Canada’s spring of occupations

Welcome back to the first podcast episode after a two-month hiatus! This week, three guests talk about two significant occupations of public space that have happened in Canada in the interim: the Black Lives Matter occupation of police headquarters plaza in Toronto and the occupations of Indigenous and Northern Affairs offices across the country.

In this first half, I speak with journalist Desmond Cole about the Black Lives Matter occupation of the police headquarters plaza in Toronto. Activists took over the plaza for two weeks in March and April over continuing police brutality and lack of unaccountability. Desmond reported regularly from the camp and spent several nights there. Aside from his column in the Toronto Star and his other print and radio work, he is also currently writing a book about black history and black politics in Canada.

The second half features my conversation with two activists and organizers behind Occupy INAC in Regina, Robyn Pitawanakwat and Susana Deranger. Susana is a veteran of the long struggle for justice for Canada’s First Nations, an activist for over 40 years in Saskatchewan. Robyn is from a younger generation, though as the daughter of a long-time Indigenous activist, she too has deep roots in the same fight. The Colonialism No More camp has been up for 50 days in front of Indigenous and Northern Affairs office in Regina. It started as part of a wave of occupations of INAC offices across the country in response to the state of emergency in Attawapiskat over youth suicide.

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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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