By: bailey macabre
About the author:
bailey is an agender Indigiqueer nêhiyaw-michif from snuneymuxw territory, with ancestral ties to the Beardys & Okemasis Cree nation in Treaty 6 territory.
They are an interdisciplinary artist, writer, and beader, with a passion for language revitalization and cats.
Their Instagram is: @cedarsageskoden
For many years, Indigenous folks across Canada have refused to celebrate Canada Day for a variety of reasons. This act of protest against the settler-state of Canada has gained more traction in recent years, with 2021 being the first year a city – the capital of British Columbia, even – joined in the cancelation of Canada Day.
As a brewery - or frankly any business in the service industry - it may be difficult to navigate this situation, or even know where to begin. There is a longstanding history of celebrating Canada Day through bar and pub crawls. Unfortunately, as an Indigenous person, these cavalcades signify that these spaces are not meant for us to enjoy. From our perspective, when you celebrate Canada Day, you are celebrating our genocide, our assimilation, and our erasure while ignoring our frequent calls to action.
So, as a business, you may be wondering what you can do to be a safe, inclusive space for Indigenous people and how to practice Indigenous allyship. This article has got you covered. What follows is a non-exhaustive list of steps to take toward Indigenous allyship and solidarity.
STEP ONE: SELF-REFLECTION
The first step in any worthwhile “Ally Handbook” is to address your own motivations and do some self-reflection. I present a series of questions to sit with and reflect upon for a moment. Please, be honest with yourselves.
Is my interest in this solely because of social media “buzz”? Is my interest in this propelled by the desire to receive tax cuts or increase the chances of funding? Does my participation in this action hijack the movement in any way? Am I centering my own opinions and beliefs or am I respecting the values of Indigenous communities? Am I doing this to feed my ego? Am I engaging with these communities in a respectful way? Am I planning on deferring to the knowledge of Indigenous people, if necessary?
Working towards being an ally comes with a lot of challenging your beliefs and thought patterns – as well as those of your friends and family, coworkers, and community – and constantly checking in with yourself and the Indigenous community to ensure you are engaging in a respectful way. If you want to be an ally because you genuinely believe in the rights of Indigenous people and disagree with what we have faced continually at the hands of the Canadian government, then we can move forward onto the next step!
STEP TWO: EDUCATION
The next step in the allyship journey is to do the important work of educating yourself about not only the history of Indigenous people in Canada and the struggles we’ve faced since the arrival of settlers, but also the current ways in which colonialism and genocide continue to be perpetuated against our people.
As I write this, the bodies of Indigenous youth are being exhumed from mass graves at residential school sites across Canada. We are up to 354 bodies discovered across 3 different sites, but the Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimates that over 4100 children were killed during their time at residential schools. We are going to find more of these mass graves, and each discovery is yet another horrific reminder of the tragedies we have faced. I have yet to meet an Indigenous person whose family has not been affected by this system of genocide. They functioned solely to erase our language, sever our ties to our culture, and assimilate us.
The atrocities that were committed against our people at the hands of the Canadian government working in tandem with various religious institutions across the country left generations of Indigenous people traumatized, lost, severed from their culture, and thrown back into the world completely unaware of their place. There are currently around 80,000 residential school survivors living in Canada, and despite the government’s stance of acknowledging their responsibility to Indigenous people, Prime Minister Trudeau continues to fight these survivors in court.
These court battles have been ongoing for the last 14 years, and Trudeau is currently trying to overturn the decision of the Canada Human Rights Tribunal which ordered Canada to pay compensation for the “willful and reckless” discrimination against Indigenous youth. This is a perfect example of the disconnect between Trudeau’s words – filled with rhetorical reconciliation attempts – and his actions, which continue to perpetuate harm against our people.
Another ongoing struggle we currently face is the fallout of the child welfare system. Not only are there generations of people who have been severed from their communities through the 60s and millennial scoops, but we are currently in an epidemic of Indigenous youth in the child welfare system throughout Canada.
Table I demonstrates the sheer magnitude of this issue; these children are being severed from their familial and kinship ties in favour of non-Indigenous adoptees who then assimilate the youth into non-Indigenous society, leaving hundreds of thousands of children feeling out of place, lost, and searching for reconnection. This is further perpetuated by the government paying foster parents for housing youth, rather than funneling that cost back into the communities the children are being stolen from.
In fact, there are currently several provinces that still have “birth alerts” in place, a practice that allows health care staff to alert child welfare workers if a newborn baby is seen as “at risk” without the knowledge of the birth parents. This practice has been proven to be discriminatory and traumatizing, as well as disproportionately affecting Indigenous people.
In a similar vein, Indigenous women and girls are also victims of forced sterilization and the forced insertion of IUDs against their will. There is a country-wide effort to curb the reproduction of Indigenous people, which is easily demonstrable as another effort to eradicate our existence.
We have land defenders – people who believe in our right to protect the lands that are ours – being violently assaulted by police and RCMP officers and incarcerated for trying to put an end to exploitative resource extraction. In fact, Indigenous people make up 30% of those incarcerated in Canada (it is worse for Indigenous women who make up 42% of the prison population), despite Indigenous people only making up 4.9% of the population of Canada. Furthermore, Indigenous people are 10 times more likely to be murdered by police than white people.
Another horrendous aspect of being Indigenous in Canada is the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Twospirit, Trans People, and Girls. Indigenous women are 12 times more likely to go missing or be murdered than non-Indigenous women. The threat of violence, sexual assault, and harassment increases in proximity to man-camps – temporary housing set ups for workers in the coal, mine, gas, and logging industries. Thus, there is a direct connection to resource extraction and violence against our most vulnerable: women, twospirit, trans people, and girls.
Honestly, it would take several novels worth of research and information to fully explain the extent to which our lives are threatened, so I strongly encourage anyone reading this to put the time in and educate yourselves about what is currently happening and why we feel so strongly that there is nothing to celebrate as far as Canada is concerned.
The Indigenous Canada course through the University of Alberta is an excellent resource to understand the key issues facing Indigenous people today from a historical and critical perspective. It’s a twelve-module course designed to help those who take it acquire a basic understanding of Indigenous-settler relationships in Canada. http://www.ualberta.ca/admissions-programs/online-courses/indigenous-canada/index.html
Groundwork For Change is a resource for non-Indigenous people/settlers to grow relationships with Indigenous people rooted in solidarity and justice. This website is chock-full of resources from the most basic explanation of terminology to in-depth dives into all the struggles we’ve faced throughout history. http://www.groundworkforchange.org/
Indigenous Foundations is a resource on several topics relating to the histories, cultures, and politics of Indigenous peoples across Canada. It is a great place to start when looking for information. https://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/home
STEP THREE: IMPLEMENTATION
After arming yourself with a basic understanding of our struggles, it is important to educate your staff in a similar fashion. In transforming allyship from an adjective to verb, it is necessary that all people in your establishment are on the same page. If necessary, you can hire Indigenous sensitivity trainers to educate staff on the proper ways to speak to us, while confronting their own biases and preconceived notions about Indigenous people.
Most of the discrimination we face are based on myths that have been perpetuated about our people, like the belief we get free education or do not pay taxes. These myths are easily dispelled, and if you wish to read more you can do so on the Groundwork for Change website, or checking out my essay A Guide to the Indian Act in the Further Reading section of this article.
The most important part of being an Indigenous ally is working to tear down your own biases and beliefs about our people. If, throughout this journey, you are confronted with your own discriminatory views, ask yourself where you learned them and how they were reinforced throughout your life. This is an important step forward.
So is being able to stand for us in conversations we are not privy to. If you are in a position where someone is reinforcing negative stereotypes or being blatantly racist against our people, stand up for us, even if we are not present. Allyship means nothing if no action is being taken behind closed doors.
While working to implement and understand these potentially new ideas, I also suggest taking the time to acknowledge whose land you are a guest on, learn the names of the tribes, as well as how to pronounce them. Whenever you host an event at your establishment, giving a brief acknowledgement to those tribes is an easy way to practice allyship. There are over 500 nations across Canada alone, each with their own cultures, languages, protocols, and experiences. Putting the effort into learning more about the people and their history is going to give you a better context of how you came to be a guest on their land and your role as a visitor.
STEP FOUR: ACTION
After your staff has been educated and informed of the expected standards you wish to set in place within your establishment, set up a plan for moving forward. What is it you would like to implement within your business? How would you like to support Indigenous people in your community? What steps would you like to take to ensure that Indigenous allyship is woven into the fabric of your establishment?
When looking at Canada Day from an Indigenous perspective, it is easy to see why we choose not to celebrate it. So, the next question is, what would you do, regarding your establishment?
I do have a couple suggestions.
If you would like to participate in a Cancel Canada Day celebration in solidarity with Indigenous people, might I suggest choosing an Indigenous charity, activist, person, or organization to support and donate all of the proceeds from your “Cancel Canada Day” of business. I have included a list of charities and recommendations in the resource list at the end of this article.
Alternately, since June is National Indigenous People’s History month, you may wish to host a celebration to honour that, instead of centering Canada Day at all. There are Indigenous owned restaurants and food trucks in most large cities throughout Canada. Consider hiring these businesses to cater the event or bring their food trucks. Furthermore, there are a plethora of Indigenous dancers, comedians, performers, singers, and drummers across Canada whom you could hire to perform at this celebration. Offer Indigenous people a discount on their bills for attending. It is important to acknowledge that not all Indigenous people have status cards or tribal affiliations, so being inclusive of the right to self-identify and trusting your guests’ word is necessary to prevent discrimination and gatekeeping.
Obviously, these are just a couple of ideas, and the possibilities really are endless. However, if you are unsure about any ideas, as with all uncertainties, consulting Indigenous people and businesses locally is going to be the best way to ensure your events are inclusive and respectful.
I do feel it necessary to mention the fact that there is justifiable criticism against the ‘Cancel Canada Day’ movement, as well. It is easy for it to fall into a performative act, demonstrating what a Great Ally™ you are, without having to continue fighting for Indigenous rights. There is a lot of irony that Victoria was the first city to cancel Canada Day, while days prior land defenders were being violently arrested for protesting the destruction of old growth forests on Vancouver Island. This brings us to the important reality of what allyship really means.
STEP FIVE: ALLYSHIP IS ONGOING
Allyship is an ongoing, continued effort. Unfortunately, for a lot of people and their businesses, allyship is something that takes place for one month or day out of the year and that is the extent of the support we receive. If you intend to be a true ally to our people and work in solidarity with us, you must ensure the support is ongoing. Make sure that your place is a safe space for our people, year-round. Advertise that BIPOC are welcome and encouraged to enter. Set up a recurring donation or alternating charity you sponsor each month to funnel money back into our communities. Hire Indigenous staff members or consultants. Host events – whether a poetry night, comedy night, pop-up shop, open-mic night, or jam night – and ensure you prioritize space for BIPOC individuals, through advertising, engaging, and talent-seeking. If you hire Indigenous people for events, as staff, or consultants, ensure you are paying them a fair price and be sure to ask the best way to be respectful and/or follow protocol. Connect with Indigenous businesses, artisans, and creatives throughout the city to see how you can support them or work alongside them. Building a community in solidarity with our people is a genuine approach to ensuring your allyship is an ongoing process.
Ensure that you are following, supporting, amplifying, and uplifting Indigenous voices not only within your establishment but on social media as well. There are a wide variety of Indigenous land and water defenders, academics, creatives, artists, and activists that dedicate their time to Indigenous issues throughout Canada. I have attached a list of accounts to follow on Instagram and Twitter in the resource list below.
Yellowhead Institute Linktree https://linktr.ee/yellowheadinstitute
Interactive Map of Indigenous Lands https://native-land.ca/
Indigenous Corporate Training Inc. https://www.ictinc.ca/
Tai Simpson: The Intergenerational Wisdom Woven into Indigenous Stories https://www.ted.com/talks/tai_simpson_the_intergenerational_wisdom_woven_into_indigenous_stories
Kelsey Leonard: Why Lakes and Rivers Should Have the Same Rights as Humans https://www.ted.com/talks/kelsey_leonard_why_lakes_and_rivers_should_have_the_same_rights_as_humans
Amnesty: How to Be an Ally to Indigenous Communities https://www.amnesty.org.au/10-ways-to-be-an-ally-to-indigenous-communities
Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Calls to Action http://trc.ca/assets/pdf/Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf
Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Findings http://www.trc.ca/about-us/trc-findings.html
Land Back: A Yellowhead Institute Red Paper https://redpaper.yellowheadinstitute.org/
Cash Back: A Yellowhead Institute Red Paper https://cashback.yellowheadinstitute.org/
Calls to Action Accountability: A 2020 Status Update on Reconciliation https://yellowheadinstitute.org/trc/
*Canada Day? https://baileymacabre.com/canada-day
*A Guide to the Indian Act https://baileymacabre.com/a-guide-to-the-indian-act/
*How to Talk to Indigenous People: A Lesson https://baileymacabre.com/how-to-talk-to-indigenous-people-a-lesson/
*Just Get Over It: An Exploration https://baileymacabre.com/just-get-over-it-an-exploration/
*Segregation and Suffering: A Look at Canada’s Indian Hospitals https://baileymacabre.com/segregation-and-suffering-a-look-at-canadas-indian-hospitals/
*4000+ Reasons https://baileymacabre.com/4000-reasons/
*articles I’ve written on various Indigenous issues
Indian Residential School Survivors Society https://www.irsss.ca/
Kamloops Aboriginal Friendship Centre GoFundMe https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/newfriendshipcentre
Vancouver’s Urban Native Youth Association https://unya.bc.ca/get-involved/
Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society http://vafcs.org/about/donate.php
The Legacy of Hope Foundation https://legacyofhope.ca/english/get-involved/donate/
[It is also my recommendation to look up the nation whose land you’re on and donate to them directly]
Kanahus Manuel https://www.instagram.com/kanahus.tattoos
Wetsuweten Checkpoint https://www.instagram.com/wetsuweten_checkpoint
jaye simpson https://www.instagram.com/jaye_simpson/
Yintah Access https://www.instagram.com/yintah_access/
Braided Warriors https://www.instagram.com/braidedwarriors/
phaggot planet https://www.instagram.com/phaggot.planet/
Junny Girl Decolonized https://www.instagram.com/junnygirldecolonized/
The Indigenous Anarchist https://www.instagram.com/theindigenousanarchist/
Prestin Thōtin-awāsis https://www.instagram.com/prestomanifest0/
charlie // amaya https://www.instagram.com/dineaesthetics/
1492 Landback Lane https://twitter.com/1492LBL
Mari: wordglass https://twitter.com/wordglass
erica violet lee https://twitter.com/ericavioletlee
Kiros Auld https://twitter.com/KirosAuld
Dakota Bear https://twitter.com/dakotabear1993
Johnnie Jae https://twitter.com/johnniejae
Melanin Mvskoke https://twitter.com/MelaninMvskoke
Joy Henderson https://twitter.com/Joyhenderson78
Terrill Tailfeathers https://twitter.com/Terrilltf
Bryson the Gaytive https://twitter.com/ArnallLabrador
Dear Non Natives https://twitter.com/dearnonnatives
Alicia Elliott https://twitter.com/WordsandGuitar
Samantha Marie Nock https://twitter.com/sammymarie