Are we punishing people for being poor?

The way our federal and provincial justice system is faulty. We are imprisoning people for unpaid fines, which is incredibly unfair as most of the time these are people who can’t make the payment. In other words, we are punishing people for being poor.

The policy has also meant the disproportionate imprisonment of Aboriginal people since many living in native reservations live under the line of poverty.

If you think this isn’t an important issue because it will never happen to you or anyone you know, think again. No one is safe from poverty and once you are, it’s very difficult to dig your way out.

This is so messed up. The justice system needs to be revised to make sure that we are not unnecessarily punishing people for being poor. This is shameful truth about our justice system.

Why is Sir John A. Macdonald still an official commemorative day in Canada?

January 11th is Sir Jonh A. Macdonald Day in Canada. I’m wondering why is Sir John A.  Macdonald still an official commemorative day in Canada? He was removed on our $5 bills after all.

Yes, he was the 1st prime minister of Canada. It was an important moment in our country’s history and yes, we should teach children about him and what happened during that period. What I dislike is the planning of activities to celebrate this man. We should be learning about him, but celebrating a man who created a policy to starve first nation people to death.

The statue of Sir John A. Macdonald has been vandalized several times since November 2017 amid calls for the statue to come down as part of a fight against racism and colonialism.

I’m not saying we should erase the 1st prime minister of Canada from history. On the contrary, a Nation must realize its failures and bare witness to the truth or history will and has repeated itself. What I’m saying is that we should show him for the man he really was and not celebrate him as a hero.

Welcoming the Winter Solstice

For thousands of years, First Nation people noted the shift in seasons. To acknowledge the cycles, our people celebrate the longest night (A.K.A. Winter Solstice). It’s a time of renewal. A time to reflect on the year that passed and on the year to come.

A few facts about Canadian winters:

snow-21979_1920Did you know that Winnipeg and Yellowknife were named as 2 of the top 5 coldest cities in the world according to AccuWeather in 2016? The title of the snowiest cities, however, went to Saguenay, Quebec City and St. John’s.

Did you know that Ottawa’s Rideau Canal is the largest ice rink with a surface area equal to 90 Olympic skating rinks? As a child, I remember going to skate on the Rideau Canal with school. I loved to skate on my own, people watching, day dreaming and simply enjoying the moment. That is probably why the school bus left without me at the end of the day. Oops. No harm was done. The teachers did a second head count and noticed I was missing. They came back and found me before I noticed anything had gone awry.

 

I pay taxes too

native-american-887936_1920There is a common misconception in Canada that indigenous people don’t have to pay taxes. The truth is that fewer than half of all indigenous people qualify for a tax exemptions and even less can actually use them.

It is seriously annoying when people exclaim “You’re so lucky, you don’t pay taxes!” Nope, sorry, but I pay tax just like you and I have always done so.

Please read this article and watch the video which explains clearly who doesn’t pay taxes, under which circumstance and why: First Nations pay more tax than you think

Canada 150 ???

Since the announcement of Canada 150, I have had a really bad taste in the back of my mouth. Montreal is celebrating it’s 375 year this year. The Canadian flag as we know was adopted on February 15, 1965. That’s much less than 150 years ago. Celebrating Canada 150 is celebrating the legacy of colonialism. As a Métis woman, this celebration feels like a slap in the face.

“It’s like, how did Columbus discover America when the Indians were already here? What kind of shit is that, but white people’s shit?” – Miles Davis

totem-pole-438538_1920It’s shocking to know just how ignorant our general public is when it comes to the true history of Indigenous people.

Forcing natives on reserves while they prosper off the lands that were stolen?

Kidnapping children and placing them in residential schools in gods name? Children were literally being torn from their mothers’ hands to be sent to residential schools. My daughter’s great grandmother was one of those children. The damage that it did to the family is still being felt today. Inter-generational trauma keeps getting passed down. Everyone has to know the hows and whys before healing can begin and the healing takes time, it happens little by little getting a little bit better with each generation.

Tried to wipe out the native population with diseases and starvation?

“When your people came to our land, it was not with open arms, but with bibles and guns and disease. You killed us with your guns and disease, then had the arrogance to call us godless savages.”

Yeah okay let’s celebrate..

The worst part is that discrimination and genocide still goes on today. It is shameful and yet, we are asked celebrate.

It is very important to me to have a connection to culture. That connection to culture is directly linked to their sense of identity.

 

 

 

 

 

Pocahontas – Myths vs. Facts

native-american-28815_1280Do you know the real story of Pocahontas? It’s definitely not the version you learned from Disney. The real story of Pocahontas is much more disturbing than you’ve been led to believe.

Earlier this year, Donald Trump uses Pocahontas as his insult of choice for Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Calling woman with native roots Pocahontas is racist, misogynistic, and dehumanising.

It is amazing to me when I meet anyone not understanding what is wrong with calling someone Pocahontas. 

First of all, Pocahontas was a nickname which meant “playful one” or “ill-behaved child”. Her real name was Amonute.

She was a child when taken to England. There were no love stories with John Smith here. Once in England, Amonute was brainwashed. She has paraded around as an example of a civilised savage. It was one of the pre-cursor for forcing native children into residential schools where they were physically and mentally abused and even killed.

She was eventually given a choice to return home or stay. She obviously chose to stay as she had been thought to view her own people as dirty uneducated savages.

Empathy – A lost art?

“Why should I help anyone but myself?”

This is a question that I hear more and more. I am starting to think that we have become so self-involved that we have lost the ability to empathise.

We have politicians and voters alike asking this question and this is dangerous. Shouldn’t people who lead a country as a whole be concerned with the good of the whole?

I was reading about the Inuit people in my greenlanders-908841_1920child’s history book and the text was explaining that at the centre of their culture is the family.  How the village as a whole support elders who can no longer hunt and young children or the ill, by sharing their share of food and other supplies. The person who wrote the text seemed to explain the concept as if it was foreign. Maybe it’s because I’m Métis and it’s part of our culture to think about 7 generations ahead when making decisions that I don’t understand the “me, myself and I” attitude.

It seems so basic to me. We have to care about one another and take care of one another.

Some people even argue that expecting people to think about the well-being of others is misplaced “entitlement”, that we don’t owe anything to anyone. That a child who loses their parents can’t expect people to help him/her survive or that an elder who contributed all their lives, but is now retired shouldn’t have access to medical treatment if they can’t afford it. Not caring if someone dies or suffers as long as it doesn’t directly affect you, isn’t about personal rights, it just you being a jerk.

We can’t grow as human beings if we are only looking out for ourselves.

 

Racism Multi-Cultural Individual Face

Being Métis I have experienced both privileges of my white side and faced racism due to my indigenous side, which is kind of a unique place to be. I prefer to see myself and all mixed raced people as the result of a love that highlights how interconnected we truly are.

handcuffed-1251664_1920Racism doesn’t always come from strangers. Sometimes people who love us and that we love back can be racist. My own paternal grandmother (white) would walk out of the room or away whenever my grandfather, her husband, (native) would teach me about our culture, history or any skills or knowledge regarding our indigenous roots.

I’ve been cast as the native girl who gets shot by a cowboy in more than one theatre shows (at school or working at a summer camp). When I point out that it would be nice for natives to win once in a while, I am told that it’s just the way it is and to accept it. White people always win and I will always be the one to die. Nice message.

I remember being hit over the head by an old ladies in a hospital emergency room as I was waiting in a wheelchair to see the doctor because I had hurt my ankle. She called me a filthy no good red skin and wanted me to leave the hospital for people who actually deserved health care and this is in Canada. In her mind, whatever was wrong with me, was my own fault, because I’m just a savage girl. She didn’t see a kid, she was something disgusting that needed to be removed from sight. Luckily my dad was nearby and his booming voice made the old lady retreat to the opposite corner of the emergency room.

On a high school ski trip near a native reserve (that I don’t belong to), the teacher kept telling other students to stay near me as the natives wouldn’t shoot us with arrows if they showed they were with me. She was terrified and always checking the tree line.

  1. The ideas of savages running the forest shooting white people with arrows are very racist.
  2. I’m not part of their tribe, nor have I ever met any of the members, so sticking near me isn’t going to “keep you safe”. Not all first nation people know each other. That’s racist.
  3. Thirdly, we’re minors. Why would anyone hunt us down like human cattle? Once again, can we say racist?

On my first day of college, as we were waiting in the hallway for the teacher to arrive, I was told by a white boy with a strong British accent that I should be sent back to my country. He either knows nothing about North America History or he mistook me for some other minority. So I smiled and decided to educate him…

  1. What entitles you, a Britsh citizen to tell anyone in Canada that they should be deported? This isn’t your country. You are an immigrant yourself.
  2. I’m Métis, one of the 3 First Nation cultures. So if anyone is home, that’s me. Seriously, there is no higher irony than being First Nation and being told to go home!

For my first job as a college student, I was hired because I am an invisible minority and I am female in a computer support company that hired only white males under the belief that they are better with computers and technology. The only reason they offered me the job is that they had been required to hire a female and a person of colour by the government or they would lose their government funding. They thought they could hit two birds with one stone by hiring me. The employer was quite surprised when I turned out to be the best employee they ever had. It wasn’t long after that that they started to hire women and people of colour letting go of their previous racism. At least, they learned from their mistake and adjusted accordingly.

navajo-1737988_1920As my first job after graduating university, I was hired not because of my education, but because I looked Italian. The pharmaceutical company was run by an Italian family and I was the first person hired outside the family. I later learned that they didn’t even read my CV and had no idea I had a university education and was actually qualified to do the job I was hired for. Once they learned that I wasn’t Italian, they seemed disappointed and told me that if it wasn’t for the fact that I had proven myself as a valuable employee, they wouldn’t have kept me. They were suddenly happy that I wasn’t Italian after someone made a formal complaint about racist hiring practising against the company and representatives from the government came to investigate. Unfortunately, invisible minorities are often used without their knowledge to hide racism.

At another job, I was told that all my “kind” (French Canadians) should be deported by an Orthodox Jewish man at work. It was a good thing that the management overhead and stepped in quickly. I was halfway over my desk when he was pushed into a closed office and I regained control over my anger. He lost his job for that comment. This new employment place was quite diverse and didn’t accept racism of any kind.

I’ve had a manager joke around at an office summer event that I should know my alcohol since everyone knows that indigenous people are all drunks. The human resources department manager had a heart attack when she overheard the incident.

agree-1238964_1920I’ve had my indigenous culture questioned because I’m mixed race. I’ve been asked why wouldn’t I identify only as white since it’s easier that way.

  1. I wouldn’t deny part of my identity because it’s just easier that way.
  2. If you take one look at my darker skin, my facial features and you can see that I don’t look white.

I’ve been asked to prove my indigenous culture by showing a government document that attests to my cultural background. Do any other culture need the government to approve their family history before they are considered truly “white”, “black”, etc.?

I’ve been asked “What are you?” so many times, I’ve lost count. I’ve also had people use me as a fun guessing game. “Can you figure out what she is? You have 3 guesses.” Hint: Nobody ever guesses correctly.

I’ve had so many people tell me I’m lucky because I don’t have to pay taxes. For the record, Métis people pay taxes like everyone else. I also don’t live in a Teepee, but I have slept in one.

I’ve had people assume that I didn’t need a driving license because of my native roots, which is completely false.

I’ve been asked if I have my cards to prove my cultural identity. I asked the same thing right back to the person I am talking too. It’s funny how awkward that conversation becomes.

close-up-1869631_1280My ex and I, both Métis, had a child who physically looks Irish with blond hair and freckles. We do have Irish ancestors in the bloodline. The fact that we gave birth to a kid that doesn’t look Métis or what people assume Métis should look like has brought on an all new wave of racism. We’ve had to meet with a teacher who told my daughter she was mistaken about her identity and was white and catholic. Wasn’t she surprised when she saw me and my ex who look who has the “right” look, which in itself is

We’ve even had to meet with a teacher who told my daughter she was mistaken about her cultural and religious identity. The teacher told our child that she was white and Catholic and refused to hear otherwise. She even threatened to punish my daughter if she kept insisting otherwise. Wasn’t she surprised when she saw me who happens to have the “right” look…

My kid has had classmates tell her she isn’t indigenous because she speaks French and English and doesn’t live in a tent. She had to explain that as with white people, first nations people have also evolved and changed with time. Unfortunately, most history books in schools are still stuck to how it was 150 years ago.

Racism is having to continuously remind people that their rhetoric is flawed and having to continuously dismiss them until their words are based on things like facts, empathy, gratitude and community.

I realise that many have it so much worse than I do, which is why I speak up. I hope that my voice will help those whose voice is completely ignored. Everyone has the right to give testimony and their narrative to the world, and nobody has the right to negate their pain and experiences with racism.

Even this morning, I heard on the radio someone argue that it should be okay to use the racist, sexist and homophobic expression if we are just poking fun or swearing. It doesn’t mean anything, according to this guy. I strongly disagree. Racism, sexism and homophobia are so ingrained into the cultural norm that we don’t even realise that our words have consequences.

I strongly recommended seeing the “Shame and Prejudice” art exhibit looks at ‘150 years of Indigenous experience‘ in Canada.

 

Racial Discrimination

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

native-american-887936_1920I am Métis. In my case, I am a mix of Abenaki, Huron, Micmac, French and Irish. I am the result of a love that highlights how interconnected we truly are. I’m a nice melting pot of proud cultures.For the most part, mixed people have the right to define their own identity and their relationships with their varied ancestry. Our identity is our own.

I want to address common misconceptions, misconceptions, micro-aggression, and outright oppression that mixed race people face.

Since I was little people have had difficulty pin pointing my background. People have assumed that I was Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, etc. I have heard the question “What are you?” more often than any other question when first meeting new people. Sometimes it was from strangers on the train trying to figure out from what cultural background I’m from. First of all, I’m not a what but a who. Secondly, what does my cultural background matter to strangers who will only share public space for a short moment while commuting to our different destinations?

I am very proud of my ancestry and my cultures. Yes, I did put a (s) to culture on purpose. That’s what it means to be mixed blood. I’ve had people tell me I had to pick one cultural identity, that it’s impossible to be a mix of many cultures. I assure you that it is possible.

This year Canada is marking it’s 150th birthday. It citizens walk among the decedents of the people who lived on the continent thousands of years prior. The majority of my ancestors were here before the continent was “discovered” according to our history books. After all, how can you discover a place when someone already lives there? This celebration to me, feels completely wrong, and like most history book, a very incomplete story.

I know and I have seen first hand the devastation and the lasting marks that residential schools did to families. The health system should really recognise inter-generational trauma. These kind of traumatic event does not only affect the person it happened to, but everyone they love.

I have faced people who assume I have a drinking problem due to their own prejudice.

On my first day of college I was told by a boy with a strong British accent that I needed to go back to my own country. Oh, did I have fun educating him on that subject. So much fun that the teacher (debate class), put us on opposite team and continued the lecture inside the classroom. This boy entitlement and idea of superiority over me was based on racial differentiation which is scientifically false, morally unacceptable, socially unjust.

Here’s a list of articles from Native American’s that I recommend:

Here’s a list of song from Native American Activists that I recommend:

hands-1939895_1920I’ve been lucky. I’ve had it pretty easy in life. Not everyone is this lucky. Each one of us need to stand up and fight again racism.

All human beings need to be equal before the law and need to be entitled to equal protection of the law against any discrimination and against any incitement to discrimination all around the world.The world would be an extremely boring place if we were all the same.

Asian, Black and First Nations communities have just as much right to free speech and safe spaces as everyone else. Just because you may not face discrimination, doesn’t mean others don’t. It’s about empathy and change for the better for everyone.

 

 

 

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