Equality

dr. linda manyguns, phd, associate vice-president, indigenization and decolonization | posted oct. 29, 2021


Tipi on campus at Mount Royal University.

t-wing courtyard at mount royal university, which is the site of a set of tree carvings called 'fallen feathers.' the carvings were made by an Indigenous artist in trees that had been damaged during a heavy snow event in september 2014,


the word ‘Equality’ is such a small word. an eight-letter word, to be exact. yet, the hope contained within those eight letters impacts our lives, our thoughts and our goals as a society.

the dream we strive for is the extension of Equality to all people in society !

i worked as a cook, as a labourer, as a union rep, and i know the value of showing respect for one another in all directions (up, down and sideways). we are all important. we are all part of a team. everyone has a part in making this world go round.

there are a wide variety of meanings attached to the word ‘Equality’, some related to gender, work, health, education and many other aspects of life.

generally, the term ‘Equality’ means we will be treated as an equal, or fairly. we are told in the education system that education is equally available to everyone.

the symbol for law is the statue of a blindfolded woman holding the scales of justice. this representation implies that she does not see colour, race, age or gender.

the promise is equal treatment.

but as we look around, we see that ‘Equality’ in the canadian landscape spans human experiences from barely existing to some in our midst who are unimaginable trillionaires.

it is obvious ‘Equality’ within this framework is limited.

it has been my work experience through my life that i never worked with another Indigenous person. i would find that my experience is common. common not only in canada, but all around the world.

why?

The groups impacted by the phenomena of inEquality are unhelpfully labeled as “marginalized.”

included in the label of marginalization are women, people of colour, 2slgbtq+ people, immigrant groups and some religious bodies. unfortunately, within the marginalized groups, Indigenous people are found at the top or bottom of every assessment or chart with the worst health conditions, lowest education rates, inadequate pay, and even more alarming we find that within Indigenous statistics Indigenous women are at the lowest position.

the extreme inequalities suffered by Indigenous people have consistently been noted in many reports and studies placing the causation of these matters at the federal government's feet due to poor policies, lack of action, poor governance, lack of cultural knowledge and the list goes on.

focusing on the government's motivation for this lack of response, the public is now becoming aware that the motive behind the government’s lack of action has been to destroy the culture through emotional trauma and other means with the ultimate goal of taking the land and ‘to get rid of the Indian question’ as was stated publicly in the House of Commons on parliament hill in Ottawa. With this motive publicly declared it absolved the government from taking any action to support or assist Indigenous people. The government publicly declared the uncivilized Indigenous people have no need or use for the land, thereby justifying the legal removal of land from the Indigenous people. government messaging included calling us savages, with no order, no civilization, also implying that the government was tasked with the  duty to civilize the Indigenous people. this message, systemically enforced over 100 years, caused widespread colonially beneficial ignorance that has transformed into a deeply rooted systemic racism coupled with a deeply hateful rubric of violent aggression against the original people of this land. the tools of “civilizing” were legislation, sexual abuse, beatings, starvation — extreme brutality forced on every generation of Indigenous peoples since 1867 as a grossly inhuman approach at getting rid of the Indian question. the atrocities occurred in all parts of canada, usually far from the public’s eye.

government legislated fining and/or imprisoning if any canadian spoke out against the government’s brutality. legislation also reduced Indigenous people to ward status, which meant they had no rights as adults. Indigenous people were restricted from participating in canadian society until 1963, when we gained the right to vote. today as we find the gruesome remains from that ward status period, the bodies found, as of October 2021, is over 7,000.  i believe more bodies will be found on every reserve.

it is our collective responsibility to undo this inEquality.

it is our responsibility to ask how this happened. how were we all duped into believing everything was fine? how does a country hide/or carry out these atrocities in all parts of canada through the auspices of the religious orders involved without public concern? the settler population needs to have answers to that question.

to understand, in part, why this inEquality exists is to understand colonization and reinforce the need to decolonize. decolonize institutions and our minds.

might i ask you some simple questions?

 

do you think Indigenous people get everything for free?

if you do, your mind is colonized.

do you think Indigenous people have not contributed to society?

if you do, your mind is colonized.

do you think Indigenous people have the same opportunities as other canadians?

if you do, then your mind is colonized.

were you surprised when they found the children’s bodies?

if you were, then your mind is colonized.

 

there has never been a level playing field for Indigenous people in canada. the colonization of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people began the moment the war of 1812 was settled. i have the battle plans from the war zones around niagara falls and toronto and they show Indigenous battalions at the forefront of each battle. it is highly unlikely canada could have won without Indigenous peoples. as soon as that war was won, like snuffing out a candle, the government’s language about the Indigenous people shifted.

but today we are at a point of change.

i raise the question again. can we have Equality for all?

i insist that without knowing the history of these atrocities you cannot create a level playing field for Indigenous peoples.

i also believe that the world is in flux and changing. notions of Equality that impact the way we see one another are narrowing, and through compassion and strife and grief we are all experiencing change.

today there are Indigenous employees. every one of you may have had the opportunity to meet, work with or have a friend who is Indigenous.

over recent years we are recognizing Indigenous people through land acknowledgement(s) and we are learning more about Indigenous culture(s).

canadian courts recognize the sovereign right(s) of the Indigenous people as valid.

what does that mean to mru?

each person is responsible to work to bring about Equality for all. we must acknowledge that we share a shared space and we all deserve Equality.

Equality to Indigenous people is a bit different. you will often hear our elders give thanks to all our relations.

and let me share these words —

 

the rights of all the plants and beings on the sacred land were established before time immemorial and shall always be protected with mutual respect.

these entities share in a democracy that respects all life.

the intrinsic worth of all species, all peoples, all cultures, is demonstrated in the sharing and protection of all life.

the energy of the plants and land heal those in these sites of play and possibility.

these ecosystems, formed over many thousands of years, should be respected in their entirety.

the sacred lands carefully loved will ensure that the activities integral to all life shall flourish

and maintain the spirit of healing and co-existence on our sacred land for as long as the rivers flow and the forest and grasses grow. Teachings from Margeret BadBoy (1999)

 

i believe we can blend both philosophical concepts of Equality!

i believe we can build a world where we are all responsible for every form of life and we can achieve Equality for all.