Many things have become clear over the past month as hundreds of stolen children have been found in this country’s soil. The most important being that Indigenous peoples have not been given the attention, the respect and the allegiance that they are owed from those of us inhabiting their land. They were not listened to when they told us about the crimes committed against their ancestors and them. It took the unearthing of babies for more of us to pay attention, to be alarmed.
It’s become clear that we also don’t understand the present-day injustices against Indigenous peoples whose babies continue to be stolen from them via the foster system, who don’t have access to clean drinking water, who are overrepresented in the jail system, who are more likely than non-Indigenous peoples to be harmed and killed by police officers, who are missing and murdered without investigation or intervention.
Another thing that has become clear to me, as an immigrant, is my role in colonization. My family is not from England or France, they did not arrive to colonize anybody. My family was welcomed here, granted citizenship, and we began the building process for our future generations, ducking our heads when racist comments flew our way, when white people told us to go back where we came from, keeping our eye on the prize offered to ‘good’ immigrants. It is clear to me now, 40 years after arriving, that we were welcomed by wrongful hosts. And when we purchased our own home after a decade of living here, it was on stolen land.
It wasn’t my fault that the Europeans stole land and babies. But it is absolutely my responsibility to work toward decolonization. Nikki Sanchez, in her TEDx talk called Decolonization is for Everyone, outlines key steps for all non-Indigenous people; the first is to know where you come from. Recognize that it’s not this land. We will be better equipped to act on the other steps required for true reconciliation if we grasp that concept.
What was once hidden is now flooded in light. Here’s what I can now see: I am raising children here who will inherit from me either the trauma of being complicit in oppression or the healing that comes from meaningful action.
Taslim Jaffer, Surrey