My Little Corner of Canada: Sick and tired
by John Amagoalik
There is a hint of anger in his voice.
The young man from Nunavik is usually calm and even tempered. But today, his frustration and anger is starting to show.
“I’m sick and tired of the separatists,” he says. “I’m tired of living in this political uncertainty.”
The Inuit of Nunavik have made it known that they do not intend to be part of an independent Quebec. They want to split from Quebec if it declares independence and join Nunavut or work out other arrangements to remain part of Canada.
The young man from Nunavik doesn’t want to wait. He wants Nunavik to split from Quebec now.
“If the separatists are going to continue with this crazy stuff, the hell with them. Nunavik should separate from Quebec now.”
The threat to use force by the Parti Quebecois to keep dissident communities in Quebec does not help. What’s worse is that Canada has not declared that it would protect the Inuit from this force. In this regard, as Zebedee Nungak likes to say, Canada is like a 97-pound weakling.
When it comes to how things would unfold, the separatists are all over the map.
First, they say that separation would be orderly. That national and international law will be respected. That things will be neat and tidy.
Then their other face says, the hell with the law. We will declare independence unilaterally.
They say minority rights will be respected. Then they say that French will be the only language in Quebec. They say that aboriginal peoples and their homelands will be part of an independent Quebec whether they like it or not.
The separatists content that aboriginal peoples surrendered all their rights when they signed the James Bay Agreement and must quietly accept their fate inside an independent Quebec.
The Inuit and the Cree signed that treaty with the nation of Canada and the province of Quebec. If that province declares independence, the James Bay Agreement is out the window.
The aboriginal peoples of Quebec will not accept being accosted into a political adventure that they have no interest in participating. They will not accept their homeland being stolen a second time.
I cannot predict what the separatists or the federalists will do. But I do know what will happen if anyone tries to force Inuit and others to go where they do not want to go.
The aboriginal peoples will fight in the national and international court of law and public opinion. And, if necessary, they will fight in the streets. Northern Quebec is a huge territory. The separatists will not control what happens on the ground in that territory.
If the separatists declare independence, the Quebec flag will be taken off the flag poles in the Inuit communities of Nunavik. Inuit and their leaders will challenge the authority of Quebec in their communities.
This time, we expect Canada and its people to support the Inuit of Nunavik.
The racism of history
It is not accurate to say that Columbus “discovered” North America.
John Cabot did not “discover” Canada.
Martin Frobisher did not “discover” Baffin Island.
This description of history suggests that these people were the first humans to come to these shores. It suggests that aboriginal people somehow do not qualify as humans.
It is this subtle racism which has resulted in the injustices on the first peoples of this continent. Our lands were stolen. Our human rights ignored and trampled. Some people still wonder why we cannot take part in events marking the 500th anniversary of Cabot’s arrival.
It is time to tell our children that Columbus “stumbled” onto the shores of North America and it took almost 500 years for aboriginal peoples to be recognized as human beings.