On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Su Deranger and Robyn Pitawanakwat about the Colonialism No More camp taking place outside of the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) building in Regina, Saskatchewan.
On April 9, the band council of Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario declared a state of emergency because of a wave of suicide attempts in the community — around 100 since the previous September. This brought a surge of attention from mainstream media and from prominent politicians. It also sparked some Indigenous activists in Toronto and their allies (including from the local chapter of Black Lives Matter) to occupy the local offices of INAC in solidarity. Similar actions followed in other cities, including Winnipeg and Vancouver.
People also decided to act in solidarity in Regina. They began with a lunch-hour demonstration on Friday, April 15th. When they discovered that the INAC office had locked its doors, they decided to show up again early Monday morning to be there and present their concerns to the staff as soon as the doors opened. Except the doors didn’t open that day. So the activists began the process of setting up a tent city outside of the INAC building in Regina under the banner of Colonialism No More. Though the solidarity occupations of INAC offices in other cities have ended, the Colonialism No More camp is still there and going strong.
Colonialism No More wants to support the youth of Attawapiskat, but they also want to draw attention to similar crises in Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan and across Canada. They want INAC to share whatever information they have about the current situations of Indigenous communities in Saksatchewan, and they want to hear what INAC intends to do in response. They want to emphasize that communities know what they need, know what their problems are, know how to address them, they just need the resources to do it. And they want to be perfectly clear that underlying the suicide crisis in Attawapiskat and in so many other Indigenous communities, and underlying the other intelocking problems that many Indigenous communities face across the country, is colonialism.
Robyn Pitawanakwat is a member of Whitefish River First Nation and she grew up in Regina. She is the child of a long-time Indigenous community activist, and she has become active herself in recent years, initially around questions of racist policing in the city. Su Deranger is a member of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. She has been involved in Indigenous struggles and in a wide range of other social movements since the early 1970s, and she is overjoyed by the Colonialism No More camp, which she takes to be the start of a genuine “autonomous people’s social movement.” Pitawanakwat and Deranger speak with me about colonialism in Canada and the Colonialism No More camp in Regina.
Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.
Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.