By: Yelin Gemma Lee, News Writer
On October 6, 2021, Dr. Eva Jewell presented her lecture From Structural Racism to Personal Practices: Embodying Anti-Oppression for Reconciliation as part of an ongoing series hosted by SFU Public Square and Resilience BC Anti-Racism Network.
Jewell (Ma’iingan Dodem) is Anishinaabekwe from Deshkan Ziibiing in southwestern Ontario. She is the research director at Yellowhead Institute and an assistant professor at X University. Her work includes co-authoring the annual “Calls to Action Accountability,” as well as other community oriented work with the Anishinaabeg people.
Jewell’s talk drew from her project at Yellowhead Institute, where she observed five themes from government response reports: “representation in society, public education and awareness, institutional change, addressing policing and the justice system, and Indigenous self-determination.”
She added, “There’s a need for positive, authentic representation [ . . . ] of Indigenous peoples. Not only will it have benefits for Indigenous peoples, it can contribute to normalizing Indigenous presence and perspectives in this country.
“Reconciliation is the context that the Canadian public is familiar with when approaching the conversation regarding their country’s systemic treatment of Indigenous people.” She challenged attendees to “resist tokenizing Indigenous peoples and asking us to perform trauma.”
She spoke about how non-Indigenous public opinion is used as an excuse to not address systemic racism.
“Too often these issues are framed as ‘Indigenous issues’ and they are not [ . . . ] they are in fact colonial issues rebranded as the fault of Indigenous peoples. This distinction needs to be made clear in public education and awareness.”
Jewell noted calls to action 1–42, which directly challenge structural racism and ask for structural change, are the ones being neglected. The majority of completed calls to action have been between 43–94. As calls 1–42 address the barriers Indigenous peoples face on a daily basis, Jewell emphasized the need to advocate for their completion.
“As reconciliation becomes a more mainstream conversation in Canada, there is a fear I think for many Indigenous peoples that this will become the new form of exploitation and recolonization [ . . . ] Canadian institutions are actually advancing predatory and exploitative practices in their reconciliation agendas,” said Jewell.
Jewell summarized issues that seem to prevent meaningful structural change: non-Indigenous public interest, “paternalism, structural racism, reconciliation as exploitation, and insufficient resources.”
She also provided a list of personal practices that can be implemented immediately by individuals to promote systemic change. Some of the action items on the list ask for individuals to familiarize themselves with resources created by Indigenous people, “interrogate your privileges,” advocate for restitution, hold governments accountable, and to fight against the “apathy of Canadians.
“This simply isn’t about Canadians. This is about changing the structures that harm Indigenous peoples daily.” She added much of her work was “simply asking for the very bare minimum that the federal government has promised.
“That’s not to mention the reclamation work we need to be doing in our communities for our languages, our cultures, and our ways of life.”
To find out more about Taking Action! Speaking Series and their upcoming events, visit their webpage.