Former MMIWG commissioner and law professor on how to include Indigenous process in Canadian politics
- NC Raine | February 28, 2018
“Shapeshifting is seeking the truth of the landscape. If we have shape-shifters in our community and they look for the truth about how we make space for Indigenous process within the politics of Canada, what do you think they have found? What have they seen?”
These were some of the questions posed by Marilyn Poitras during the introduction of her lecture, Shape Shifting: Making space for Indigenous process within the politics of Canada.
Poitras, a Law Professor at the University of Saskatchewan and former commissioner for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, spoke on February 26th as part of the McKercher Lecture Series. A Metis scholar of Indigenous legal traditions, Poitras says Indigenous people have something to add to the our conversations and process in Canada.
During her passionate and thoughtful lecture, she called to attention the discrepancy between how Indigenous people are considered opposed to other Canadians.
“There have been thousands of reports, papers, articles, studies, and inquiries on Indigenous people, justice, social issues, police, healthcare, and so on. Thousands,” Poitras said, going on to highlight statistics gathered on Indigenous populations in Canada, measuring incarceration rates, homelessness, addictions rates, dropouts and graduation rates, misspent dollars from chiefs and councils, missing or murdered women, and several other reports on the Indigenous of Canada.
“This is the Canadian way,” said Poitras. “We collect data to create a significant numerical result to justify spending money on a problem.”
“The story about how Indigenous people are a problem is well documented. I defy you to find an area that we have not studied to find the problem of Indigenous people,” she said.
Poitras says that the stories attached to Indigenous people portray them as a problem, and that the Indigenous of this country are depictied not to have the capacity to fully participate as parents, students, employees, or as political actors within the state process.
“We don't ever study the times that Indigenous people have used the created Canadian institution process and systems to find justice, to find a place to participate.” she said. “I think we've recommended enough. I think we've studied enough.”
In the wake of recent tragedies of Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine, Poitras ended her lecture by acknowledging the path forward won't be an easy one.
“Truth and reconciliation is a really hard job. It's a muscle that we don't want to exercise,” she said. “Mr. Boushie and Ms. Fontaine have put us all into a workout room together. It's not comfortable and it's not going to get more comfortable, but we have to do the work.”