As an alumni of the UofMosaic Fellowship Program, I had the tremendous privilege of attending the premiere of Alanis Obomsawin’s latest film “We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice”. The film is about Dr. Cindy Blackstock’s tumultuous but successful journey taking the Canadian Federal Government to a human rights tribunal for discrimination against First Nations children.
As a First Nations person who grew up in my community, I knew that watching this film would be very emotional for me. I have seen and experienced first hand the many challenges stemming from historic systemic racism in Canada.
In the film, Dr. Cindy Blackstock brings to light the very long and ugly history of Indigenous children being apprehended by the Canadian state. She demonstrates how the residential school system evolved into the modern child welfare system – a system in which Indigenous children continue to be overrepresented.
Throughout the film I felt a variety of emotions: sadness for the children, anger towards the state, and hope for the future. The film captured the years of hard work done by Cindy Blackstock and the rest of the lawyers who provided evidence of continuous underfunding and neglect of First Nations child welfare agencies.
Not only was this an empowering experience for me, I also brought an ally and friend along to the premiere who had the privilege of watching the film as well. She is of Bengali descent, and we often have lengthy talks about colonialism, migration, assimilation and correlations between the diasporic and Indigenous people in Canada. I knew that when I brought her, she would learn a lot about the systemic issues that exists for Indigenous people.
After the film we found a place to eat and discuss. I asked her what stood out to her in the film, and she explained that she was very frustrated and angry about how the state continues to discriminate against First Nations children.
We also discussed more about how, through watching the film, she was able to empathize with and understand Indigenous peoples and their issues and history on a deeper level. She recognized that while she was also a settler, she was committed to continuously working at being an ally. We trailed on further to the concepts of settler colonialism and how even racialized and/or diaspora communities have a part to play in reconciliation, as non-Indigenous people who occupy land in Canada.
It is critical that we understand these not as White-Indigenous issues, but as Indigenous to non-Indigenous issues. Also, how can we bridge the work done in reconciliation with the advocacy and community development efforts across other racialized and diaspora communities in Canada?
During our discussion I felt a great sense of appreciation and respect, as well hope. When we talk about global conflict issues, the Indigenous narrative is often forgotten about. I find that in the Canadian context, it is often easy to look at the issues of others around the world while ignoring our own Indigenous people. This is something that must change.
This film is a must-see for those who hope to pursue work related to equity and social justice in Canada, and it can serve as an excellent educational tool to work towards eliminating racism and discrimination against Indigenous people. Overall, I enjoyed the experience and Alanis and Cindy’s work. They are two strong Indigenous women who are my own personal role models.
Diane Hill is an alumni of the UofMosaic Fellowship Program and a final year student at the University of Toronto, Scarborough, where she is studying Health Studies. She is from the Oneida Nation of the Thames, a First Nations community in South-Western Ontario. Diane is also involved in a number of equity initiatives on and off campus, including work through the Indigenous Students Association.