“What does it mean to be an Indian?” asks indigenous writer Richard Wagamese in our Indian Country Focus issue. For many indigenous people across Canada it means dealing with the legacy of forced relocations, residential schools, environmental destruction and embedded racism. But these dire problems have also given rise to remarkably mobilized and creative political and artistic movements. Defenders of the land gatherings; the art of David Garneau; and indigenous authors confronting the legacy of colonialism in their writing are all inspiring examples of political resistance and an ongoing process of decolonization. Our latest issue confronts Canada’s colonial legacy through the resilience and energy of emerging indigenous movements.
In Winnipeg’s North End resistance to oppression and poverty often takes the form of socially scarring gang violence. In a remarkable exposé, we bring you the voices of six Winnipeg street gang members who offer unheard insights into life on the streets of a poor, largely indigenous neighbourhood.“You can’t take an aspirin for the North End and it’ll be over in half an hour,” they say. “If you want to change violence in the hood, you have to change the hood.” These young men have faced the violence and indignity endemic to racism and poverty. They know they are part of the problem, but they also know that their experiences need to be part of the solution.
Part of the solution also lies in the work of indigenous writers and artists. Indigenous literature scholar Niigonwedom James Sinclair reminds us that indigenous literature is still necessarily a literature of political resistance. “Not only does Indigenous literature respond to and critique the policies of the Government of Canada; it also functions as ‘medicine’ to help cure to colonial contagion,” writes Métis critic Jo-Ann Episkenew. This legacy of oppression exists in the halls of the UN, where Canada has stubbornly refused to sign the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People. Alex Neve looks at the reasoning behind this decision while insisting that Canada respect indigenous rights at home and around the world.
As the war and torture in Afghanistan rages on, Canadians are asked to be more patriotic and unquestioning in their support for the troops. But as Paul Jackson reminds us, Canadian soldiers have the right to refuse to fight in illegal wars. Government and imbedded reporters effectively protect soldiers from their own critics, hiding the truth behind the mission. While it’s hard to find humour in this political climate, Maurice Dufour takes a satirical stab at Harper’s Orwellian parlance. “To enter Harper’s semantic universe,” he writes, “is to enter a dark cave with slime-covered rocks. Just when you think your footing is secure, the slip and ensuing bump on the head will remind you that it is not.”
Finally, we review four highly anticipated and political titles. Four opinionated activists and artists contemplate the contentious politics in James Cameron’s sci-fi spectacle Avatar. Three highly recommended books are also reviewed, including Revolutionary Traveller by John S. Saul; Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide, and the Politics of Containment by Peter Hallward; and The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy by Yves Engler.
We also bring you an urgent editorial on the international plunder of Haiti, a damning critique of the Harmonized Sales Tax, and the usual astute reflections by our regular columnists.