The suicide crisis among youth in the northern Ontario community of Attawapiskat is a scathing indictment of centuries of capitalist colonialism imposed on indigenous peoples within the Canadian state, from the theft of the traditional territories of aboriginal peoples, to the residential schools and other forms of assimilation which followed. Despite the federal government’s commitment to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and its recent endorsation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, there was very little in the 2016-17 federal budget for concrete action to seriously address this genocidal legacy.
This is the backdrop for the occupations of Indigenous and Northern Affairs (INAC) offices in several cities, and for other grassroots actions to demand immediate measures to improve the lives of all Aboriginal peoples, such as (to name just a few) the protests to demand clean drinking water at Shoal Lake, the call for a full inquiry into state repression during the Gustafsen Lake standoff, and resistance against resource extraction projects being rammed through over the objections of Indigenous peoples across the country. The Communist Party of Canada sends our warmest greetings of solidarity to all those who are engaged in these important grassroots struggles.
The suicide crisis in Attawapiskat is just one reflection of the deplorable conditions in hundreds of indigenous communities – lack of clean drinking water and decent housing, high unemployment and incarceration rates, and inadequate access to good health care and education. Shamefully, the level of government financial support to address these problems in Attawapiskat and elsewhere has remained abysmally inadequate. We also condemn the cynical racist statements by some such as former PM Jean Chretien, who arrogantly advised the people of Attawapiskat to simply move to a new location. Such racist statements deny the real history of Indigenous communities. Attawapiskat is near the open-pit Victor Diamond Mine, operated by the multinational diamond company De Beers, founded by the British imperialist and white supremacist Cecil Rhodes. The mine itself is on lands taken from Attawapiskat First Nation through an extension of Treaty 9 in 1930. In 2015, the CBC reported out that De Beer’s had pulled $2.5 billion worth of diamonds from the Victor mine since opening, while paying almost nothing in royalties to the province or to Attawapiskat. Other news reports indicate that in March 2005, De Beers secretly dumped a load of sewage into Attawapiskat’s pumping station, causing a sewage backup and damage to local houses, but the company denies any responsibility. Such information exposes the racist lie that indigenous peoples themselves are responsible for their impoverished situation.
This situation is not tolerable. We urge the labour and democratic movements to mobilize full support around struggles to compel the government to act immediately to fulfil its election promises of genuine nation-to-nation reconciliation with indigenous peoples.