Gathering Theme: New Canadians and Indigenous Peoples

GATHERING THEME
New Canadians and Indigenous Peoples

  1. Opening common to all gatherings
  1. Presentation of the theme
  1. The future of Winnipeg rests on our ability to build authentic and informed relationships between two key communities: newcomers to Canada and Indigenous community members. We all have the responsibility to nurture the relationships between Indigenous, settlers and newcomers in the spirit and intent of the treaties. A lasting impact of colonization is the creation of a stratified society that pits those most marginalized against one another, forcing them to compete for place, belonging and resources. We need to look for ways to come together and build bridges.

In research conducted by Immigration Partnership Winnipeg (IPW) in 2014, 88 Indigenous and newcomer participants were asked ‘What are the possibilities of establishing community interactions and relationships that promote harmonious coexistence between the diverse newcomers and Aboriginal peoples?”

  • Young people noted a passive, but occasionally aggressive relationships between both communities. They would co-exist in a school environment, but tended to exclude each other from peer groups. They admitted to having pre-existing opinions of each other, but that these were largely what they heard from their parents and on social media.
  • Adult participants reflected many similar perceptions of each other. However, they had fewer opportunities to meet and work with individuals from the other community. Some of the respondents expressed strong views on why there was distance between the communities – competition for housing, jobs and services.
  • Elders and community leaders were the most understanding of the social situation being experienced by both communities and were thus more prone to suggesting how the different communities could be encouraged to engage and get to know each other.

A consistent theme running through the discussions was how both groups held negative perceptions of the other that they acknowledged were not accurate. Within the stereotypes each group held were also some sympathy for each other, as they acknowledged the struggles and difficulties they were experiencing coming to Winnipeg. This led to observations that as minorities, the two communities actually had a lot in common and shared experiences.

Through its experiences doing cross-cultural work the team at the Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba – IRCOM pulled together some important information below on the commonalities & differences between newcomer and Indigenous communities and also on the TRC recommendations related to newcomers.

One key difference we need to emphasize at the outset is that Indigenous peoples are the only group originating on this continent and the rest of us are settlers.

On the other hand, we identified four themes of common ground between the Indigenous and immigrant/refugee population.

These include:

  1. Common cultural traditions & rituals

    1. Naming self in relation to family, ancestors, place (Sudanese tradition; Ojibwe tradition)

    2. Babywearing

    3. Drumming and dance

    4. Celebration of seasons & relationship to land and loss of that relationship to the land (forced migration/colonization)

    5. Celebration of coming of age

    6. Fasting, piercing, tattooing

    7. Hair

    8. Identity as tribal, Indigenous

    9. Beading/sewing/weaving baskets/ etc.

    10. Food/feasting

    11. Gift giving cultures (give-away; gift-giving as a tradition)

    12. Storytelling and emphasis on oral culture/tradition

    13. Sometimes a lack of interest in culture among younger generations

    14. Strong and abiding belief in many cultures in the spiritual / unseen

    15. Sense of time

  1. Common colonization and systemic oppression

    1. Christian missionaries/schools/residential schools. While we need to acknowledge the damage done by the religious institution who ran the Indian Residential Schools in Canada, we need not be critical when Indigenous parents in Canada decide to send their kids to “Christian Schools” today. The big difference these days, from the IRS era, is that Indigenous parents and students have a choice as to where they want to go to school.

    2. Police, racial profiling and oppression

    3. Similar types of stigma – ‘don’t pay taxes’ and ‘bogus refugee/queue jumper/handouts’

    4. Child & Family Services and relationship to systems and institutions in general- learned to fear

    5. Colonization of names of places and languages- e.g., Mantou-ahbee becomes Manitoba. Mumbai becomes Bombay (and a reclaiming of these names)

    6. Having cultural names and ‘Christian names” or westernized names

  1. Common family breakdown/disruption/migration

    1. Separation of children from parents/families (due to war/Lost Boys/Girls of Sudan; residential schools)

    2. Newcomers to the country/ Indigenous newcomers to the city. Culture shock, displacement from community, language, suddenly being a minority group, racism, etc.

  1. Common family & community pratices

    1. Role of elders more formalized and respected

    2. Extended family / kinship networks / adoption across extended family as a norm

    3. Various challenges to preserving culture and language (and differences too – many newcomer communities strong in language and cultural preservation- but 2nd generation often lose their language) (Indigenous people faced purposive eradication)

    4. Gender roles; including the extent of equality of genders in various societies

TRC Recommendations related to Newcomers:

Recommendation 93: We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with the national Aboriginal organizations, to revise the information kit for newcomers to Canada and its citizenship test to reflect a more inclusive history of the diverse Aboriginal peoples of Canada, including information about the Treaties and history of residential schools.

Commentary: What the Canadian Citizenship guide currently says about Indigenous peoples is very limited and provides singular and militaristic view of Canada. One option of what the guide could say instead taken from http://peoplescitguide.ca/wp-content/uploads/guide_en.pdf:

Aboriginal Peoples “For many First Nations, the nation-state of Canada is an imposition, and often an unwelcome one. Indigenous people have lived in the territories now called Canada for tens of thousands of years. Since the Canadian state has existed, it has been at best ambivalent and at worst explicitly hostile to First Nations, determined to challenge Indigenous peoples and their claims to the land and its resources. Canada is built on First Nations land and its wealth is derived from the resources contained within it. First Nations never surrendered these lands or these resources. In fact they do not feel they own the land to surrender it. Through treaties they agreed to share the land. The reserves that were laid out to keep First Nations contained so that they would not disrupt this exploitation are hopelessly small, fragments of those traditional territories that sustained the people. The Canadian state defined them as “Indians” and enacted laws that governed choices of marriage, where they could live, prohibiting from them the right to own land, to vote and to enter the professions.

Recommendation 94: We call upon the Government of Canada to replace the Oath of Citizenship with the following:

I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples, and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen

Commentary: There is controversy regarding the oath as it is as it hearkens to our colonial roots which are not relevant to today’s Canada for many. This change would ensure that Treaty Rights area included in the Citizenship Oath.

Possible discussion questions or topics for consideration:

  • What are some of the common strengths/values/practices that Indigenous peoples and new Canadians share?
  • What are some of the common obstacles/barriers/struggles that Indigenous peoples and new Canadians share?
  • How do we build awareness of Indigenous and newcomer realities and make sure we learn from the past?
  • How can Indigenous peoples and new Canadians be allies and support one another?
  • How do we move beyond the ‘one off’ events and meetings (short term activities) toward the development of long-term, sustainable and meaningful relationships between Indigenous peoples and new Canadians?
  • Who should take the lead?
  • What is the balance between promoting multiculturalism and nationalism (e.g., pride in being Canadian) with the parallel acknowledgement of the oppression of First Nations, the diminishing of their unique and special status under rubric of “multiculturalism.”?

  • How do we reconcile our vision of Canada – as progressive, safe, etc. while many of our Indigenous communities are struggling with poverty, lack of access to clean water, displacement due to development and a legacy of colonization (ie: over-represented in the child welfare and justice systems)?

  1. Sharing Circle.
  1. Determination of the theme for the next meeting and the reader.
  1. Resources:

7. Closing common to all gatherings

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