Tuesday, June 21st is National Indigenous Peoples’ day

A special CTIP editorial

This blog – Canada Talks Israel/Palestine sticks pretty well to the issue of human rights for Palestinians and Canada’s poor track record of supporting them. We rarely stray off this issue.

However, the similarities between our history of colonisation of Canada’s indigenous peoples and their lands, and that of Israel’s toward the Palestinians is remarkable.

June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day. This is a day for all Canadians to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, languages, diverse cultures and outstanding contributions of First NationsInuit and Métis peoples. The Canadian Constitution recognizes these three groups as Aboriginal peoples, also known as Indigenous peoples. Although these groups share many similarities, they each have their own distinct heritage, language, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs. These have been ignored or suppressed, a practice which a former Chief Justice called “cultural genocide.”

Our understanding of Canada’s history with respect to indigenous peoples is increasingly seen in the framework of “settler colonialism” described by Wikipedia as “a structure that perpetuates the elimination of indigenous people and cultures to replace them with a settler society

This is also the frame that is being used to understand the relation between the Palestinians, indigenous to that area, and the State of Israel.

There are not only similarities, but according to Azeeka Kanji of the Yellowhead Institute, an indigenous think tank, Canada and Israel are “Partners in the settler colonial contract”.

June 21, National Indigenous Peoples’ Day, is a good time to reflect on Canada’s history and current policies at home and abroad.

Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about Canada’s response to the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.

Want to learn more about us? Go to http://www.ottawaforumip.org


  1. The distinctions in the two issues also bear mentioning. The primary one is timeframe. There still live people in/from Palestine-Israel that were removed from their homes in ~1948 whereas there are no people still alive from first contact colonial times in Canada. People born in Canada and Palestine-Israel should not be described as “settlers”. Progressives generally also support immigration but not displacement of currently existing populations. We are not responsible for what our ancestors did. There are obligations, however to resolve promptly legitimate grievances, with a goal of integrated democratic civic states. Two additional observations: we are all migrants or descendants of migrants, en first arrivals. History is replete with disturbing stories of invasion, colonialism and crime; there are no countries that have no history of this. We need to find solutions that help us live together, not arguments for further division and hatred.

    1. typo, should be: “Two additional observations: we are all migrants or descendants of migrants, including first arrivals.”

  2. Thank-you CTIP for raising this important issue about Aboriginal peoples in Canada and for introducing Azeeka’s article.

    As an immigrant to Canada, I have learned in the past few years a lot about Aboriginal peoples in Canada and the history of settler colonialism. It is true that there is an effort in Canada to acknowledge this history and its consequences. However, this is not enough. The problem is not only about the past, but also what is happening now.

    For example, I can not believe it that some Indigenous communities do not have access to clean drinking water. I can not believe it that police uses a huge violent force to oppress peaceful Indigenous women and men who protest against oil projects that poison their land and water. I can not believe it that our federal government is not allocating enough financial resources to support the well being of Aboriginal communities. We need to change that. Symbolic statements and celebrations are not enough.

    As a Palestinian-Canadian, I am not surprised that major federal parties support Israeli settler colonial project in Palestine. Once I see a real change in policies related to Aboriginal people in Canada, I will become more optimistic about a real change in the Canadian policy on Palestine. In the meantime, the struggle continues to give every human being their right to live in dignity..

  3. When I was in Israel following the Oslo Accords, I interviewed a settler who spoke dismissively of the Palestinians by calling them “West Bank Indians.” This suggests that they are perfectly aware of the similarities but cynical and dismissive of the possibility of any shifts in policy that might bring about more equity and respect for the rights of the Palestinians.

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