Many of the descendants of settlers – aka Canadians – are perturbed or in an uproar about the process whereby statues of the prominent early colonial and genocidal men are being taken down and relegated to storage rooms. We all know the names of the men because they have become icons of what is Canada. Icons, though, when you add power are more about propaganda than knowledge and truth.
In the work I do I have been exposed to far too many settler thoughts that these statues need to remain erected in public settings if only as a measure so Canadians do not forget what happened and further as a way to ensure the genocide does not happen again.
To this I have a few things to say:
First, the descendants of settler people do not get to have a say here. Rather, it is Indigenous people who have the most important knowledge on this topic. This is a good time for the descendants of settler people to listen versus talk. After all, this is the reasonable and moral thing to do: to value that as the people who have benefited more from colonization, your thoughts and opinions are not important and should not be made audible.
Second, descendants of settler people need to value that while the statues are coming down, Canada does indeed continue today with its colonial genocidal laws, policies, and practices such as the land claims process. The long-time presence of the statues has not changed Canada’s genocidal policies, not at all. As an example, the Algonquin in Ontario continue to be denied access to their land and resource rights. As a matter of fact we are only offered 1.3% of our territory and a $300 million one-time buy-out in our current land claim, yet we all know a nation is not a nation without the land and resources needed to govern its citizenry.
Third, while Indigenous people may be relieved to see the icons taken down, the Liberal government will be the real winner because they will receive accolades, and votes, for removing them. In this way the practice by the Prime Minister and his cabinet is about nothing more than about manipulating the masses through optics and circumventing what is really needed: the end of the genocide in Canada.
If you do not like what I say here, this is due to the cognitive dissonance inherent in iconoclasm. Keep in mind through that the best and most important knowledge is emotional. Hang on to your heart and listen to the voices that matter most: Indigenous people. And then be in an uproar about the reality that Canada’s genocide continues despite the presence or removal of the deceptive icons that Canada calls its leaders.
The human spirit moves through the heart. Morals take the same pathway. Cognitive dissonance is more about ego versus morality.
Lynn Gehl, Ph.D. is an Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe from the Ottawa River Valley. In 2017 she won an Ontario Court of Appeal case on sex discrimination in The Indian Act, and is an outspoken critic of the Algonquin land claims process. Recently she published Claiming Anishinaabe: Decolonizing the Human Spirit. You can reach her through, and see more of her work, at www.lynngehl.com