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

Climate emergency and unmarked graves Featured

Gurpreet Singh  

As we mark the first anniversary of the discovery of 215 unmarked graves near the site of the former Indian Residential School in Kamloops last year, we need to acknowledge how the so-called system of educating Indigenous kids in the name of assimilation has actually contributed to the climate emergency.  

Indian Residential schools were opened by the colonists and churches to force Indigenous children to give up their culture, and instead adopt Eurocentric ways and Christianity to fit in.   

These laboratories of cultural genocide , as they should actually be called instead of schools, forced the original inhabitants of Turtle Island to alter their world view which was treated as pagan. The self-proclaimed founders of Canada arrogantly rejected many progressive ideas of the First Nations, such as to treat land as a shared space rather than personal property, and to respect the Mother Earth, water and nature, alongside all living creatures. Instead, they thrust their own hierarchal and individualist ethos on First Nations.  

If Europeans, who became a dominant force in Canada as it evolved, had come with humility to learn from the indigenous population, instead of imposing their way of thinking, the world would not have been dealing today with a climate emergency.  

Last year’s discovery of the unmarked graves coincided with the heat dome that left more than 500 deaths in BC. This exposed not only that has capitalism failed to prevent catastrophes, but has created them in the first place, making the survival of humanity more difficult.  

Let’s face it - climate change and greenhouse gas emissions are the result of capitalist greed, which prompted expansionism and imperialism, bringing Europeans to the doors of Canada, which was gifted with abundant forests, clean drinking water and wildlife. An effort was needed to preserve all this for future generations, but the resource-hungry and business-oriented colonists conveniently overlooked any possibility of a sustainable model of development, and exploited everything to fill their chests.    

The church made their task easier, giving the conquerors legitimacy to occupy everything through papal bulls, such as terra nullius - a licence to assume this was nobody’s land - and creating a baseless "Doctrine of Discovery" as if neither the lives or the values of indigenous peoples matter.  

Let’s hold our elected officials accountable for making tokenistic statements on this occasion, while at the same time allowing controversial projects, such as the Site C dam, Coastal Gaslink, and Trans Mountain pipeline, to be pushed through the IIndigenous lands, rendering the environment even more vulnerable.  

It’s time to give leadership into the hands of the First Nations, who alone can bring us out of this crisis. Being closely connected to nature, they can come up with better solutions that can only be found outside the box. That’s the least we can do to undo the damage caused by Indian Residential Schools and those behind this assimilationist strategy.  



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Gurpreet Singh

Cofounder and Director of Radical Desi


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