BAYAN-Canada, an alliance of progressive Filipino organizations, stands with Indigenous peoples in Canada in their struggle for recognition of their rights to their lands and for their self-government. In Canada, as in the Philippines and around the world, Indigenous peoples remain among the most, if not the most, economically impoverished people. The status quo system is fundamentally unjust, manipulative, and unsustainable thus unacceptable.
Imperialism, whether in the Philippines or in this country, is clearly the source of great hardship forced upon the many for the benefit of the few.
The colonizers of what was to become Canada made agreements permitting them to partake in the resources of the land. They signed early treaties of peaceful coexistence with the original peoples. It seems like a small thing to honour these agreements and yet where are we today?
Reserves remain places with poor standard of living. A disproportionate number of indigenous peoples live below the poverty line, and over 100 communities still don’t have clean tap water. In the north, tuberculosis rates are 137 times higher than the rest of the country. Indigenous people make up 20% of the prison population—which is indicative of both their own struggles borne of their social situation and of the state’s guilt. Despite apologies made by Prime Minister Harper in 2008, the tragic impact of the Indian Residential School System spirals down to the current generation. All these help drive mental health issues, resulting in the country’s highest suicide rates, particularly among the youth.
To the progressive Filipino-Canadian community, the government’s disregard for First Nations is something we can easily identify with. Just last month the Prime Minister visited the Philippines to boost its economic and military footprint on our homeland.
By economic, a good part of this includes Canadian mining on the lands of Filipino indigenous people. 30% of the country (66% of the Cordillera region) has been signed over to mining. As most of this is on indigenous land, we are familiar with the social, economic, and environmental destruction this industry causes.
By military, we know that on his visit to the Philippines, Harper signed an arms deal to supply the Manila government with military equipment and expertise that will be used to help implement these economic interests.
This combines with other push factors such as the bilateral agreement to “people-to-people exchanges” that drive Filipinos to find work abroad just so they can support their families–actively expanding the benefits of Canadian imperialism with cheap disposable labourers. The Philippine nation has been the number one supply of migrants since 2011.
BAYAN-Canada stands with our indigenous sisters and brothers. We demand that at the very least Prime Minister Harper show the most basic level of respect, and pursue an integral relationship with national partners with whom future cooperative agendas can be realised. We echo the call that he meet with Chief Theresa Spence who is on a brave hunger strike very close to Canada’s Parliament and the Harper residence.
However, for indigenous communities to have the opportunity at becoming truly self-sustaining, the status quo of native affairs in Canada must end.
We demand an end to imperialism. We insist on a repeal of Bill C-45. And we expect the right of self-determination for indigenous peoples everywhere.
Reference: Alex Felipe, Toronto-spokesperson, BAYAN-Canada, firstname.lastname@example.org