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The Gauntlet

Domestic genocide is more than a soundbyte

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When does ignorant hypocrisy become indiscriminate genocide? As a nation, Canada prides itself as a defender of human rights, as an upholder of sacred freedoms and as the innovators and torchbearers of the peacekeeping mantle. Why then do we not practice what we preach?

Recent issues related to solvent abuse by young children have brought camera crews and national grief and sympathy to Labrador. How quick we are to forget. Not long ago these same people had our attention and sympathies as well due to "Canada's Tibet--The Killing of the Innu." The report by Survival International was followed by a scathing UN Human Rights Committee report that condemned Canada for its practice of "extinguishing aboriginal peoples rights." These were released at the same time that the son of Napes Ashini, an Innu from Sheshatshiu, took his own life while his father was in Europe raising awareness of high suicide rates among his people.

When will it stop?

The Innu do not have First Nation status. They do not have land to call their own, nor do they have control over education, health or social services. If the governmental administrators responsible for them did even a mediocre job there would be no problem. The Innu are treated as though they are a blight, a stigma and they are swept under the rug.

A year ago, there were children killing themselves at an alarming rate. The national media was there calling for sympathy. Our politicians were there promising action, promising change. The lights dimmed, everyone left, the children kept dying, the parents kept drinking and the calls for help went unheeded.

I would like to have faith, to believe that the welfare of a people we've displaced is more important than a bank loan, an attack on creationism or a God damn middle-class tax cut. Sadly, we have just seen how much the policy makers and the affluent masses care.

Children dying, buried 15 minutes deep in the newscast. A people being extinguished, silenced by ads about lying old men. (Perhaps life would be easier for the politicians and all of us if they were all dead and we had nothing to nag at our collective conscience?)

I will not live in a world of second-class citizens. I will not ignore the wrong being done because it is convenient for me to do so. I will not accept the mass extermination through indifference of my fellow Canadians.

The parallel drawn between Tibet and Labrador is a chilling one. It is not a link of direct violence or an overtly oppressive regime, it is a silent genocide and we are all standing idly by. I will close with an excerpt from the Survival International report:

"The Innu, like the Tibetans, are dying. They do not need to be shot--they are killing themselves, at a rate unsurpassed anywhere in the world. The Canadian government bears responsibility for this outrage but does nothing to avoid it--indeed, its actions are calculated to bring about exactly these conditions."

For more information, go to www.survival.org.uk.

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