‘What do we have to celebrate?’ FSIN senator decries Canada 150 as celebration of colonization

FSIN senator Ted Quewezance speaks on the first day of the 2017 spring assembly. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

A Federation of Sovereign First Nations (FSIN) leader had harsh words for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the first day of the FSIN spring assembly.

Senator Ted Quewezance criticized the federal government for being all talk, no action on reconciliation. He also took issue with Canada 150 celebrations, as Indigenous people, he says, have little to celebrate.

The FSIN senate serves as an advisory group to the elected chiefs and leaders as they pass resolutions and go about their business.

Quewezance used his speaking time as a call to action for the elected chiefs to ensure protecting treaty and inherent rights is at top of mind.

“I was warned, that with the loss of language and culture, the spirit and intent (of the treaties) would not be passed on,” he began his speech.

“Without the language, treaties would not be understood by our people. Many of you are seeing that today.”

That “way of forgetting,” as Quewezance described it, is a result of government policies designed to assimilate Indigenous people.

He said before any reconciliation takes place, there needs to be truth-telling.

“We need to speak the truth. We haven’t openly discussed these truths in our assembly,” he said. “In my opinion, this is the reason why we are struggling with reconciliation, with the implementation of our treaties, and the sovereignty of our land.

He turned to Canada 150, and to his people being invited to join in the celebration.

“What are we going to celebrate, my friends?” he asked. “What is our legacy with the crown? The poverty is still there. The unemployment is still there. Maybe we can celebrate how the federal government has acted on our inherent and treaty rights! No. Nothing here to celebrate.”

Quewezance recounted historical failings of Canada when it comes to its treatment of aboriginal people.

For more on this story, please see the May 19 print or e-edition of the Daily Herald.