The Canadian government has held huge celebrations marking 150 years of semi-autonomy amid protests from the indigenous community.
First Nations groups such as Idle No More, Defenders of the Land, Mohawk Nation, and others, had called for a National Day of Action, centered on the theme of “Unsettling Canada 150.”
The groups staged protests in various forms, saying they had no reason to celebrate because Canada’s history of colonization is marked by land grab, “genocide,” and the dispossession and forced assimilation of the natives.
Protesters from the Bawaating Water Protectors, who came to the capital from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, set up a teepee on Parliament Hill in protest.
On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the protesters in the teepee.
The protesters said they held Trudeau responsible for the dire situation of the indigenous communities.
In the country’s largest city, Toronto, protesters on Saturday carried red flags, and some held the Canadian national flag upside down as they marched.
“I think that if we are going to celebrate anything on this day, it will be 150 years of our ancestors surviving Canada, surviving the genocidal policies of Canada, surviving the dispossession, the displacement,” said rights activist Tasha Spillett, local media reported on Saturday.
“For many of us from the grassroots, we find it repugnant that Canada is celebrating 150 years of what we consider is racism and genocide and colonialism,” said Russ Diabo, a member of the Mohawk Nation.
The First Nationhood plans to hold an “alternative celebration” to highlight their “survival… and right to self-determination,” he said.
Tori Cress, a local resident of Wahta Mohawk territory, described the government’s $500-million celebrations as a “slap in the face” of the indigenous community, which is in a dire situation economically.
“Everything is crisis and poverty. Water crises, suicide crises, missing women crisis, drug overdoses, rampant alcoholism, unemployment rates are 80 percent and up,” she said.
“These things are not changing and photo opportunities are not making changes,” she added in a possible reference to Trudeau taking photos with indigenous people.
On Saturday, July 1, Canada held the 150th anniversary of the day Canada officially became the semi-autonomous federal Dominion of Canada.
Presently, the country is a federal parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy, with Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen of the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, being the head of state of Canada as well.
The UK’s Prince Charles and his wife Camilla are on official visit to Canada to take part in the celebrations.