OCADFA acknowledges the sacred land on which we live and work. For over 15,000 years this land has been home to Indigenous people who have lived and continue to live in relation with the land in ways that have been proven to be ecologically sustainable and vital, and that deepen our humanity by honouring our relations.
This land is the territory of the Mississauga of the Credit First Nation, Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, Wendat, and Huron Indigenous Peoples.
Today, this meeting place of Toronto is still home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to be here together, in conversation with Indigenous histories. We are committed to working in solidarity with Indigenous-led activism and to upholding the values and practices that protect the land, care for the people and make it possible to plan for a peaceable future.
Last Friday, the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir confirmed that the remains of 215 children were found in an unacknowledged, undocumented and unmarked mass grave site located upon the school grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School.
OCADFA grieves the deaths and immeasurable loss of the lives of these innocent children, and we are enraged by the colonial violence inflicted upon them by the Canadian state.
OCADFA is committed towards uncovering the hidden truths of Canadas genocidal history and present as a means of enacting conciliation towards the Indigenous communities of Tk’emlúps, Tkaronto and Turtle Island.
The Kamloops Indian Residential School was founded and run by a Catholic religious order and backed by the funding and directives of the Canadian government. It was just one of many carceral institutions founded by the Canadian corporate state with the explicitly genocidal aim of eradicating Indigenous cultures on Turtle Island by forcibly removing Indigenous children from the love, land, homes and teachings of their parents and families.
The residential school policy was underwritten by the racist assumptions of state colonialist agents and inspired by the racist Doctrine of Discovery written by the Papacy. The residential school system and the several forced assimilation policies imposed by the Canadian government also served the interests of capitalist expansion. Racist ideology was and is still utilized as an attempt to justify the illegal and immoral acquisition of Indigenous lands, waters and resources.
This is an ongoing genocide, and it’s not “just” cultural. The danger of murderous racist violence towards Indigenous women, two-spirited peoples and children, and the treatment that their families receive by the police and justice system when their sisters and loved ones are stolen from them is ongoing. The discrimination Indigenous people face when receiving healthcare is ongoing. The lack of running water and shoddy electricity – things that would never be acceptable in settler areas – is ongoing. The forced or “coerced” sterilization of Indigenous women has been ongoing since 1930.
And while the last residential school in Canada closed in 1996, the carceral institutions and policies are still in place. Indigenous children make up 7.7% of children in Canada, yet over 50% of children in the “care” of the state are Indigenous. And while only 5% of people in Canada are Indigenous, over 30% of our incarcerated population is Indigenous – a proportion that has increased from 2000, when that number was 20%.
Meanwhile, we see ongoing environmental destruction permitted for the sake of resource extraction, lack of consultation with First Nations about resource extraction development on unceded and treaty lands, the continued mobilization of the RCMP against land defenders and peaceful protesters, the continued violation of treaties, and Canadian institutions’ widespread refusal to abide by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
This is a truth that settler colonial culture in Canada has yet to reckon with. But, without the truth spoken, there can be nothing resembling reconciliation.
If the truth of Canada’s historyis the attempt to destroy and deny “the Indian” – physically, mentally, and spiritually – and to erase Indigenous land, resources, cultures, languages, ancestry, spirituality and sovereignty, then true reconciliation would mean to make every effort to put “it” back!
What then can we do?
We must recognize that the onus to begin a relationship of trust, respect, and common cause with Inuit, Métis and First Nations peoples is a responsibility that must be held by the Canadian state and by those of us who have benefitted from racist and colonialist structures of power.
We can ensure that we have a good understanding of the colonialist history of Canada and the wounds that colonialist violence has inflicted on First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples here.
Here is a link to the final summary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (with calls to action on page 316): http://www.trc.ca/assets/pdf/Honouring_the_Truth_Reconciling_for_the_Future_July_23_2015.pdf
and here is an overview of the purpose and impact of residential schools: http://www.anishinabek.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/An-Overview-of-the-IRS-System-Booklet.pdf
We must demand from ourselves and each other that First Nations, Inuit and Métis stories, histories, cosmologies, lands and waters are the actual and physical grounding of this and other public post-secondary institutions. And we must require that the decisions made at our institution reflect a respect for and privileging of these knowledges, lands, waters, and perspectives. We must reject colonialist methods of decision making and governance. That would be the beginning of real decolonization at OCADU.
There are a few things that we as OCADFA can begin to do immediately to build on the work we have already done.
OCADFA will amplify and vocally advocate the widespread demand that the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission be implemented anywhere where they ought to be, and work with our community to develop resources for introducing and discussing these recommendations in the classroom across the variety of disciplines we teach from.
OCADFA will also work towards the protection of an Indigenous intellectual economy by ensuring that these teachings and TRC recommendations center Indigenous educators in the dissemination of Indigenous knowledges.
OCADFA will work towards the protection of Indigenous lands and waters by centering Indigenous custodianship and by working toward environmental sustainability that follows Indigenous governance and ethics of care of land.
OCADFA will stay focused on the insight that the land is the basis of Indigenous epistemology and let that truth guide our actions at the University.
In this moment and period of anguish, shock, anger and loss, we hold our hands out especially to First Nations, Metis and Indigenous faculty, staff and students at OCADU and in our community in recognition of the pain this fresh wound has caused. We will together hold space for this anger, grief, and trauma and carefully consider when it is time to speak, and when it is time to listen.
“This call began with a plea that the non-Native people might go into the hearts of their cities and standing there in the wilderness of those urban deserts –water the parched streets of humanity with their tears. That they would weep for the tens of millions of our ancestors buried beneath that pavement and concrete; that they weep for the earth despoiled by daily living; and, that they weep for their brothers and sisters going without bread; and, finally that they weep for themselves. And then, having those tears wash away the scales of willful ignorance from their eyes, that they could then join us in the redemption of the earth, in the salvation of humankind and in the reclamation of history.”
– A. Rodney Bobiwash (1959 – 2002) of the Anishinaabe Bear Clan of the Mississauga First Nation was born on the north shore of Lake Huron, in Blind River, Ontario. He was an Anishinaabe scholar and activist. His Anishnabek name, Wacoquaakmiki, means Breath of the Land.