Sec­ond class cit­i­zens?

Ei­ther this coun­try of Canada stands for equal­ity for its en­tire peo­ple – or it does not

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OPINION - BY PE­TER BLANDING Pe­ter Blanding is a re­tiree liv­ing on the Long River Road in Kens­ing­ton.

His­toric places have of­ten been named af­ter pow­er­ful peo­ple who made a dif­fer­ence in the his­tory of a coun­try. In the case of Ft. Amherst, P.E.I. Mi’kmaq Keptin John Joe Sark be­lieves that’s not good enough. He thinks that com­mem­o­rat­ing the life of a man who wanted to “ex­tir­pate that ver­mine” from this is­land dis­qual­i­fies Jeffery Amherst.

I agree with Mr. Sark.

In many cases, as a com­po­nent of their vi­sion for the coun­try, th­ese fa­mous men we hon­our were the cham­pi­ons of racist poli­cies that sub­ju­gated and per­se­cuted First Na­tions peo­ples. Nat­u­rally, many First Na­tions peo­ple view such mon­u­ments as a con­stant re­minder of the wrongs done to them. And per­haps John Joe Sark is also grow­ing tired of the way we con­tinue to treat First Na­tions peo­ples, for all of our mis­deeds are not rel­e­gated to the past.

For in­stance, although ac­cess to clean wa­ter has been a Cana­dian right for nearly 30 years, peo­ple on 112 First Na­tions Re­serves don’t have that right - their wa­ter is un­safe to drink. We wouldn’t tol­er­ate un­safe wa­ter for one day, not for a week, yet some of th­ese Re­serves have had un­safe wa­ter for over 20 years.

Imag­ine this: If Prince Ed­ward Is­land was one of th­ese First Na­tions Re­serves, 4,000 of us would have to boil our wa­ter every day, 8,700 of our friends and neigh­bours would use an out­house or a slop pail for a wash­room, life ex­pectancy for our chil­dren would be seven years less than for most Cana­di­ans, and more of our kids would go to jail than grad­u­ate from high school. How does that fit with your vi­sion of Canada?

Per­haps John Joe Sark is telling us that th­ese memo­ri­als serve to re­mind First Na­tions peo­ple what it means to be “sec­ond-class” cit­i­zens in their own coun­try. Be­cause, on pa­per, all Cana­di­ans have the same rights and priv­i­leges. In truth, First Na­tions peo­ple don’t - they’re not even close. Doesn’t that im­ply that Canada still dis­crim­i­nates against its own peo­ple based on race, just like Jeffery Amherst did?

Ei­ther this coun­try of Canada stands for equal­ity for its en­tire peo­ple – or it does not. So far, our gov­ern­ment has not shown the will­ing­ness, nor com­mit­ted the re­sources, to bring to First Na­tions peo­ple what the rest of us take for granted. And un­til they do, the very least we can do is to stand with our First Na­tions broth­ers and sis­ters – and change some of those names on the stat­ues.

P.E.I. Mi’kmaq Keptin John Joe Sark

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