Arts, Culture & Media

Canada turns 150, but indigenous groups call for 'Resistance150'

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First Nations protesters are silhouetted behind a flag in a "Idle No More" demonstration in Toronto.

Credit:

Mark Blinch/Reuters

Canada turns 150 tomorrow, and the government is spending half a billion dollars to throw huge birthday parties all around the country. There’ll be cake, live music — even a giant rubber duck.

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But not everyone’s thrilled. Indigenous people have clashed with police and set up a tepee on Parliament Hill to protest what they call a celebration of colonialism. And the hashtag #Resistance150 has spread across social media.

Tanya Talaga covers indigenous issues for the Toronto Star. She says that there’s a number of reasons that many indigenous Canadians won’t be participating in Canada Day events, but two stand out.

One is the residential school crisis. For nearly a century, “close to 150,000 indigenous kids were taken away from their families, from their culture, from their language,” Talaga says. They were put into schools funded by the government and run by churches, she says, and it has done “irreparable harm for generations.”

Another issue is access to clean drinking water. More than 150 "First Nations" communities across Canada must still boil water before drinking it — the oldest water advisory has been in place since Feb. 1, 1995 in Neskatanga First Nation.

“A lot of indigenous people look at how much money is spent on the birthday party,” Talanga says, “and wonder why couldn't that have been given back to the people that actually need it.”

Some indigenous groups have announced their intention to hold counter protests on July 1 to call attention to these issues.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called for all Canadians to respect indigenous peoples’ decision not to participate in Canada Day events.

“We recognize that over the past decades, generations, and indeed centuries, Canada has failed indigenous peoples,” he said on Thursday. “We need to be doing a much better job of hearing their stories and building a partnership for the future.”