6 Degrees Live: Tanya Talaga in conversation with Max FineDay
On June 30, Tanya Talaga, author and CEO of Makwa Creative, joined Max FineDay, Institute for Canadian Citizenship board member and executive director of Canadian Roots Exchange on 6 Degrees Live for a wide-ranging conversation on Indigenous People’s Month, Canada Day, Black Lives Matter, and intersections between movements.
Below are key takeaways from their conversation:
Indigenous People’s Month in many ways is about celebration. But it’s important to celebrate Indigenous Peoples beyond just June.
“I think I celebrate it every day. I think I am proud to be who I am every single day,” Talaga says. “I get hung up on a month. Do we need a month, do we need a day? I would argue every single day is for us.”
We are seeing systemic racism in action and practice. This is about power, so we have to look at power sharing. That means some people have to give up power.
“Ultimately, if there is to be true reconciliation in this country, we have to talk about power. We have to talk about power equity, power sharing, and I don’t know if Canada is ready for that,” Talaga says. “We can pass all the legislation we want here in Canada, but unless we have the majority, the will of the people behind that legislation, nothing is actually going to happen.”
Talaga points out that many inequities continue to exist for Indigenous Peoples. “What in the 150+ years has Canada done for our people?” she says. “We have the Indian Act still on our books, right? We have Wet’suwet’en. We have children still taken away from their families…How do we get out of that?” Power sharing means looking at the Canadian parliamentary system in a different way because it is not working now for Indigenous Peoples.
There are many intersections between the Black Lives Matter movement in Canada and the movement for Indigenous liberation and sovereignty.
“I have been in awe of the movement for Black Lives that has swept across the world and that we have seen organizing and demonstrating. It is based on liberation, something that I connect to so clearly,” FineDay says. “And I have been in awe of that unyielding kindness that I think Black Lives Matter, at least in Canada, has shown Indigenous Peoples by bringing us into this conversation.”
“Our experience is very much tied to Black Lives Matter,” Talaga says. When we think about how Turtle Island was settled, about how the Europeans came over and violently removed our people. And in the United States, there was the Indian removal act. On top of that, you add in slavery and you have right away a “continent that has been born out of violence.”
“We are very much walking together, experiencing a lot of the same things,” Talaga says.
There is lots of talk of Canada as being the “good guy.” This can be seen in celebrations like Canada Day, which comes the day after Indigenous Peoples Month ends.
“Canada Day always made me feel uneasy,” Talaga says. “Seeing the flags everywhere, seeing the cakes everywhere. I mean, what are we celebrating really for our people? I mean, we’re celebrating the Indian Act? Something that took my mother away and took away the rights of our people?”
We can create a different future by taking action.
“We have to show a new way forward. There are people out there that want to learn and want to be allies and we have to gather them with us in order to change things for our kids,” Talaga says.
For those who want to act in allyship with Indigenous communities across the country, “don’t be silent anymore, join the demonstrations,” Talaga adds. “This country can be something that it currently is not, but something that it’s always aspired to be, and that is a great nation respecting everyone’s rights.”
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