"if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen
the side of the oppressor." - Desmond Tutu.

F-bomb is nothing against structural violence indigenous peoples face in Canada Featured

 

Gurpreet Singh

The New Democratic Party Indigenous MP Romeo Saganash (from the Quebec riding of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou) recently made headlines by using the “F” word in the House of Commons.

He was arguing against Prime Minister Trudeau’s continuous efforts to push through controversial Trans Mountain pipeline without proper consultations with First Nations.

For the record, he said, "Why doesn't the prime minister just say the truth and tell Indigenous Peoples that he doesn't give a fuck about their rights?"

The statement has angered supporters of pipeline and the apologists of those in power. One media headline screamed, “NDP MP Romeo Saganash drops F-bomb in House of Commons”.

The House Speaker asked Saganash to withdraw his words and apologize, to which he clearly said that he was angry at what was happening, and withdrew his words that were described as “unparliamentary”.  

Those who are concerned about the niceties of Parliament and more obsessed with “F” word should actually focus their attention on the issue Saganash has been trying to raise repeatedly for all these years.

Sometimes, such small actions become necessary to make deaf governments hear. There are instances where radical political activists such as Bhagat Singh – who was hanged for waging war against British occupation of India in 1931 - had to throw a smoke bomb in the Legislative Assembly in Delhi to protest against repressive laws passed by the government. Singh remains one of the most revered freedom fighters of India. Compared to that, Saganash’s so called F-bomb is nothing.

The fact remains that the Federal Court of Appeal has ruled that the Canadian government did not do enough to consult Indigenous groups before finalizing plans to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline through their traditional lands. This is despite the fact that during his 2015 election campaign, Trudeau promised to establish a true "nation to nation" relationship with indigenous peoples. On the contrary, his government decided to buy the company to rescue it from financial uncertainty due to growing grassroots level resistance.

Saganash’s frustration needs to be understood; thanks to him for forcing everyone to talk about this important issue, and get out of the denial about all the sweet talk by Trudeau over reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

It’s a shame that First Nations, who are the original inhabitants of Canada that was built on their stolen lands, continue to face structural racism and violence in their everyday life. Their numbers in the jails over-represent their population. Indigenous women and girls continue to be killed, sexually assaulted and frequently go missing, while the national inquiry on this issue ordered by Trudeau has failed to get anywhere.

Tearful apologies from Trudeau over the historical wrongs committed against them are not enough. He has to engage them and listen to their concerns, rather than giving a free hand for resource extraction projects like Trans Mountain. It is high time that we start showing respect to the Indigenous peoples and their rights if we claim to be the human rights leader in the world.

Saganash’s statement should also open the eyes of NDP governments in Alberta and BC. Ironically, the ruling New Democrats in Alberta support the pipeline, while their counterparts in BC don’t support it, but have given a green light to the Site C dam that is being built on Indigenous lands without proper informed consent. The Indigenous resistance against this controversial project continues. Hopefully, BC Premier Johan Horgan will also pay a little more attention to what Saganash has said, as this may even be true for him.

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