[What follows is a paper I presented at “Learning to Listen: Listening to Learn” a community event about further understanding Settler Colonialism in Canadian-occupied territories. Much love and respect to the other presenters, Vanessa Gray and Jordan Williams White Eyes. It was an honour to learn from them.]
A Crash Course on Settler Colonialism in Canadian-Occupied Territories:
in which a 152 year long, all-encompassing, ubiquitous, and ruthlessly brutal war of extermination is summarized in a few hours
Boozhoo. Dan Oudshoorn nidizhinikaaz. Zhaaganash endaaw (Dutch, Scottish, and British). Deshkan Ziibiing ndoonji. London ndinda. Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, Lenape, Wendat, Attawandiron Aki. Mizhiike Minisi.
Hello, my name is Dan Oudshoorn. I’m a White person of Dutch, Scottish, and British descent. I was raised by the Antlered River and London is where I live. I live there because my people—the Canadians—have stolen this land from the Anishinaabe, who also share this territory with the Haudenosaunee and Lenape, while recognizing that the Wendat, and the Attawandiron continue to be a part of this land in ways not immediately obvious to those of us who operate within Eurocentric systems of power and knowledge.
As land thieves, Canadians occupy land that is not theirs to claim on Great Turtle Island. As a Canadian, I participate in this illegal, brutal and, as we will see today, genocidal occupation. In this context, the Indigenous statement that “existence is resistance” is fully appropriate. In a settler colonial state premised upon the erasure and extermination of sovereign Indigenous peoples as sovereign Indigenous peoples, those who continue to exist as such are literally the living embodiment of resistance. However, if we agree that “existence is resistance” for Indigenous people, we need to ask ourselves: what is existence for those of us who are Canadians? The answer to that question should be clear by the end of this morning.
As for myself, I am under no illusion that any number of land acknowledgements, workshops, apologies, or good intentions, exculpate me from my status as a Canadian occupying stolen land. Learning about these things, and what they mean for all of us land thieves, has been a lifelong process for me but learning, in and of itself, does not produce liberation. In fact, what we discover, as we awaken to these things, as that they are not so easy to change and our status as occupiers and thieves isn’t so easy to leave behind. Here, I think of the words of Caesar, a dealer in New York city, and one of the subjects of Philippe Bourgois’s ethnographic study, In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio. “Oooo, Philippe,” Caesar says, “you make us look like such sensitive crack dealers!” Because does this not describe people like me? Canadians are such sensitive oppressors. We say “excuse me” when we step over the bodies of Residential school survivors sleeping in doorways downtown, and we say “sorry,” and we really, really mean it, when they ask us for change and we give them none. We are such sensitive death-dealers.
These are some of the reasons why I believe that people like Vanessa and Jordan, and other Indigenous folx who are willing to engage with, educate, and improve people like me are quite amazing. I cannot imagine the emotional labour it takes to step out and try to help your oppressors to be better people. Thank you, Vanessa. Thank you, Jordan. I lift my hands to you.
Thinking of this emotional labour, and the ways in which oppressed and abused people are continually expected to parade their histories, their wounds, and their most intimate selves in front of their abusers, the courts, various inquiries, a voyeuristic public, or well-intentioned but harmfully-ignorant others, is part of the reason why I have crafted the workshop I have today. As occupiers, I think it is important that we educate other occupiers about the nature of this occupation. This is one thing we can do to be useful. Therefore, while it is not appropriate for me to speak for Indigenous peoples—and, indeed, we have seen nothing but harm resulting when White Canadians have put themselves in that position—what I am doing is speaking as a Canadian, to other Canadians, about the Canadian occupation of these territories. This is a difficult topic and one that is fraught with violence of every kind so, please be warned, in what follows we will hear about sexual violence, murder, child abuse, femicide, and other Canadian forms of brutality. If you are an occupier like me, I encourage you to try and sit through this. If you are Indigenous to these lands, I don’t want you to feel any kind of pressure to be traumatized or re-traumatized by this whirlwind tour through this brutal history. I will do my very best to present these things in a respectful way that honours those whom my people have dishonoured. To do this, I will be speaking from my heart and I hope that you will open your hearts to participating in this mutualistic give-and-take. Let’s take a moment of silence to try and open our hearts together.
Miigwetch and miigwetch ndi kid nongom giizhigak. [Thank you and I say thank you for this day.]
Goals, Limits, and Outline
I have three things I wish to communicate this morning about settler colonialism as it has played-out in Canadian-occupied territories for the last 152 years. These are as follows:
- Far from being a series of one-off events that were produced by a few bad apples or well-intentioned people who accidentally caused harm, this project has actually been multi-faceted, ubiquitous, and all encompassing, targeting all areas of Indigenous nationhood and life.
- Far from being something we can relegate to the distant past, this project is just as actively pursued today as it was at every other moment in Canada’s history.
- Far from being a humanizing, civilizing, or charitable mission, this project is thoroughly, intentionally, and brutally genocidal.
Given the scope and scale of the terrain we are covering, I will not be able to present anything close to a complete picture. I will touch upon very big things in very general ways. However, I trust that this will provide you with a solid basis for exploring these things further, particularly as they relate to the specificities of your own context and the relationships in which you exist. I also trust that this sweeping, big picture presentation will provide you with lenses through which you can begin to better understand and explore things you read in the media, events that are taking place around us, and actions that might or might not be useful.
That said, it is worth noting at the outset some key areas I will not be addressing in any or much detail. These include:
- Actions that took place on Great Turtle Island prior to the creation of the Canadian state in 1867. To name a few things, these include military campaigns and wars; laws that gave Europeans a financial incentive to murder Indigenous people since they were paid money to bring in the scalps of Indigenous men, women, and children; and the European habit of hunting Indigenous people for sport—something Europeans did so thoroughly on the East Coast that they completely killed all of the Beothuk people.
- I also will not be dwelling in great detail on the general racism that the Canadian public and the mass media in Canada continual exhibits towards Indigenous peoples. For more on the latter, you can read Seeing Red: A History of Natives in Canadian Newspapers by Mark Cronlund Anderson and Carmen L. Robertson. For more on the former, looking into the details surrounding the murder of Colten Boushie and the ways in which the White Canadian public rallied around, celebrated, and enriched his murderer is very instructive. I understand that Tasha Hubbard’s documentary about this is playing later today, but I hope you will stay for this afternoon’s sessions when Vanessa and Jordan speak because what they have to share is very important.
- I also will not spend a lot of time talking about the various treaties that took place across Turtle Island, especially the treaties that preceded Confederation and the numbered treaties that followed shortly thereafter. This is so for a few reasons: first, exploring treaties well takes a considerable amount of time; second, although focusing on treaties has been trending in ally networks, it should be emphasized that most of the treaties were forced on Indigenous peoples via military force, dispossession, starvation, and coercion, most of the treaties were recorded dishonestly by the occupiers who recorded them and made them into law, and large sections of Great Turtle Island were never ceded to Canada through any kind of treaty process whatsoever—most of what we call B.C., northern Ontario, northern Quebec, and most of what is north of the 60th parallel was straight-up stolen by force without any legal pretense. So, it’s not true to say “we are all treaty people.” Many peoples are not treaty people. And the treaties themselves were tools of colonization forced on Indigenous peoples—although I lack the time today to walk through this in detail.
- I also will mostly not be talking about the environmental devastation wrought by the Canadian state in conjunction with various national and multi-national corporations. Recently, these actions have been given the name of ecocide but, understanding Indigenous connections to the land—that Indigenous people are of the land, that they are a part of the land, that they belong to the land—means that we also need to see these acts of ecocide as a part of the genocide of Indigenous nations (not least because Indian Reserves, like Aamjiwnaang, Grassy Narrows, Fort McKay, and Attawapiskat, also suffer the full brunt of the toxic impact of ecocidal Canadian industries).
- Lastly, I will not be talking in detail about the inspiring, brilliant, and ever-present history of Indigenous resistance to settler colonialism on Turtle Island. This is a major gap not only because it is a critical part of the history of this land, but because settler colonialism has played out in Canadian-occupied territories in the ways that it has precisely because Indigenous resistance has been so persistent and so strong. Those of us who desire change would do well to study this ongoing history. It is very rich and, if we think Indigenous peoples have ever only been dupes, pawns, and victims of Europeans and the Canadian state, we are very, very wrong. Just ask Ellen Gabriel, or Alanis Obomsawin, or Cindy Blackstock, or Freda Huson, or Vanessa Grey about that.
Instead, I will be focusing on the following areas:
- The Indian Act;
- The Reserve System;
- Indian Residential Schools;
- The Sixties Scoop, and the Ongoing Forced Removal of Indigenous Children from their Families;
- Indian Health Services, especially Indian Hospitals and the Sterilization of Indigenous Peoples;
- The Policing of Indigenous Peoples and the Femicide of Indigenous Women and Girls;
- So-called Modern Treaties in the Context of State-enforced “Reconciliation” and the Legal Constitution of Genocide under Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau.
But First—Understanding Genocide
Because I wish to demonstrate that the Canadian state’s very existence is premised upon the genocide of all the Indigenous peoples who are a part of the territories Canada occupies, it is important that we first pause to understand what we talk about when we talk about genocide. In international law, the critical document, which has been accepted and ratified by Canada, is the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (or the UN Genocide Convention, the UNGC). This was created at the end of the Second World War because Europeans were appalled that practices that they had encouraged for decades in other parts of the world, in colonies spanning from Great Turtle Island to Africa to India and beyond, had now been implemented in Europe against Europeans. Critical to the definition of genocide deployed by the UNGC is the understanding that genocide is the state-initiated, and state-led destruction of a national or ethnic group. The target of that destruction is the group identity of the people who belong to that group and not, necessarily, the individual people in that group. Therefore, genocide tends to have two phases: the first being the destruction of the national pattern of the targeted group; the second being the imposition of the national pattern of the oppressor onto the lives of the targeted group.
In the first draft of the UNGC, three ways in which genocide could be perpetrated were described: first, brute physical extermination, from death camps, to starvation, to a slow death through withholding the means people need to live; second, genocide can also be accomplished through restricting births within the targeted group, through sterilizations, compulsory abortions, and so on; third, genocide could also be cultural and accomplished through destroying a people’s language, institutions, rituals, religions, art, or by forcibly transferring their children out of the environment where they would learn these things. However, Canada was very unhappy about the inclusion of the idea of “cultural genocide” within international law and so, alongside of the UK and USA, successfully lobbied to have this understanding of genocide removed from the final draft of the law. This is significant because it means that any charge of “cultural genocide” cannot be prosecuted under the UNGC. Canada was very well aware of this when it told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that its study would have to be limited to the idea of cultural genocide and when the federal government later admitted to practicing cultural genocide it did so knowing that it could not be prosecuted under international law for this.
Article II of the UNGC defines genocide as follows:
- Killing members of the group [targeted by the state];
- Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
- Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
- Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
- Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
However, because it was up to each nation to find ways to ratify this convention, Canada further restricted the definition of genocide. Specifically, it removed articles II.b, d, and e, leaving us with the following:
- Killing members of the group [targeted by the state];
Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
- Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Hence, Canada’s Special Committee on Hate Propaganda (1965) makes the following comment:
For purposes of Canadian law, we believe that the definition of genocide should be drawn somewhat more narrowly than in the international Convention so as to include only killing and its substantial equivalents … The other components of the international definition, vis., causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group and forcibly transferring children of one group to another group with intent to destroy the group we deem inadvisable for Canada – the former because it is considerably less than a substantial equivalent of killing in our existing legal framework, the latter because it seems to have been intended to cover certain historical incidents in Europe that have little essential relevance to Canada where mass transfer of children to another group are relatively unknown.
Prime Minster Lester B. Pearson then further comments as follows:
The possibility of the crime of genocide being committed in Canada seems to me to be extremely remote. I stress the fact that the broad purpose of this convention is to bring the law throughout the world up to that standard which I think we may say without boasting happily exists in our country.
In other words, from the Canadian perspective, the UNGC was only drafted to be applied elsewhere and parts of it are so redundant that they can be removed from the Canadian point of application. As we will see in what follows, this is categorically false and, I will argue, the federal government has always known this. The enfranchisement of Indigenous peoples in 1956 is evidence of this. In 1956, Indigenous peoples were recognized as citizens of Canada and were given the right to vote. Although this occurred in 1956 the enfranchisement of Indigenous peoples was made retroactively effective to 1947. So, while Indigenous peoples did not gain any so-called rights until 1956 they were said to actually have been Canadian citizens from 1947 onwards. This is a strange move but one that makes sense when we realize that the UNGC has a clause that prevents citizens of a nation from bringing the charge of genocide against their own nation. Furthermore, given that the UNGC passed into law in 1948, the enfranchisement if Indigenous people was made effective in the year before that occurred so that the Canadian state could argue that Indigenous peoples were citizens of Canada during the whole time that the UNGC was law. Consequently, no Indigenous peoples could charge Canada with genocide under international law. What we have been taught was part of the slow march of progress—wherein an oppressed minority begins to gain rights it should have always had—was actually part of Canada’s efforts to deny Indigenous people sovereignty and to protect the Canadian state from being held accountable for doing this.
However, as Tamara Starblanket demonstrates, Canada’s choice to remove Articles II.b, d, and e, from its legal approach to genocide can be understood as a violation of Articles 18 and 53 of the Vienna Convention that governs international treaties. I’m not going to get into the technicalities of this but I think she makes a strong case and, in what follows, I will be working from the internationally-recognized definition of genocide used in the UNGC and not the truncated version that appears in Canadian law.
The Origins of Canada and the Indian Act
I am now going to take a roughly chronological approach to the history of settler colonialism in Canadian-occupied territories, beginning with the origins of Canada and the creation of the Indian Act.
During the British occupation of this part of Great Turtle Island, the Royal Proclamation of 1763 understood Indigenous nations to be self-governing entities within the British Empire. However, in order to advance their profits and efforts to extract so-called “resources” from the land, the British became increasingly focused on trying to impose settlements, agrarianism, and Eurocentric models of education onto Indigenous nations. This was an almost entirely failed effort and so the British shifted their focus to Indigenous children and thought that education could be used to assimilate Indigenous kids into a British way of living. The Gradual Civilization Act of 1857 was passed to try and encourage this. However, both day schools and boarding school failed to achieve this end, and although Indigenous kids were offered citizenship and fifty acres of land if they would relinquish their national Indigenous identity after graduation, only one graduate did that between 1857 and 1863. Thus, prior to Canada’s existence, we already see a desire to assimilate Indigenous peoples, we see failed attempts to do so, we see the focus shift to children, and we see that thriving home communities and strong family units are considered a major obstacle to attaining this end.
With the creation of Canada in 1867, Section 91:24 of the British North America Act, grants the federal government of Canada full powers over Indigenous peoples, with the relation of the government to Indigenous peoples explicitly understood as a “guardianship as of persons underage, incapable of the management of their own affairs.” The Indian Act was created (without any Indigenous consultation or consent) to ensure that the newly created Department of Indian Affairs had absolute authority over all Indigenous peoples and nations in territories occupied by Canada. Although it has had various permutations over the years, the Indian Act has always existed to do away with Indigenous sovereignty and title so that Canada could claim the lands to which Indigenous nations belonged. As John A. MacDonald asserted in 1887: “the great aim of our legislation has been to do away with the tribal system and assimilate the Indian people in all respects with other inhabitants of the Dominion, as speedily as they are fit to change.” In 1907, Wilfred Laurier re-affirms this when, noting challenges about Indigenous sovereignty in so-called British Columbia, he argues that his goal is that of creating “a white British Columbia; a white Canada … a home of the white race.” MacKenzie King affirms the same sentiment the following year: “This continent must belong to the white races.”
Therefore, the Indian Act sets out to accomplish several things: it outlaws traditional forms of Indigenous governance and politics, it created a new leadership system of band councils and elected chiefs, it prevented traditional leaders and chiefs from being elected to positions of leadership in the new leadership system, it criminalized traditional ways in which Indigenous nations would connect with each other, and it gave the Indian Agent, the government’s representative, full and total authority over band councils and chiefs so that the Indian Agent ultimately had the final say about any decisions made within Indigenous nations.
One of the primary goals of the Indian Act was to impose a patriarchal system onto nationalities wherein women had strong leadership roles, wherein women had much more freedom to choose their sexual partners, wherein women were connected to the land, the products of their labour, and the economic distribution of goods, and wherein society was often matrifocal, matrilineal, and matrilocal. In many nations, Clan mothers were the leading members and it was they who elected and deposed male chiefs and council members for times of peace or war. These women leaders were often at the forefront of resistance to colonization (just as Indigenous women today continue to be at the forefront of this struggle), and so the Indian Act transferred all authority to men only. Only men could now be chiefs or council members and only men could vote. Not only this, but only men could hold property and women’s property was held for them by either their father or husband or, in the absence of these, the Indian Agent and the state. Very quickly, Indigenous women became the group with the fewest rights of any people living within the Canadian occupation. Furthermore, Indigenous women who married non-Indigenous men automatically had their Indigenous status and nationality stripped from them and their children. It took nearly a century of fighting for Indigenous women to have this changed in Canadian law. Sandra Lovelace finally won a case against the federal government in 1985 that allowed married women and their immediate children (but not grandchildren) to be able to re-apply for status that had been stripped from them, and then Sharon McIvor won a case in 2011 that allowed this status to also be re-applied to other descendants of these women. However, from 1867 until the present moment, innumerable Indigenous women have been disappeared this way. In other words, the disappearance of Indigenous women and girls is something that is not accidental within Canadian-occupied territories. It is a necessary precondition for the existence of the Canadian State.
Not only do band councils impose a colonial, patriarchal system onto various Indigenous nationalities, but the ability of the Indian Agent to determine who could be chief or council, allowed Canada to pursue, entice, bribe, cajole, threaten and corrupt a select few individuals who became something of a local elite within Indigenous communities and who could be convinced to enrich themselves at the cost of their own people. This “divide and conquer” strategy is as old as so-called civilization itself. Canada has pursued it aggressively and with enough success that after 80 years of unrelenting efforts, it was able to limit the authority of Indian Agents because it had created enough division within enough Indigenous nations, that it was able to trust its people on the ground to do pro-Canada, pro-industry work in their own band councils. Since then, the Canadian government and industries have been more than happy to give great wealth to a very few people to ensure that they continue to meet goals related to the theft and exploitation of the land. However, one of the outcomes of this process—an outcome that Canada likes very much—is that Indigenous resistance began to focus on the elite few Indigenous people serving Canadian interests rather than being focused on the Canadian government itself and this division can often be exploited by the Canadian government.
Apart from annihilating Indigenous sovereignty, disappearing Indigenous women, and implementing a patriarchal divide-and-conquer strategy, the Indian Act was also structured so as to make those who were actually considered “status Indians” decline in numbers until there were no more left. Revisions to the Indian Act in 1898 said that any child born out of wedlock or left to be raised by the state (or some other institution) was automatically not an Indian. A further revision to the Act in 1927 stated that, if it was discovered later in life that a person had been born out of wedlock, that person would retroactively lose status. Then, another revision in 1951 stated that all marriages between Indigenous peoples had to be filed with the federal government otherwise the union would be considered invalid and the status of the children would be lost. Given that a lot of Indigenous nations understood marriage rather differently than the Canadian state, and given that a lot of Indigenous peoples did not see a need for their marriages to be validated by the government that was colonizing them, this tactic was deliberately deployed to cause the number of status Indians to decline.
However, as mentioned, after 1985 some people were able to regain status that was withheld from them previously. Here, however, Canada continued to deploy a divide-and-conquer strategy and left it up to local reserves to determine if people could have status re-instated (or instated for the first time). Without status, people could not live on reserves, they could not be band members, they could not vote or run for council, and they could not access funds for education, health care, and social services. Gaining access to some of these resources could help people who were frequently dispossessed and impoverished off reserve, but the federal government was also cutting the already insufficient amount of money it was dispersing to reserves at this time. In other words, the reserves were facing budgets that were already and increasingly unable to meet the needs of existing community members, and then were left with the choice of having more—perhaps even a lot more—people join their communities. Consequently, by fiscally-starving Indigenous nations, the Canadian government was able to get reserves to reject status applications and some reserves actually then adopted blood quantum models like those used in the USA to overrule pre-existing Indigenous models for how identity and citizenship is constituted. This then only furthered divides between Indigenous peoples and within communities—much to the delight of Canada which exploited this in the public eye to present themselves as charitable humanitarians dealing with a bunch of greedy, backwards savages.
The creation and governance of Indian Reserves was of central importance to the Indian Act and, more generally to the project of settler colonialism in Canadian-occupied territories. As with other approaches, the British paved the way for Canadian efforts in this regard. An 1838 report on the matter states the following:
It appears that, in reference to the North American Indians in Upper Canada and the adjoining territories, a process is now going forward, very similar to that which has, for a long course of years, been pursued by the United States towards the Indians on their frontier. The Indians are induced by persuasion to abandon, almost for nothing, their richest and most valuable tracts of land (including their settlements, and the plots which have been brought under cultivation…) and to fall back upon districts incapable of supporting them for any long time … [plots] greatly inferior to their old settlements for the purposes of civilized life. The obvious motive with the executive government of Canada, for adopting this line of policy towards the Indians, is to please the white settlers around them who complain that the Indians have all the best land in the country, and evidently wish to turn them out and take possession of it for themselves.
The primary purpose of reserves was (and remains) the removal of Indigenous peoples from their national homelands so that Canadians could take up their occupation. Reserves were also designed to foster a highly policed and regulated disciplinary dependence upon the government, to fracture Indigenous nations and alliances between Indigenous nations, and to remove the possibility of Indigenous resistance to colonization. Thus, reserves were created in land that was: (a) unwanted by settlers at the time when the reserves were created; (b) fairly isolated and not overly close to White settlements; (c) far smaller than traditional territories and homelands; (d) far away from territories that were necessary for the ongoing existence of a particular nation and its way of life (for example, some Cree nations that cycled between hunting buffalo and harvesting wild rice were removed from territories where they could engage in these activities and placed in isolated swamps unwanted by Whites). Furthermore, this is why the federal government chose to create thousands of small isolated reserves (currently there are approximately 3,100 reserves in Canada) rather than creating larger national groups where more people could gather, which could possibly contribute to Indigenous resistance to the Canadian occupation.
Given these things, Indigenous peoples were not particularly keen to abandon their territories and move onto reserves. Therefore, exploiting the harms caused by various disease epidemics brought by Europeans to Turtle Island, as well as exacerbating famines, decimating food sources (like the buffalo herds on the plains), and pursuing a policy of deliberately enforced starvation, became the tools the Canadian government used to force Indigenous peoples onto reserves. As James Daschuk demonstrates, this was especially the case with John A. MacDonald’s approach to clearing the prairies of Indigenous peoples to make room for European farmers. If Indigenous peoples, whose food source had been deliberately exterminated, were starving, if they were dying from a TB or influenza epidemic, the government withheld all support and assistance unless the nation first agreed to move onto a reserve. However, once on the reserve, Indigenous peoples were given poor rations, inadequate housing, food that was often rotting and sometimes poisonous, no provision of clothing, and little or no medicine. Here a policy of “fiscal” restraint worked hand-in-hand with the open racism and hatred expressed by colonizers like John A. MacDonald. Thus, when speaking of funds budgeted for food for indigenous peoples living on reserves, the “father of Confederation” observes that, “we are doing all we can, by refusing food until the Indians are on the verge of starvation, to reduce the expense.” However, part of the point of this privation was to ensure that the reserves never became self-sustaining. As one Canadian government official acknowledges in a personal correspondence: “It was not intended that the Indian should become self-supporting. He was only to be kept quiet till the country filled up when his ill will could be ignored.” Because of these things, although reserve populations during the Canadian push into the prairies peaked in 1884, they declined by almost 50% by 1889 due to malnutrition, overcrowding, exposure, poor sanitation, and isolation.
If anyone pushed back against the oppressive nature of this, they were branded as troublemakers and their rations were withheld. Any other unrest or resistance could lead to rations being withheld from entire communities. For example, rations were also withheld from families suspected of harboring children or not sending them to residential schools. Furthermore, in a practice that appears quite common among Indian Agents in the prairies, rations were withheld unless people agreed to hand their teenage daughters over to the Indian Agent. Agents were known rape and sell girls as young as 13 years old to other colonizers for $10 apiece. Because Indian Agents were encouraging a system of sex for rations, the Canadian government increased its focus on Indigenous sex and sexuality, while developing a narrative about Indigenous women as especially sexualized, loose, tempting, and immoral.
Because reserves were not generally good places to live, the Canadian government, with the support of the Northwest Mounted Police and then the RCMP, created a Pass System to control the movement of Indigenous people off of reserves. This system lasted from the inception of Canada until the 1940s, although in some places it continued to operate as late as 1969. In order to leave the reserve, a person was required to get a pass from the Indian agent which gave them permission to leave, and which stipulated their purpose for leaving and how long they could be gone for. Technically, this was not legal, and the Canadian government avoided trying to pass this practice into law, while simultaneously encouraging a policy of deliberately deceiving Indigenous peoples into thinking this was a legal requirement. If the RCMP caught a person off of reserve without a pass they were either forcibly returned to the reserve or incarcerated and condemned to hard labour for several months—a punishment that frequently killed people. Furthermore, this pass system was used to prevent people from attending traditional religious gatherings, it was used to keep reserves separate and fractured from one another, it was used to destroy Indigenous economies and ways of life that required movement, and it was used to prevent parents from visiting their children at Residential Schools. Due to the fact that this practice was not legal, and due to the fact that several treaties explicitly gave Indigenous peoples the right to hunt and travel freely, the federal government did its best to try and gather and then eliminate any evidence that the pass system ever existed. However, thanks to the testimony of survivors and the existence of one archive that did not send its material to Ottawa, the Canadians failed in this effort.
Despite that, Indian Reserves were generally considered to be quite successful and, in fact, were known in other colonial states. The White government of South Africa was so impressed by what they heard about the Canadian Indian Reserves that they sent several officials to Canada on multiple trips to study them. The Indian Reserves then became the model used the by the Apartheid government in South Africa as it sought to address its own “Native question” through the creation of racially-segregated “Homelands.”
And life, today, on many reserves has not improved all that much. In fact, due to increasing cuts to funding, or frozen budgets that don’t account for population growth, poverty on reserves increased in the second half of the twentieth century. Many still face the same issues that were found on reserves in the 1880s—malnutrition, overcrowding, exposure, inadequate housing and sanitation, inadequate health care, and isolation. There are currently 62 long-term boil water advisories in effect on reserves (with several that have been in place for twenty years or more) and another 33 shorter-term advisories in place. Of the 87 long-term boil water advisories that have been lifted since Justin Trudeau was elected (as one of his election promises), many used short-term, cheap, quick-fix solutions that were able to have the advisory lifted but which either did not do much to improve the quality of the water or which will only work for a short time before another advisory goes into effect. Living in such conditions is exhausting, traumatizing, and incapacitating which, of course, has always been part of the point when it came to the Canadian colonization of these territories.
Indian Residential Schools
While the Indian Act and Indian Reserves have a lot to do with clearing land, destroying Indigenous sovereignty, and reducing the number of Indigenous people within the Canadian occupation, through legal tricks and by deliberately inflicting on Indigenous people conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part (as per UNGC Article II.c), the development of Indian Residential Schools builds on the previous British goal of extinguishing Indigenous sovereignty through the assimilation of Indigenous children into colonial society or, as UNGC Article II.d states, through forcibly transferring children of one group to another group. While the culpability of Christian churches has often been emphasized in the media reports on Indian Residential Schools (IRS), it is important to emphasize that the IRS were run in a church-state partnership and the state was the senior partner providing the funding, setting the standard of care, and engaging in the supervision and administration of an institution for children who were considered wards of the Department of Indian Affairs and the Canadian state.
Four residential schools were already running in Canadian-occupied territories prior to the creation of the Canada state. All were in so-called Ontario: The Mohawk Institute, Mount Elgin, Wikwemikong, and Shingwauk. By 1923, there were 71 schools running with 5,347 children in residence. Numbers peak in 1931 with 80 schools running. At this point, almost 75% of all Indigenous children aged 7-15 were attending, or had attended, an IRS. By 1948, the number of schools is down to 72, with 9,368 kids attending and roughly 60% of all Indigenous children in Canadian-occupied territories being in IRS at this time. This drops to 66 schools in 1965 and then down again to 12 schools with 1,899 students attending in 1979. The decline in numbers reflects the desire of the government to close schools from the 1950s onwards, although the last Indian Residential School did not close until 1996. More than 150,000 people attended the schools during this time, of whom about 80,000 are still alive today.
To understand why the government closed the schools, we need to understand why they existed in the first place. Here, the messaging is as consistent as it is clear: Indian Residential Schools were developed to remove children from the so-called “savage” influence of their families and nations and to assimilate them into an entirely new national identity, with different values, priorities, and ways of being in relationship to the land, other people, their history, and themselves. This, of course, is in keeping with John A. MacDonald’s words to the Canadian Parliament back in 1883:
The first object [of the IRS] is to make them better men, and, if possible, good Christian men by applying proper moral restraints … When the school is on the Reserve the child lives with its parents, who are savages; he is surrounded by savages, and though he may learn to read and write his habits, and training and mode of thought are Indian. He is simply a savage who can read and write. It has been strongly pressed upon myself, as head of the Department, that the Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence, and the only way to do that would be to put them in central training industrial schools where they will acquire the habits and modes of thought of white men; so that, after keeping them a number of years away from parental influence until their education is finished they will be able to go back to their band with the habits of mind, the education, the industry which they have learned at these schools.
Thus, as John Milloy demonstrates, the IRS were “an all-encompassing environment of resocialization” wherein children were first disoriented and then reoriented—a process that precisely matches the two stages of genocide. For, ass Duncan Campbell Scott, head of the DIA asserts in 1920: “Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic, and there is no Indian question, and no Indian Department.” Thus, the haircuts that all children had. Thus, the imposition of a uniform. Thus, the replacement of names with numbers. Thus, being forbidden to speak their own languages. Thus, being taught that their traditional ways were superstition or devil-worship. Thus, the indoctrination into Christianity, hard work, and corporal punishment. All of this was implemented in order to “kill the Indian in the child” so that they could be reborn as proper Christian, Canadian citizens. In other words—and this is a critical point—even if the IRS were not so violent, even if all the teachers had been loving and attentive, even if the children had been well-fed, even if the schools were picture-perfect—the IRS system would still be an act of genocide wherein the national identity of children forcibly removed from their families was destroyed and replaced with the national identity of the Canadians.
But, of course, the IRS were not picture-perfect pedagogical places. As Tamara Starblanket shows, the children disassembled there were exposed to so much violence, trauma, and ill-will that, those who survived (and only about 50-60% did survive—so imagine attending a school where half of your peers died) were unable to function in any kind of whole or healthy way and were certainly unable to “embody, say, a healthy Nehiyaw, Anishanaabe, Dene (to name a few) national identity.” Kids were not destroyed and rebuilt. They were just destroyed. And all of this was done in a thoroughly genocidal manner. It is not enough, Starblanket asserts, to simply use the language of “neglect and abuse to describe this. For, she goes on to say:
When a child suffers the imposition of a colonial language by acts of violence and terror and is brainwashed by the methods of torture, starvation, forced labour, sexual predatory acts and other methods that compel his/her domination and dehumanization, that child will be traumatized for life. Indoctrination involves the termination of Indigenous Peoples’ distinct national identities and characteristics. Essentially, all characteristics of Indigenous cultural and national identity become “systematically liquidated.”
IRS were exceptionally brutal environments and it is very hard, in such a short presentation, to do justice to this. I strongly recommend that people read some of the survivor accounts that have been published or review the content of the Final Report of the TRC or even do some research about the IRS closest to where you live. Suffice to say, the following conditions were the norm in IRS across Canada:
- Malnutrition with children being given inadequate or rotten food and being forced to eat it or eat their own vomit if they could not keep the food they ate down;
- Extraordinarily high rates of TB, influenza, and other epidemic diseases, which produced mortality rates only seen elsewhere in war time and that were, in fact, higher than the mortality rates at Dachau, Buchenwald, and Mauthausen;
- Poor sanitation, inadequate heating, buildings constantly in need of repair;
- Chronic underfunding which led to using very young children to do very hard manual labour for very long hours so that schools could grow produce to sell to supplement the budget; teachers and staff would also eat this fresh produce but it was not given to students;
- All kinds of torture used as punishment including: isolation, whippings, beatings, starvation; electric shock therapy, including the use of an electric chair at one school; holding children’s heads under water; and scalding children with boiling water;
- Using children as guinea pigs in medical studies on malnutrition and for vaccination experiments;
- Providing children with clothing that was not adequate to the weather;
- Deliberately isolating siblings from one another;
- Punishing children if they were found comforting one another;
- Rampant sexual abuse of kids as young as three (so much so that at some schools 100% of the children were sexually abused);
- Further, given power struggles between church and state or between various churches, the churches regularly protected known abusers because the abusers were on their side;
- Staff were underpaid, poorly trained; good staff left; abusers stayed.
- Overcrowding due to per capita funding which also meant schools took in kids who were physically and mentally unfit for school;
- Pimping of students to Whites in nearby towns;
- Forced abortions (or newborns thrown in furnaces);
- Sterilizations of young girls who were pimped out.
The government was aware of all of these things—they were already flagged in a report completed in 1897 and would be flagged again in innumerable reports over the years—and Duncan Campbell Scott himself stated that he expected only 50% of the kids to survive the IRS experience. He was okay with this and, for the most part, the government tried to blame the poor results—including the fact that 60-80% of IRS graduates only came out with a Grade 3 level education—on the fact that Indians were inferior beings.
Of course, Indigenous peoples were not keen to have their children stolen from them, and they were not keen to return their children to schools once children started telling them what happened, and so the Indian Act was modified in 1919 to make attendance compulsory and further modified in 1920 to say that those who did not send children to school could face heavy fines or sustained periods of imprisonment and hard labour. The RCMP were regularly deployed to take children from their families using whatever level of force they deemed necessary—including lethal force—and they were also used to track, catch, and return runaways. Many children died trying to escape the schools and elude the police. Some struck by trains, others frozen to death, others lost and starving. Parents also had rations cut off by the Indian agent if they refused to send kids and so were also faced with the impossible choice of sending some children or letting the whole family starve. And, of course, once kids were in schools, the Indian Agent could use them as hostages and threaten to harm them unless parents and families towed the line on reserves.
The Sixties Scoop, and the Ongoing Forced Removal of Indigenous Children from their Families
However, as I said, by the 1950s the federal government had concluded that the IRS were failing in the task assigned to them and so should be phased out. The issue was not that the IRS were places of great violence and death—the issue was that they were failing to adequately assimilate Indigenous children into Canadian society. Therefore, the government shifted its focus to child welfare, foster care, and the removal of Indigenous children from their families and communities so that they could be placed in the homes of Canadian families. This produced what is known as “the Sixties Scoop” where we see huge numbers of Indigenous kids taken into foster care or adopted out into foreign families. This strategy worked perfectly with the environment the government of Canada had created on reserves—not only were living conditions deplorable but after 80 years of IRS a great many people were coping with the harms they had experienced by using alcohol and were also replicating behaviours they had learned in the IRS. Thus, intergenerational patters of trauma-transmission and abuse were being developed (and essentially encouraged by the government) at this time. Furthermore, even those parents who still had a strong sense of their Indigenous identity had their kids taken from them because Indigenous models of parenting were presented as a form of “neglect” according to Canadian social workers. Thus, while Indigenous kids in care accounted for less than 1% of the total group in 1955, by 1964 they accounted for 40%. So many kids were being taken that Indigenous kids were also sold to adoption agencies in the USA for $5-10,000 per child. To help facilitate this scoop, social work agencies were given guaranteed payments for each Indigenous child removed from a home.
Kids in foster care were deliberately placed far away from their point of origin and deliberately had their names, histories, and identities erased, along with their Indian status. As such, Indigenous kids were both more successfully isolated and more successfully assimilated than they were in IRS. In the sixties, there was such a huge influx of Indigenous children into care that home checks, follow up, or assessments to ensure that people could be good foster parents were scrapped or neglected—basically, if you wanted a cute little Indian kid, you got one.
However, and this is a crucial point, this forced removal of Indigenous children from their families and communities was not an isolated event—it continues until today. By the late 1970s, 25-33% of all Indigenous kids were living outside of their families, often deliberately placed outside of their province of origin. Today, rates of removal continue at a higher rate than they were at the height of the Residential School days. There are roughly three times as many Indigenous kids in care today than attended IRS at its peak, and while Indigenous kids make up only 7% of the children in Canadian-occupied territories, they account for 48% of those in care. Given that there are approximately 165,000 kids in care today, that means there is about 79,200 Indigenous kids in care today. Of course, given the abuse that is rampant in foster care (with 80% of girls reporting sexual abuse and more than 50% of boys reporting the same), given that 95% of Indigenous inmates in Canadian prisons come from foster care, given that 50% of those who come out of foster care end up homeless, and given the strong ties that exist between foster care and human trafficking, it appears that many of the conditions of IRS are being directly replicated in foster homes and group homes only now the kids have no idea who they are or where they came from or who could help.
This situation has only been exacerbated by the way in which the federal government manages the distribution of funds for children who need support on reserves. Provincial levels of funding for kids in care are already woefully low, but the federal government funds kids on reserve at a level that is 22% less than the provincial marker. Furthermore, Directive 20-1 of the First Nations Child and Family Services Program stipulates that a child must first be removed from its home on the reserve before any of those funds can be accessed. In other words, breaking up a family is a precondition to being able to help a family on a reserve, whereas off reserve this is seen as a last effort to only be attempted after all the other options have been tried and have not worked.
Due to the seemingly superhuman work of Cindy Blackstock and the First Nations Caring Society, work that spans decades of court battles with the federal government, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (the CHRT; the highest court of its kind in Canada), found that this funding model and practice was knowingly and deliberately discriminatory, prejudiced, unfair, harmful, and a breach of fundamental human rights. The CHRT demanded the government change this practice immediately and also compensate those who were harmed by this practice in the past. However, as of September 6, 2019, the CHRT had to issue its 8th non-compliance order to the federal government because the government has refused to change a single thing or provide anyone with any kind of compensation. In this regard, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government easily matches the worst colonial abuses of Stephen Harper’s Conservative government. Here, it is worth noting the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action related to child welfare. After interviewing thousands of IRS survivors, the TRC notes that “the greatest perceived damage to them was their removal from their home and family” and then the TRC observes that “the legacy of residential schools is not only continuing but getting worse, with increasing numbers of child apprehensions through the child welfare system.”
Indian Health Services, especially Indian Hospitals and the Sterilization of Indigenous Peoples
Before continuing to explore some more contemporary practices, it is worth stepping back again to the mid-twentieth century to explore an often-forgotten institution: that of Indian Health Services as it operated through both Indian Hospitals and the forced sterilization of Indigenous people—especially women and girls.
Early Canadians, like the British before them, did not expect Indigenous peoples to survive long into the 20th century. Their susceptibility to European diseases, and other things that Europeans interpreted as signs of savagery and inferiority, were put forward to suggest that, in fact, Indigenous people were a dying breed, doomed to not survive the sweep of progress and the transition from nature to civilization. However, by the 1930s, it was becoming increasingly apparent to Canadians that not only were the Indigenous peoples not dying out but there seemed to be more of them in settlements and cities that were previously considered White-only spaces. This Indigenous presence was concerning to the Canadians because Indigenous people were seen by Canadians as bearers of disease. Now, granted, it is true that TB at this time was five times more common on Reserves than it was in White cities, but a government study in 1926 had already shown that this was due to Indigenous kids contracting TB at IRS (mostly because they were given untreated milk) and then bringing TB back to Reserves where its spread was facilitated (as another government study completed in 1934 highlighted) by the poor living conditions the government enforced there. Although the government was well aware of these factors contributing to the prevalence of TB amongst Indigenous folx, they did not address them. Instead, they looked for ways to further isolate and surveil Indigenous patients, especially given that provincial hospitals did not want Indigenous patients mixing with the Whites (and the federal funding those hospitals did receive for Indigenous patients was usually redirected to care for Whites), and because White-only TB sanatoria refused to take Indigenous patients. As one Canadian Medical Superintendent at the Six Nations Reserve remarked: “[Indigenous people are] an enemy in our midst, and while we have few guns trained on them there is no reason why we cannot attack them with such weapons as we have.”
Therefore, the Department if Indian Health Services created Indian Hospitals and by the 1960s it was responsible for 22 institutions with more than 2200 beds. Initially, in the 1930s, most of the patients in Indian Hospitals were children sent to die there from IRS so that IRS could keep their recorded death rates as low as possible. However, many patients also came as graduates from IRS who had been diagnosed with TB and who came to stay, and live, and die, at the Indian Hospitals.
Indian Hospitals parallel Residential Schools in many ways. There were also chronically underfunded (running on 50% of the funding of provincial hospitals of comparable size), poorly maintained, overcrowded and poorly staffed—regularly hiring untrained and unqualified nurses and anesthetists, and regularly hiring doctors who were not licensed to work in Canada. Patients at Indian Hospitals were also used in a number of medical experiments and “daring surgeries,” to see if removing ribs eight or nine ribs, collapsing lungs, and placing wax inside chest cavities, could contribute to TB cures. This resulted in many deaths, and many others who lived with deformations, disabilities, chronic pain, and recurring infections. In many procedures little or no anesthetic was used (or only a local was given, even when cracking someone’s ribs out) because of the ways in which Europeans delighted in hurting Indigenous people, because of the cost this saved, and because of stereotypes Europeans had about the animalistic, high pain tolerance of Indigenous peoples. Furthermore, those quarantined for having TB were placed in maternity or pediatric wards with little concern about the ways in which the TB would then spread to (and kill) new mothers and young children. If patients tried to flee the hospital, the RCMP would hunt them down and return them or imprison them. As a result, Indian Hospitals created locked detention wards and the Indian Act was modified in 1951 to include the “compulsory hospitalization and treatment [of Indigenous people] for infectious diseases.” If any Indigenous person suspected that they may have an infectious disease did not report to an Indian Hospital, they could be fined or jailed or both. As with the IRS, reports of physical and sexual abuse are frequent. Furthermore, if children refused to stay in their beds, they would be tied to their beds with restraints and if they got loose of the restraints, they would have plaster casts placed on their legs. If they then went on to break those casts and get out of bed, they would be placed in full-body plaster casts. The families of children used in medical experiments for vaccines in the ‘30s were never asked for their consent—getting consent from the Principal at the IRS the child was attending was deemed sufficient. Additionally, whole wards were sometimes punished if one patient in the ward broke a rule. Again, as with IRS, any resistance, flight, or negative outcomes were blamed on the ingratitude and savagery of the patients. Finally, as with IRS, the government was well aware, from the beginning through to the end, of the poor services, the abuse, and the high mortality rates present at Indian Hospitals but it never worked to address the causes of these things.
To further surveil the state of Indigenous health, the government began giving mass annual chest x-rays to people living on reserves from the 1930s well into the 1960s. Inhabitants of reserves that were considered “high risk” could be x-rayed up to three times per year and, once in hospital, patients could be x-rayed every month. The government continued to perform these x-rays even after it became aware of the harm that frequent x-rays can do to a person. If signs of TB were found in an x-ray, or if a medical inspector found any other signs of an infectious disease, the person was immediately sent to an Indian Hospital. This was an especially brutal practice for those who lived in the Arctic. The Department of Indian Health would x-ray and examine people on a medical boat. If signs of disease were found, the person was not allowed to leave the boat, the person was not able to tell their family what was going on, they were simply sailed south where they were often left to die. Their bodies were never returned to their communities and their families were never notified of what happened to them. It was standard practice to send people to Indian Hospitals far from their communities which, as with IRS, was done to discourage flight. Many people were disappeared in this way and many of them were buried in unmarked graves.
However, by 1961, the federal government decided to begin the process of “quietly closing” Indian Hospitals because they wanted to further relinquish treaty obligations that they had made in terms of providing funding and medicines to Indigenous nations and they wanted to download health-care costs onto the provinces. This, I should mention, was another factor in moving from IRS to child welfare services—it incorporated Indigenous people into membership within Canadian provinces rather than having them exist in a nation-to-nation relationship with the federal government, and it allowed the federal government to reassign funds to other things. Both provinces and Indigenous peoples pushed back against this (provinces because they did not want to absorb the cost, Indigenous nations because they did want treaties rights to be abolished) but, ultimately, the passage of universal health care in 1966 made this change effective.
Sterilizations and Birth Prevention
The other element of the Canadian approach to Indigenous health that needs to be highlighted is the way in which Canada actively pursued a strategy of sterilizing Indigenous people—especially Indigenous women and girls—against their will and without their consent. This is but one particularly vicious example of the unrelenting Canadian assault upon Indigenous women and girls which, I think, is fair to view as genocide via femicide. It also fits clearly within Article II.d of the UNGC: imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group targeted for elimination.
In the late 19th and early 20th century, calls to improve Canadian public health—calls issuing from government officials, social workers, psychiatrists, religious groups like the Salvation Army, and some first wave White feminists—focused heavily upon eugenic interventions into breeding. These interventions were presented as a cure for both physical illnesses and things that were taken to be social illnesses like crime, vice, poverty, and prostitution. Consequently, from 1928 to 1973 several thousand women in Canadian-occupied territories were sterilized, although the precise amount is hard to calculate given the absence or destruction of records. What we do know is that Indigenous women are massively overrepresented in the statistics that we do have. In Alberta, in places where Indigenous women made of 2.5% of the population, they account for 6% of those sterilized and, when it became apparent that Alberta was going to repeal its Sexual Sterilization Act this percentage boomed up to 25%. Also in Alberta, 77% of Indigenous women who were sterilized were sterilized because there were judged to be “mentally defective” and this judgement was made based upon IQ tests that did not factor in cultural differences and which were not even administered in their language. As “mental defectives” these women did not have a say in whether or not they were sterilized and, because they were “mental defectives” all their property was transferred to Indian Affairs. In BC, the Sexual Sterilization Act primarily targeted women who were deemed “promiscuous” which, as I have already described, was a label most frequently attached to Indigenous women. In the North, sterilizations were even easier to obtain with a doctor having the authority to sterilize a woman without her consent if he thought it was best to do so and the woman was over thirty years old or had more than four children. In Ontario, where sterilizations where practiced although never enshrined in law, we see disproportionately high rates of Indigenous women being diagnosed as “mentally defective,” which was often the first step sterilization. It is also worth emphasizing that, across Canada, those declared “mentally defective” were between the ages of 13 and 16. And sterilizations continue to take place even after the provincial sterilization Acts in Alberta and BC were repealed. Thus, for example, we know that at least 686 people were sterilized in Ontario in 1976 with 308 of the people sterilized being children (50 boys, 258 girls). Records also show that many went on to live mentally non-defective lives. In fact, many of them were being tested in the context of sustained trauma and abuse in IRS or Indian Hospitals. The forcible sterilization of people under 16 was only finally disallowed in Ontario after 1978 when people under sixteen were given permission to consent to abortions and IUDs without parental consent.
In fact, it was really only after the legalization of abortion in 1969 that sterilization fell out of favour. Doctors had already been inserting IUDs into Indigenous women without their consent prior to this, and the federal government had also been promoting birth control on Reserves prior to its legalization for other Canadians. But it was doctor-mandated abortions (for therapeutic reasons—which could include the doctor thinking the family was too poor to have another child) that became the new and ongoing tool used to try and prevent Indigenous women from having children. These abortions could be performed without the consent of the woman and sometimes doctors would also perform hysterectomies during the abortion without giving the woman any advance notice that they would do so. As with Indian Hospital practices, many women, especially Inuit women, report undergoing abortions without the assistance of any pain management medication. Doctor-mandated abortions for so-called “therapeutic reasons” (like poverty) continued to be performed in high numbers on unconsenting Indigenous women well into the 1990s. However, in the late ‘90s a number of high-profile lawsuits were filed. By this point, given lawsuits around IRS, lawsuits around Indian Hospitals, and now lawsuits around forced sterilizations, abortions, and hysterectomies, the federal government did some research on the best way to respond and concluded that “the act of apologizing … [had] the potential to reduce the number of claimants in any given case by about 40 percent, thereby reducing the number of suits and court costs.” Therefore, they began to aggressively pursue the apology strategy that continues to be a feature of Canadian politics today. Apologizing serves several purposes. As Karen Stote explains, “apologies have consistently allowed the state to claim forgiveness for past wrongs while avoiding legal responsibility for effective reparations” and so, Stote goes on to say, “Apologies have often been employed as a political manoeuvre aimed at closing a chapter in history and allowing the state to “move on” from the past while at the same time being able to charge those who “complain” with unjustified anger or hostility.” This is a very relevant observation to Canada’s approach to colonization under Harper and T2 (i.e., Trudeau the Second or, for those who are a bit older Terminator 2—a newer, sexier model but a terminator of Indigenous sovereignty nonetheless). Before saying more about them, I wish to comment on the role of the police in this in the Canadian project of settler colonialism, with some further remarks pertaining to the femicide of Indigenous women and girls in Canadian-occupied territories.
The Policing of Indigenous Peoples and the Femicide of Indigenous Women and Girls
Here, I wish to lay out the colonial foundation of policing in Canadian-occupied territories, how inquests and inquiries into Indigenous deaths in police custody reinforce the narrative of colonialism, how this relates to the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and how that dovetails with a subtle form of colonialism that is present in the contemporary focus on preventing human trafficking.
The Origins of the RCMP
We have already seen the role the RCMP played in maintaining the pass system and incarcerating Indigenous peoples on reserves. We have also seen how the RCMP was used to forcibly remove children from their families to take them to Indian Residential Schools and then catch and return any runaways. And we have seen how the RCMP played the same role in relation to Indian Hospitals. Consequently, it should come as no surprise to discover that the RCMP (originally the Northwest Mounted Police) was originally created to suppress Indigenous resistance in the northwest, especially after the Red River Rebellion, and to police the process of moving Indigenous peoples onto reserves on the prairies. In fact, the British used the Royal Irish Constabulary as the basis for the Northwest Mounted Police—with the RIC being a paramilitary, colonial, counter-insurgency force that the British deployed in the occupied territories of Ireland. Consequently, the RCMP was also the force used to prevent or break-up Indigenous Warrior Societies and Political or Spiritual Ceremonies. Hence, a reporter in the Prairies makes the following remark in 1897: “It is only the presence of large numbers of police in the country which keep the Indians in order … They remain submissive because they have the sense enough to know that in the presence of a large armed force, any other attitude would be disastrous to them.” And the RCMP are not solely used in the prairies for this purpose. For example, in 1924, the RCMP are used in so-called Ontario to force the Six Nations onto the Reserve assigned to them because, until that point, they had resisted all mandates associated with the Indian Act.
In other words, from its inception, the RCMP was created and deployed to use paramilitary force in order to make Indigenous people accept colonial laws, structures, and power arrangements. This is why, with the rise of blockades, the American Indian Movement, and more militant forms of resistance in the 1970s, it was consistently the RCMP and its heavily armed Emergency Response Teams that were tasked with suppressing the resistance with whatever amount of force they deemed necessary. A particularly striking example of this played-out in TsPeten (so-called Gustafsen Lake, BC) in 1995 when racist, White ranchers tried to prevent Indigenous people hosting a Sundance in their area. This produced an armed stand-off wherein over 400 RCMP officers were deployed, along with five choppers and two surveillance planes, the Canadian military provided 9 Bison Armoured Personnel Carriers, and the RCMP-led force fired 77,000 rounds of ammunition into the woods, detonated an explosive device underneath a truck being driven by an Indigenous person, exchanged friendly fire with itself, and racked up a $5.5M bill. Another striking example occurred at Esgenoopetitj (Burnt Church, NB) in 2000, when the RCMP, along with officers from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, harassed, surveilled, and assaulted (including a nearly fatal boat-ramming) Mi’kmaq lobster fishermen exercising their treaty rights. During Idle No More! it was also revealed that the RCMP was working closely with CSIS and “energy-sector stakeholders to spy on Indigenous land and water protectors, an alliance that we also saw play-out at Elsipogtog in 2014. Thus, from its inception up until the present moment, enforcing colonial dynamics upon Indigenous peoples remains one of the primary purposes of the RCMP.
Inquest and Inquiries into Indigenous Deaths in Police Custody
However, what of times when the police—be they RCMP, provincial police, or municipal forces—straight up kill, murder, or leave Indigenous people to die in cells, in alleys, or, as happens with Starlight Tours, poorly clothed on the frozen prairies outside of city limits? In such cases, there can be a public outcry, momentum can be gained, and further investigations of police conduct take place. Sherene Razack has done a phenomenal job of examining inquests and inquiries into Indigenous deaths in police custody in Canadian-occupied territories. What Razack convincingly demonstrates is that these investigations are used as an opportunity to re-enact the old colonial story about Indigenous people “as a dying race who are simply pathologically unable to cope with the demands of modern life.” Thus, the focus of the investigations always gravitates towards examining the alcoholism of the homeless Indigenous person who died, and how they are, biologically, especially susceptible to dying. Here, the medical model and the discourse of social work are deployed to mask the violence of colonialism. Indigenous people are presented as “(inexplicably) vulnerable” rather than as “colonized.” Further, attached to this is the reassertion of the Canadian state as a caring body, tasked with maintaining vigilance over Indigenous peoples. If the Canadian state’s law-enforcement agents are guilty of anything, it is not that they cared too little but that they just doesn’t know how to care best for Indians who keep mysteriously dying—any of whom who could really die at any time (and, given that’s the case, “how can you know for certain if you have killed someone when he was already dying?”). In such a situation, the cops are never to blame for Indigenous deaths (not even when the cops have stomped on the chests of those in their custody, not even when they leave them to die in subzero temperatures, not even when they fail to attend to their calls for help). Instead, a few procedural adjustments are recommended, overcoming “cultural differences” and “misunderstandings” is encouraged, and the cops continue to police the frontier between those who belong and the “human waste” that must be expelled. Racism and colonialism don’t even factor into the conversation (except, very rarely, as something in the distant past). Along the way, these Inquests and Inquiries also re-assert Canada’s legal authority to rule over these territories and these peoples. It is Canadian officials who make these judgments and, if we learn anything from our examination of Indigenous alcoholics who are prone to dying suddenly, it’s that they “cannot be entrusted with self-governance and stewardship over the land.” From this perspective, Canada has a moral obligation to retain custody of Indigenous lands and Indigenous peoples.
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
All of this, then, ties into the prevalence of cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) in Canadian-occupied territories. Indigenous peoples have spent decades trying to get the federal government, or any governmental body really, to care about the fact that Indigenous women were disappearing and getting murdered at shockingly high rates. Thus, for example, while homicides for non-Indigenous women declined between 1980 and 2015, the number of Indigenous women who were victims of homicide increased from 9% of all female victims in 1980 to 24% in 2015—while making up only 4% of all the women in Canadian-occupied territories. Currently, the homicide rate for Indigenous women is 8 times higher than the rate for other women.
Due to poor or disappeared police records, getting precise numbers on this matter—especially on how many Indigenous women or girls have gone missing since the 1970s—is hard to guess. Naturally, the RCMP, when finally forced to look into the issue, despite repeatedly stating that there was no reason to do so, low-balled their figure at around 1,000 missing or murdered Indigenous women and girls. They also accused Indigenous men of being the major perpetrators of these crimes, and very publicly stated that Indigenous men were responsible for 70% of the murders of Indigenous women and girls. The subsequent Inquiry into MMIWG discovered that this statistic was a lie and a complete fabrication but, by then, much of the damage was done. Both Stephen Harper and his Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development (AAND) used the RCMPs report to argue that the issue was one pertaining to the maintenance of law and order and, in the fall of 2015, Valcourt stated that “the deaths and disappearances came down to a lack of respect among aboriginal men on reserves for aboriginal women.”
However, based on data collected by community advocates and organizations like the Native Women’s Association of Canada, it seems probably that the number of MMIWG is closer to 4,200. Given the incompleteness of the data, it is not difficult to imagine that the number could be substantially higher. Were a comparable percentage of the population of White women be missing or murdered in Canadian-occupied territories, the total number of missing or murdered White women would be over 36,000 (and it’s hard to imagine that the police and the government would not face immense public pressure to do something about this). Finally, due to unrelenting work from Indigenous organizers, Canada did engage in a national inquiry on the matter although the federal government did its best to frustrate, limit, and prevent the inquiry from digging too much or too deeply—especially into the matter of police accountability (which is not insignificant given that ways in which RCMP officers have played a role in the disappearance and murder of women on the so-called highway of tears, and given the ways in which members of the Sûreté du Québec have been repeatedly implicated in acts of sexual violence against Indigenous women and girls, given the general misogyny that is so prevalent in policing in Canada that roughly one in three to one in five reports about sexual violence are instantly classified as “unfounded” and not investigated by the police, and given the fact that several hundred women in the RCMP have brought a class action lawsuit against their own force). Despite the government’s efforts to undermine the report, on June 4, 2019, the final report of the inquiry concluded that the story of MMIWG is a story about “acts of genocide against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people.” Canada, to borrow a term more frequently deployed to the thousands of women tortured, raped, and murdered at the American border in or near Ciudad Juárez, is engaged in the act of femicide—the intentional killing of women—and this femicide is just one element of its brutal and all-encompassing campaign of genocide against Indigenous peoples as sovereign Indigenous peoples.
Of course, despite all this hand-wringing and report-writing, little has changed for Indigenous women and girls in Canada. The self-declared feminist and ally, Justin Trudeau’s vicious treatment of Jody Wilson-Raybould is ample evidence of that. However, in this regard, I think especially of Cindy Gladue, a 36 year old mother of three daughters, and I think of the way in which she was violently murdered by a White man named Bradley Barton—in an act so terrible I will not describe it here—and I think of the way in which Barton was found not guilty of murder by a mostly White, male, Canadian jury. But I also think about the way in which the Prosecutor representing the Canadian state in the case thought it would be okay to cut Cindy’s pelvis away from her head and limbs so that her actual, flesh and blood genitals and reproductive organs could be presented as evidence in court and then held in a storage freezer for use in the appeal that is still pending (on the lesser charge of manslaughter). Only an Indigenous woman’s body could be used this way in a Canadian court by a government claiming, all the while and regardless of the absence of consent, that they had her best interests in mind.
Colonialism and Anti-Trafficking Efforts
However, one of the ways in which the federal government is currently trying to convince the public that it is a friend to Indigenous women and girls is through its current efforts to “crack down on human trafficking,” viz., the trafficking of women and girls for sexual purposes. In Canadian-occupied territories, it is frequently noted that 90% of the girls under the age of 18 who are trafficked are Indigenous, and this statistic is generally consistent with what is found in the adult population as well. The Canadian state then positions itself as the savior who is invested in rescuing these women and girls. It does this by describing Indigenous victims of trafficking as “domestic” cases, whereas women and girls brought in from Asia or Eastern Europe are described as “international” cases. As Julie Kaye and numerous Indigenous organizers have noted, this discourse then “domiciles” Indigenous women within Canada—they are not citizens of sovereign Indigenous nations (in which case they would be victims of international rather than domestic trafficking). Furthermore, these women and girls are victims of the ongoing brutality of colonial policies—recalling the large number of kids from care who end up being sexually exploited and the host of other grievances already mentioned going back to Indian Agents who forced Indigenous women to trade sex for food 152 years ago—and what we discover is a nation that has naturalized sexualized violence against Indigenous women and girls and which then positions itself as the savior of those women and girls, while never once addressing the structures that put those women and girls in harm’s way in the first place. In fact, some of the most abusive parties from the past and the present—from the Salvation Army to the police—are then given very large sums of money to play the savior role for the state. Now, please don’t misunderstand me here—I am in favour of the decriminalization of sex work and by no means do I think that any and every exchange of sexual services for money, goods, or other services is inherently violent or exploitative. So, I do not think that all Indigenous women who exchange sexual services for other things are being trafficked, are impure, are in need of salvation, and so on. To make this case, one must fall back on Conservative, bourgeois Christian morals pertaining to sex and marriage—which is essentially what the Canadian government does. What I am saying is that, in situations where violence and exploitation is actually present, those responsible for producing the context in which that harm is naturalized are also the ones positioning themselves as noble humanitarians trying to save the Indigenous other who must rely upon them for support.
So-called Modern Treaties in the Context of State-enforced “Reconciliation” and the Legal Constitution of Genocide under Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau
Finally, I want to spend some time briefly sketching out some of the ways in which the last two federal governments—one Conservative, one Liberal—have both been equally committed to the erasure of Indigenous sovereignty and the completion of Canada’s foundational act of genocide. I will first comment on Stephen Harper’s approach to “modern treaties” and then look at Justin Trudeau’s “new way forward.” In analyzing both of these figures and their positions, I am heavily indebted to the work of Pamela Palmater and Russel Diabo.
Harper’s Modern Treaties
From the 1960s onwards, the Canadian government stepped up its efforts to destroy the last vestiges of treaty rights granted to Indigenous nations and to fully incorporate Indigenous peoples into the Canadian state as a unique minority population within the multicultural melting pot. To this end, Canada developed both the “Comprehensive Claims Process” and the “Specific Claims Process” in order to address Indigenous land claims and resolve any issues related to claims made about the violation of treaty rights. These processes are deliberately very technical, and take a very long time to resolve. This absorb a considerable amount of energy and labour that could be directed elsewhere and, while they are in process, developers and industry can still make use of the contested land in whatever way the Canadian government determines is best. In other words, an Indigenous nation may claim that a De Beers diamond mine in their territory (like the one by Attawapiskat) violates their treaty rights because it poisons their water, drives away the game they rely on for food, and decimates the land they have cared for over the last several centuries. But these claims may take twenty years or more to resolve and, in the meantime, the mine will have been fully operational for a very long time and all the damage will be done, regardless of the final result of the claims process. Furthermore, the Canadian government categorically refused to enter into any claims process unless the Indigenous nation or nations involve cede all claims to title over land in the process. For these and other reasons, the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights concluded that these claims processes were illegal efforts to extinguish Indigenous sovereignty. In response, Canada developed the so-called Modern Treaties process based on “modified rights” and the “hon-assertion” (in perpetuity) of sovereignty. According to so-called modern treaties (which are not really treaties because treaties can only exist on a nation-to-nation basis but the very possibility of that is what Canada is denying in modern treaties), a “modified rights” approach means that title is not extinguished but is modified to only include rights specifically mentioned in the claims package. The “non-assertion” approach grants Indigenous people self-government but it explicitly does not “include a right of sovereignty in the international law sense.” Here, self-government only has to do with issues internal to Indigenous “communities” nested within the Canadian state. To accomplish these treaties, individuals or small groups are offered a sum of money or some other financial incentive that, from the perspective of the Canadian state is quite small, but from the perspective of people who have been dispossessed and impoverished for generations is quite large. Furthermore, the government also very clearly communicates that it is either this deal or nothing at all—a modern variation of getting people to sign treaties by pointing guns at them.
Given that a number of regions designated as reserve lands were found to actually be rich sources of things like oil, bitumen, lumber, hydroelectric power, diamonds, and so on, the push for these modern treaties and the further attempt to fully assimilate Indigenous peoples into Canadian society escalated a great deal under Stephen Harper. To attain this, Harper wanted to abolish the Indian Act which, given what we have learned, may seem counter-intuitive but the Indian Act had actually become one of the last documents asserting that Indigenous people had unique treaty rights and, for that reason, Harper wanted it gone. By removing it, he hoped to introduce private land ownership onto reserves and more fully incorporate reserve lands into the Canadian economy, premised as it is, upon resource extraction—another name for ecocide. To this end, the Harper Government successfully introduced and passed Omnibus Bill C-45 which made it easier for band councils to lease out reserve lands with minimal community input or consent, which gutted environmental protections for thousands of lakes and rivers (99% of the lakes and river in Canadian-occupied territories), and which reduced the number of “resource development” projects that required environmental assessments. Furthermore, any so-called “development” would not have to factor in Indigenous claims to the territories or to the treaty right to be able to hunt and fish in their territories.
The Harper Government also introduced Bill C-33, The First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act. Despite its treaty requirements to fund education for Indigenous nations, and despite plundering Indigenous lands and, in fact, withholding monies specifically held in trust for Indigenous nations (since the Canadian government claims that Indigenous people are like children and unable to control their own finances), funding for education on reserves has persistently been woefully inadequate. Therefore, the Harper Government offered $1.9B for on-reserve education with a few strings attached. Notably, the federal government would have full and total control over the curriculum taught to Indigenous kids on reserve. However, the responsibility for managing this would be passed from the feds to the provinces in order to further remove Indigenous nations from nation-to-nation relationships with Canada. If this was not agreed to, the money would not be provided for Indigenous education on reserve. Essentially, Harper tried to bribe and threaten Indigenous communities into creating residential schools 2.0 but on reserves with Indigenous teachers (here, it is worth recalling the words of Stephen Biko: “the most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed”). In this effort, as with his effort to remove the Indian Act, Harper failed. Bill C-33 was never passed and the negative press associated with this Bill and especially Omnibus Bill C-45 (which did pass) contributed to the election of a Liberal majority government.
However, before moving on to Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, it is worth commenting on Stephen Harper’s famous 2008 residential school apology. This apology came from the 2007 Residential School Settlement which, in turn came from the 1996 Royal Commission on Indigenous Peoples and prompted the further work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The apology was, as mentioned above, also a strategically calculated move intended to reassert the moral authority of the Canadian state, distract from any call for reparations, soothe the consciences of colonizers, and present any Indigenous people who continued to be dissatisfied as pathologically angry or resentful and trapped in the past. The apology also used the language of “abuse” and avoided framing the IRS as a part of the Canadian project of settler colonialism which is why, later in the same year at a G8 meeting, Harper stated that “[Canada] has no history of colonialism.” However, as Glen Coulthard astutely notes, “the optics created by these grand gestures of recognition and reconciliation suggests to the dominant society that [Indigenous peoples] no longer have a legitimate ground to stand on in our grievances.” In other words, as with the false 70% stat the RCMP knowingly spread about violence against Indigenous women and girls, the idea isn’t so much to meaningfully address Indigenous concerns as to continue to ensure that colonizers continue to think and feel certain ways about Indigenous peoples.
Justin Trudeau and Reconciling with Genocide
This, then, ties neatly into the Trudeau government, its talk about reconciliation, and its proposed “new way forward.” However, to properly understand this it is necessary to step back one last time to the mid-twentieth century, to 1969 specifically when Pierre Trudeau, Justin’s father, tried to pass the White Paper with the assistance of his head of Indian Affairs, Jean Chrétien. The White paper tried to use the language of human rights and individual equality before the law, to do away with the unique collective, treaty rights of Indigenous peoples. Thus, the treaty rights of Indigenous peoples were framed as discriminatory because there were not rights granted to other Canadian citizens. Therefore, the White Paper sought to abolish the Indian Act, dissolve the Department of Indian Affairs, eliminate Indian status, remove Section 91:24 from the British North America Act, convert reserve lands to private property, transfer responsibility for Indigenous communities to the provinces, fund economic development on reserves, and resolve all land claims while terminating treaties. Understandably, Indigenous people were appalled by this and viewed it as an attempt to completely assimilate them into the Canadian state once and for all. They successfully fought a concerted campaign to prevent the White Paper from passing into law. However, the Canadian government was momentarily stopped. But it did not give up and, as we saw above, Harper followed faithfully in the footsteps of Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chrétien.
And Justin Trudeau is now faithfully following in all of their footsteps. The language changes but the goals remain the same. Thus, T2 co-opts, redefines, and deceptively deploys terms like “nation-to-nation,” “decolonization,” “inherent and treaty Rights,” and, most especially, “reconciliation.” Glen Coulthard’s criticisms of this language game is especially accurate. He notes that:
instead of ushering in an era of peaceful coexistence grounded on the ideal of reciprocity or mutual recognition, the politics of recognition in its contemporary liberal form promises to reproduce the very configurations of colonialist, racist, patriarchal state power that Indigenous peoples’ demands for recognition have historically sought to transcend.
Coulthard goes on to say that the idea is “to entice Indigenous peoples to identify, either implicitly or explicitly, with the profoundly asymmetrical and nonreciprocal forms of recognition, either imposed or granted to them by the settler state and society.” Further, all of this “leaves unscathed the presumption that the colonial state constitutes a legitimate authority to determine which demands for Indigenous recognition ought to be accommodated and which ought to be denied.” The end result of this is making Indigenous assertions of nationhood fit within “the state’s unilateral assertion of sovereignty over Native peoples’ lands and populations.
We see all of this playing out in the “new way forward” that T2 has proposed in the Liberal’s Recognition and Implementation of Indigenous Rights Framework. Within this framework, the Department of Indian Affairs is finally dissolved but two new bodies, the Department of Indigenous Services and the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations are created. The former department is only intended to be an interim department that will guide Indigenous nations into new agreements with the Canadian state so that they can be defined as a “fourth level of government (after the federal, provincial, and municipal governments) under the umbrella of the Canadian state. The Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations will then engage with this newly constituted fourth level of government. To prepare the way for this transition, a federally established advisory group will be created to decide which Indigenous nations (although the Liberals refer to them as “collectives” or “communities,” deliberately avoiding nationhood language) will be federally recognized and which will not. Those recognized will be granted a “list of powers” that is determined by the federal government and that remains open to being changed by the federal government. Those powers will include the ability to tax people and businesses operating on reserve lands, but previous tax exemption granted to status Indians will be removed. Federal and provincial laws will be in full effect. Reserve lands will be opened up to private ownership. Self-government will be strictly related to affairs internal to Indigenous “communities.” Indigenous peoples are to be redefined as “Indigenous-Canadians” at which point Indigenous sovereignty will cease to exist, Indigenous peoples will be fully assimilated and incorporated into the Canadian state, and the genocidal process of land theft will finally be complete. Indigenous peoples, in other words, are being asked to finally and fully reconcile themselves to their own annihilation. For that will be the outcome if Trudeau succeeds where his father and other predecessors failed. That remains to be seen—although he does seem to be closer to doing so than his father. With these things in mind, then, I think the words of George Tinker are a fitting conclusion on the topic of reconciliation:
While the notion that native people can somehow heal wounds opened by knives that continue to be twisted in our bowels may be self-evidently grotesque, it is no more so than the premise that our healing might in any sense be contingent upon, much less synonymous, with our “reconciling” with the knife-wielders. The proposition is as disgusting as it is blatantly false. It might be contended with equal merit that the “best thing” for a rape victim, psychologically-speaking, would be to reconcile with her rapist while she is being raped.”
I began by stating that there were three things I wished to demonstrate about the Canadian project of settler colonialism. There were as follows:
- Far from being a series of one-off events that were produced by a few bad apples or well-intentioned people who accidentally caused harm, this project has actually been multi-faceted, ubiquitous and all encompassing, targeting all areas of Indigenous nationhood and life.
- Far from being something we can relegate to the distant past, this project is just as actively pursued today as it was at every other moment in Canada’s history.
- Far from being a humanizing, civilizing, or charitable mission, this project is thoroughly, intentionally, and brutally genocidal.
I believe that all three of these points are well established now. This, then, leads to my opening question. If “existence is resistance” for Indigenous peoples (and it is, it is), then what is existence for Canadians? I think you can now answer this question.
Thank you very much.
Starblanket, Tamara. Suffer the Little Children.
Stote, Karen. An Act of Genocide.
On Creating Reserves on the Prairies
Daschuk, James. Clearing the Plains.
On the Pass System
Williams, Alex (Director). “The Pass System.”
On Reserves as the Model for Apartheid
Bélanger and Yoon. “Canada’s Apartheid.”
On Indian Residential Schools
Milloy, John. A National Crime.
Starblanket, Tamara. Suffer the Little Children.
Graham, Elizabeth. The Mush Hole.
See, also, my independent research paper on the Mohawk Institute: “”A Faceless People on This Land”: Explore the Christian History of the Mohawk Institute.”
Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: http://www.trc.ca/about-us/trc-findings.html
On the Sixties Scoop and the Ongoing Forced Removal of Indigenous Children from their Communities
Crey and Fournier. The Sixties Scoop.
Obomsawin, Alanis (Director). “We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice.” Online: https://www.nfb.ca/film/we_can_t_make_the_same_mistake_twice/
Court Papers posted by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society: https://fncaringsociety.com/sites/default/files/2019_chrt_39.pdf
Shewell, Hugh. Enough to Keep Them Alive.
On Indian Hospitals
Lux, Maureen. Separate Beds
On Forced Sterilizations
Stote, Karen. An Act of Genocide.
On Inquests and Inquiries into Indigenous Deaths in Police Custody
Razack, Sherene. Dying From Improvement.
On Starlight Tours
Hubbard, Tasha (Director). “Two Worlds Colliding.” Online here: https://www.nfb.ca/film/two_worlds_colliding/.
Reber Susanne and Robert Renaud. Starlight Tour.
The Final Report of the National Inquiry. Part One: https://www.mmiwg-ffada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Final_Report_Vol_1a.pdf. And Part Two: https://www.mmiwg-ffada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Final_Report_Vol_1b.pdf.
O’Bomsawin, Kim. “Quiet Killing.” Available online: https://aptn.ca/documentaries/video/quietkilling/.
Michalko, Ray. Obstruction of Justice.
McDiarmid, Jessica. Highway of Tears.
On the relation between colonialism and anti-human trafficking efforts
Kaye, Julie. Responding to Human Trafficking.
On Harper and Trudeau
Palmater, Pamela. Blogs here: https://pampalmater.com/blog
Diabo, Russell. Many resources here: https://www.russdiabo.com/resources
Coulthard, Glen. Red Skin, White Masks.