Regional chief calls on Quebecers to act beyond words on Indigenous Peoples Day
MONTREAL -- Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL) regional chief Ghislain Picard is asking Quebecers to go beyond words and take action to address systemic racism and discrimination in the province.
Picard penned an open letter to Quebecers Sunday drawing attention to both positive advances and serious concerns when it comes to Indigenous people in the province and country, as Canada marks National Indigenous Peoples Day amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his letter, Picard drew attention to the mass protests across the country against police brutality such as the vigil held Saturday in Vancouver for Chantel Moore, the Tla-o-qui-aht woman from Vancouver Island, who died after a police officer arrived at her home to perform a wellness check.
“Tragic circumstances have drawn everyone's attention to totally unacceptable manifestations of discrimination and racism, events that have cost the lives of human beings and that also compromise the life of a society,” wrote Picard. “As we did for COVID-19, we must all face this other scourge, that of the rejection of the Other.”
A rally in downtown Montreal Friday called for police defunding, but on Indigenous people’s behalf drawing attention to the nine Indigenous people who have died at the hands of police since the beginning of April.
Picard acknowledged the progress in Quebec in the recent past, and during the pandemic lamenting the cancellation of events that are typically hosted throughout the summer.
“On the one hand, the pandemic is drifting us apart and because of it, we may not be able to welcome you to our home, as we do more and more every year, to take part in our pow wows, to take part in the celebrations of our cultures,” wrote Picard. “On the other hand, the pandemic is bringing us closer together. Indeed, all of us, Quebecers and First Nations, have taken strong measures to protect our families, our children and our elders.”
The second weekend in July is typically when the region's largest pow wow - the Echoes of a Proud Nation Pow Wow - kicks off in Kahnawake, and the Montreal First Peoples Fest annually kicks off at the beginning of August. These and other events have been cancelled amid the COVID-19 crisis.
There are, however, a slew of events happening online for Indigenous People's Day.
Kahnawake elder and dancer Kawennotas Sedalia Fazio and her daughter Tea performed a sunrise ceremony and streamed it live on her Facebook page to start Indigenous Peoples Day.
Native Montreal is hosting an online event Sunday night on Facebook celebrating Indigenous people with music, food and games for children.
Picard closed his letter by inviting Quebecers to reflect on the relationship with Indigenous people and “accept each other as we are.” He asks citizens to see the reality of Indigenous lives regardless of “attempts at political cover-up,” and to take recommendations to fight discrimination and racism seriously.
“It is not a question of pointing fingers at each other, but rather of asking ourselves how, in concrete terms, we can improve our way of living together, in mutual respect,” he wrote