Maurice Switzer And The Idea That It Is Time For Canadian Government To Start Paying Rent To Its First Nations Landlords
Throughout modern history, colonization is often remembered through two very distinct views. The first view lies within the eyes of the colonizer who claims to have stumbled upon ‘free land’ and thus laid claim to it. The other view lies between the colonized who were forced to surrender their land and co-exist with their new ‘neighbors’. Maurice Switzer, a Mississauga’s Alderville First Nation native and former director of communications for Union of Ontario Indians and Assembly of First Nations has seen it all through the lens of the colonized.
Thus, in his editorial for the Anishinabek news organization, he attempts to call Canadians to action by illustrating the horrific plight First Nations people have endured since Canadian settlers forcibly moved into their lands and pushed them out. Through an analysis of his editorial, the cartoon he published and his overall tone, I will side with Maurice and explicate the idea that it is time for Canadian government to start paying rent to its First Nations Landlords.
In his editorial, Switzer lays out the facts surrounding the government of Canada’s treatment of First Nations people for the last 150 years. He brings to light the ‘happy camper’ illusion the Government relays to the public by inviting First Nations to perform a dance at the beginning of the July 1st celebrations. To him, the government cannot have it both ways. If they truly want to celebrate Canada Day, they must do more than just apologize for their wrongdoing. Their reconciliation efforts must tailor around offering settlements to First Nations Veterans, providing resources to find missing indigenous children separated by Canadian forces and ensuring their there is equality among all Canadians and First Nations people.
To further fully explicate his point, Switzer uses a cartoon to describe a fully dressed First Nations member knocking on the House of Commons in demand of 150 years of undue rent. In the cartoon prime minister Trudeau is seen to be hiding in a manner that suggests he has been hiding from his landlord. The juxtaposition of the First Nations man in his full cultural clothing along with a fearful Trudeau is intended to provide context through satirical means to his readers. Switzer wants to educate to Canadians two harsh realities. The first is that they must recognize that fact that their elected officials have for the last 150 years purposely attempted to avoid compensating First Nations people for pushing them out of their own land. The second and most damming is the reality that country’s first 150 years have been the worst of in the last 30,000 years that First Nations people have lived.
From a tonal point of view, Switzer throws a lot of undisputable facts at his reader with the intention to educate them. This is extremely effective as it gives him a strong foundation to voice his opinion that the government should pay up. With the use of hard historical facts as a backdrop, readers do not have to worry about the possibility of being misled to support his opinion. One thing to note however is that his extremely critical tone entwined with the fact that he is also a victim suggests an element of bias. Furthermore, the fact that he does not give the government any credit for what the steps they have taken so far to help appease First Nations people further highlights his bias. This being said, the words spoken in Switzer’s editorial are factual and the universal struggle of nations who have been colonized further strengthens thisAs an individual who comes from a nation that was once colonized, I strongly agree with Switzer’s quest for the Canadian government to be held accountable. Just like how First Nations people were colonized, Nigeria my home town was colonized by the British who stripped away our cultural land from us. It did not take until 1960 for them to leave and their ripple effects are still present in our nation today. Across the Canadian Border, Indigenous people just lost the fight to prevent the construction of a pipe line over their own land. This pipeline was built without their consent and even when the world rallied with them to protest the construction, the government went ahead with the project. All this goes to show that Indigenous people till this day have the right to feel under siege. Their voices need to be heard and luckily with the growing access to social media, they can by-pass media outlets and share their hardships with the world first hand.
To conclude Switzer’s editorial and cartoon are one of the many objects that echo the ongoing hardships of First Nations people. After 150 years of horror, they deserve financial compensation to pick themselves up again and be equal with their neighbors.
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