In the year after so many celebrations of Canada’s 150th year of confederacy, a year that was difficult to reconcile for so many Indigenous peoples, the first few months have made it even more difficult. The Canadian justice system had not been just to our Indigenous citizens – first the Coulton Boushie case – from investigation to verdict, it is hard to reconcile the facts (read this Globe & Mail article to get an overview of the case). And last night, another not guilty verdict for the accused murderer of Tina Fontaine; a young girl failed by so many systems throughout her life.
Let me spend a moment to locate myself in all of this. I come from a German settler family that helped found Berlin, Upper Canada (now Kitchener, Ontario); I also have Scottish settler roots from my great grandparents. I am one of four children, a feminist and well educated and work in higher education, and am a board member for our national student affairs organization. I grew up in a rural small town and, as many women have, felt a victim of sexism many times throughout my life. I am married to an Indigenous man and proudly call myself step-mom to an amazing 10-year-old Indigenous girl, who is just beginning to explore her identity. I carry a lot of privilege.
My step-daughter lives four hours away from Winnipeg, where Tina Fontaine’s 15-year-old body was discovered in August, 2014, wrapped in a duvet cover and weighed down with rocks (learn more in this CBC article). I feel helpless when I think about my step-daughter’s future as an Indigenous girl and woman. I want to cry.
My husband has been the victim of many racist, hate-filled comments when he speaks out for the rights of Indigenous peoples across this country. I want to rage.
As an ally, partner and step-parent to Indigenous peoples, it has been heartbreaking. I often wonder how do I help? How can I make a difference?
The answer is not clear; but I know that it includes not to leave all of the work to Indigenous peoples. Lift some of the burden from their shoulders. Take action. Learn more. Reflect on how you can reconcile and promote the value of Indigenous lives and paradigms within systems that you can impact. I made a promise to my team last week that I would do more to help them develop along the Indigenous Cultural Competency and to not stop talking about this so we can collectively work towards providing a safe environment for Indigenous members of our community. What action will you take?