Young activists and organizers in the United States are often criticized by opponents who suggest that these young people are only focused on their own liberation. But, the truth is: many young Black and Brown activists and organizers have a lens to the ways that our colonial history and the anti-Blackness we experience in the US each day is inherently tied to the mass genocides of Indigenous populations in the Americas. Canada is not immune from this history.
A recent press conference in Ottowa, Canada’s capital, between Indigenous activists and the Canadian press highlighted the ways that our concepts of historical oppression, accountability, and liberation must begin with the ongoing fight for freedom across Indigenous communities.
In the clip, Indigenous Activist Jocelyn Wabano-Iahtail reacts when a white woman reporter questioned how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau could be considered responsible for the death of a young Indigenous person who had died, according to the Calgary Sun.
“But how can he be blamed for that? You don’t think that anything he’s doing is helping the situation? Is he an improvement over Stephen Harper? Talk about his record,” the reporter asked.
“Excuse me? Did I just hear you correctly?” said Wabano-Iahtail. “How can he be blamed for that?”
The interaction worsened shortly after.
The Indigenous activists, who had worked to erect a teepee on Parliament Hill as a “reoccupation” of Indigenous lands, asked that the reporter be removed.
“We don’t want you here. Can you please leave?” said elder Sophie McKeown from Moose Cree First Nation.
The reporter then refused to leave.
Wabano-Iahtail went on to explain that the reporter’s actions were the result of white privilege and white fragility. This came after another male reporter in the room came to the white woman’s defense.
“You can’t take our truth,” she said. “Look how many people came to bat for you, white lady. And you’re a guest here. Without us, you’d be homeless. This is over.”
What stands out most from the short video is the flippant attitude of the reporters who focused less on the issues that Indigenous activists were most concerned about (like genocide, displacement, and state-sanctioned oppression). Instead, they were primarily concerned with reducing their own accountability and that of Prime Minister Trudeau.
In many ways, this brief clip shows why it is so critically important that those groups who are most marginalized and experience the most overt forms of institutionalized racism and harm should have the final say in how we achieve liberation.
Not only that, it shows how the myth that Canada is some non-racist mecca is actually erasing the lived experiences of Indigenous people who live there.
They are fighting for visibility because far too many people refuse to see them. It’s time that we change that.
Photo via YouTube