Truth, reconciliation and restitution

The summary report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada was released last week. The work of the Commission took seven years, gathering public and private testimony from survivors and families of survivors of Canada’s state- and Church-sanctioned residential school system—a system that forcibly removed from families, assimilated and often killed Indigenous children. The Commission’s conclusion was stark: Canada committed cultural genocide on Indigenous peoples.

My first guest is Indigenous scholar Vanessa Watts-Powless. Vanessa is Mohawk and Anishnaabe and teaches in Indigenous Studies at McMaster University. With Hayden King, a previous guest, she penned an important article in the Globe and Mail calling for action on restitution in the wake of the TRC report. The meaning of restitution was the topic of our conversation.

As my second guest, I’m happy to finally have the chance to talk with Greg Albo, who teaches political economy at York University and is the co-editor of the Socialist Register. I spoke with Greg to get a sense of how the arguments for restitution made by Vanessa fit into the context of Canada’s political economy.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

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Industrious immigrant vs idle Indigenous meets reality

Here’s a familiar trope: immigrants are industrious and hard-working. Here’s another, opposite trope: First Nations are idle and lazy. And here’s a graph that beautifully calls into question this neat pair of stereotypes.

Source: Angella McEwen, Progressive Economics Forum.
Source: Angella McEwen, Progressive Economics Forum.

It turns out that off-reserve First Nations workers and recent immigrants face the same unemployment rate – one that is much higher than that faced by workers born in Canada. As Angella MacEwen, who posted this graph, points out it highlights that “there are systemic barriers that need to be addressed” in the labour market.

On the one hand, there is a gaping disconnect between right-wing rhetoric that extolls immigrants and the actual struggles faced by new immigrants. Indeed, the irony is that the right’s discourse when confronted with reality brings out the systemic barriers rooted in racism better than the facts by themselves. (more…)

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