Systemic Racism – National Indigenous History Month

By Mikelle Sasakamoose a UCTE member – Local 20219

This week we had been preparing an introspective on our experiences observing with regularity seemingly unfair human resources processes. And about all the times we’ve been told: “There weren’t any qualified Indigenous applicants.”

We were going to talk about what it is like to be forced to get identification to prove Indian Status, but have to wait 6 to 10 times longer to receive approval than it takes to get a Canadian passport.

We wanted to talk to you about the First Nations man who committed suicide in a B.C. emergency room bathroom, when his cries for help were dismissed – over and over – by nurses and doctors.

We wanted to talk to you about how Canada refuses to send us our Treaty money, if we can’t show up to pick it up on Treaty Day. It’s $5 per year, by the way, and has never increased due to inflation.

And we wanted to talk to you about the thousands of First Nations women who lost their Indian Status, and with it their rights and title as recognized by Canada, due to legislation under the Indian Act.

We wanted to talk to you about the discrimination we experience on a daily basis simply trying to navigate life in this country, but then last week Inuit Member of Parliament Mumilaaq Qaqqaq summed it up for us in her farewell speech to Parliament.

The MP for Nunavut, Qaqqaq will not be seeking re-election.

Please hear her words:

For further reading, attached is a document outlining resources with more information about Systemic Racism.


Trigger warning: Some of these resources discuss suicide.

How to Change Systemic Racism in Canada: What does racism look like in Canada? In this web series called First Things First, Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, tells us the story of Jordan River Anderson and why she continues to fight the Canadian government to gain rights for Indigenous children.

Broken system: Why is a quarter of Canada’s prison population Indigenous?: In the wake of the acquittal of Gerald Stanley in the death of Colton Boushie, there have been loud calls for reform to address Canada’s blatant systemic racism in the criminal justice system. Boushie, 22, died after being shot by Stanley in the back of the head as he sat in an SUV on a farm near Biggar, Sask. The Canadian justice system works against Indigenous people at every level, from police checks and arrests to bail denial and detention, sentencing miscarriages and disparities and high incarceration rates. These trends are also well-documented in countries like the United States, Australia and New Zealand. It is clear that the problem lies in our justice systems.

First Peoples, Second Class Treatment – The role of racism in the health and well-being of Indigenous peoples in Canada: Racism has played a foundational role in the development and maintenance of the Canadian nation state. The colonization of Indigenous lands and peoples was fueled by racist beliefs and ideas about Indigenous peoples, values, ways of knowing and being, customs and practices. These race-based beliefs served to justify acts of racial discrimination, including violence, cultural genocide, legislated segregation, appropriation of lands, and social and economic oppression enacted through such policies as the Gradual Civilization Act and the Indian Act.

Black and Indigenous Solidarity Against Systemic Racism: The history of colonization around the world is a story about control of land and perceived resources: the juggernaut of colonial power moving its way from territory to territory, continent to continent, claiming lands, resources, and people across the globe. As this powerful system travelled around and gobbled up people to enslave, it also gobbled up the land that had been cleared of its rightful caretakers, land that was rich in quantity, quality and economic resources both above and below the soil. The two processes are connected: removing humans through whatever means, including forced displacement, labour, social collapse and infection; and asserting ownership over territory through violence, edicts, and renaming. All to gain economic, geographic, and political power.

‘Incredibly toxic’: More Indigenous women share stories of racism in the federal bureaucracy: The gaslighting and casual racism of Karin Moen’s workplace had become so distressing that she thought about killing herself in her building lobby at 10 Wellington Street in Gatineau, Que. These thoughts followed her like a shadow for 18 months. After she typed up a suicide note on her desktop computer, Moen realized she needed help.


Systemic racism: What it looks like in Canada and how to fight it?: Systemic racism is a ripple effect from years of racist and discriminatory practices, and as individuals it is normal to feel discouraged and powerless. But know that from being more mindful of the ways systems work to promoting social accountability, you too can take a lead in initiating change.

Ignored to Death: Systemic Racism in the Canadian Healthcare System: racism including systemic racism within the healthcare system is a significant contributor to Indigenous peoples’ lower health outcomes. Racism is not limited to interpersonal issues during the provision of health services. Structural racism is evident throughout the Canadian health care system. Structural racism exists in the policies and practices in the Canadian public health system and other sectors, which has profound negative effects on access to health care and health disparities. Racial discrimination in the health care system as well as broader Canadian society has direct physiological effects on health.

Yes, there is systemic racism in Canada — our history is filled with it: Some people will not hear you regardless of how truthfully you speak. They will not hear you regardless of how loudly or lovingly or profoundly you speak because they do not want to. That is what the one-sided conversation around racism in Canada feels like, one that is falling on deaf ears. It is exhausting to repeatedly explain that racism exists in Canada. It is tiresome to constantly be told “go back home” by the same people who deny its very existence. Yet here we are.

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