On the Monday show

How did calling armed police on First Nations become normalized?

canadaLANDBACK returns to examine the modern history of land actions, and what it means for the next generation if longstanding disputes remain unresolved

During my 20-year career as a journalist, I’ve covered, or worked closely with other Indigenous journalists reporting on, land actions at Kokomville, Lac Simon, Burnt Church, Sun Peak, Caledonia, Elsipogtog, Standing Rock, Wet’suwet’en, and other land disputes.

I’ve watched a generation of kids grow up at these land actions. Twenty years ago, I reported on them when they were toddlers in diapers, running around at the barricades. I watched their eyes and faces as police in full riot gear carrying batons marched in to tackle and cuff their parents.

Today, those babies are adults and on the front lines. They are the new generation staring down police over the same unresolved land claims.

Canada has normalized these scenes. Indigenous children have internalized them.

There is an expression among my people: We get the grandchildren we deserve. We raised this generation together, Canada — your people and mine. What kind of grandchildren should we expect?

I am kicking off this season of canadaLANDBACK with the story of Stoney Point, a First Nation in Southwestern Ontario whose land was stolen by Canada in 1942 to build an army base. The land was picked and chipped away, down to the last blade of grass. Canada promised to return the land after the Second World War.

That promise was broken.

Decades of peaceful protest followed, until Elders led a move to reclaim the territory, which included a burial ground at Ipperwash Provincial Park.

On the night of September 6, 1995, police moved in and opened fire on unarmed men, women, and children occupying the park.

It should have been a turning point for Canada.

It wasn’t.

We should have learned from it.

We don’t seem to have learned a damn thing.

This season on canadaLANDBACK, a co-production from Canada’s National Observer and Canadaland, we’re asking how we got to a point at which calling in armed police on First Nations people has become normalized. And what happens if we don’t find a way to resolve these disputes?

Over the next six months, myself, producer Kim Wheeler, and a host of Indigenous journalists, including Cara McKenna, Beverly Andrews, and Trina Roache, will discuss this issue.

A generation of Elders crafted a vision for reconciliation that includes resolving land disputes. We’ll talk to the generation of youth burdened with executing that vision.

Karyn Pugliese is editor-in-chief of Canada’s National Observer and the host of canadaLANDBACK. 

Top photos of Carolyn “Cully” George and members of her family taken by Karyn Pugliese at the launch of Our Long Struggle for Home: The Ipperwash Story by Aazhoodenaang Enjibaajig.

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