Anakbayan Toronto stands in firm solidarity with the Indigenous peoples inhabiting this land called Canada (also known as Turtle Island) during “Canada Day”. We are Filipino migrants and children of migrants who moved to this country due to the Philippines’ poor socio-economic conditions, results of its long history of colonialism and imperialism. We cannot ignore the similar injustices Indigenous peoples face here. We condemn the Canadian government and for their past and present actions against the Indigenous community and we echo the community’s calls to hold the Canadian government and its institutions accountable.
On May 27, 2021, there was a horrifying discovery of 215 children’s remains at the former site of the Kamloops Residential School in British Columbia. On June 6, 2021, another 751 bodies were found at the former site of the Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan. On June 30, 2021, 182 unmarked grave sites were discovered near the location of a former residential school St. Eugene’s Mission School, in Cranbrook, British Columbia. We know that these numbers will continue to grow.
These uncovered atrocities have caused the Indigenous community much outrage and grief because they are stark reminders of the centuries of pain they have suffered. The Canadian government and Catholic Church created the residential school system, under the guise of education, to kidnap children and eradicate their Indigenous identities “until there is not a single Indian in Canada” (Duncan Campbell Scott, deputy superintendent of the Department of Indian Affairs from 1913 to 1932).
To this day, the Indigenous community demands accountability and justice as the violence against them continues. The RCMP and police continue to harass and assault Indigenous peoples and they are complicit in the ongoing epidemic of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls.
As we study more about Canadian history, we learn that the survivors of these schools and their descendants face intergenerational trauma, sexual violence, loss of language, land, culture, traditional teachings, and declining mental well-being.
Similarly in the Philippines, as a nation of people that have never had genuine national autonomy, we have suffered similar instances of having our culture and customs eradicated from over 300 years of brutal colonial and imperialist oppression. Over 200 Indigenous-led schools have been closed or attacked by the government due to accusations of subversion. Teachers, community leaders, and land defenders are being arrested or killed in greater numbers. Fearing for their lives, Indigenous youth have been forced to flee their ancestral lands and struggle to continue their studies and maintain their cultural practices.
The Philippine government continues to prioritize the interests of the wealthy elite and the big businesses from imperialist countries like Canada over its own people. Having discovered that our Indigenous peoples’ ancestral lands are mineral-rich and profitable, the Philippine government has allowed Canadian mining companies to extract resources from these lands. As a result, Indigenous peoples have been violently displaced from their homes and traditional livelihoods.
As the publicized numbers of the unmarked graves continue to grow, we honour the thousands of children found and the communities they belong to. Anakbayan Toronto will continue the anti colonial struggle alongside the Indigenous peoples of this land against the systems that continue to oppress them, as well as the migration systems that continue to force us to leave our homelands and settle here. Fighting imperialism is the most concrete way for us, as a diasporic people, to stop the settling of these lands.