees, being properly ‘taxed’ or accountable for the destruction of our lands and water.

The Supreme Court of Canada has made such decisions as in Delgamuukw, which recognize Indigenous Nations’ title to their territories that include proprietary and economic rights.

Canada’s Indian Act has had bands like Beausoleil, Rama, Georgina however accepting agreements like the 2011 Coldwater-Narrows Settlement Agreement, 2018 Williams Treaty Settlement that extinguish their title of their territory for a quick buck using Canada’s flawed Specific Claims formula. Under this formula, companies and the provinces will continue to benefit from resource extraction on Indigenous Territories.

Taxpayers are also paying large amounts.

In 2006, Statistics Canada reported ‘$60 Billion annually’ goes towards paying down Canada’s debt, which is created by compound interest of international banks and started when Trudeau Sr. handed over the Bank of Canada to this international banking scheme in 1975.

The underlying truth in ‘Tiny exploring whether its taxing aggregate companies ‘correctly’ is that the water source of the Alliston Aquifer where scientists have proven it as the purest water in the world is being threatened again but this time by an aggregate company.

What else is being threatened is Tiny Township’s responsibility towards truth and reconciliation with the local Indigenous communities, which goes beyond wearing an orange shirt for a day.


Johnny Hawke is from the Beausoleil First Nation and is a multimedia artist, community organizer and activist. He has a print and broadcast journalism diploma from Humber College