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This op-ed by Dr. Samir Shaheen-Hussain, author of Fighting for a Hand to Hold: Confronting Medical Colonialism against Indigenous Children in Canada, was originally published in the Toronto Star on May 5, 2021.

On April 1 — a month our Canadian government recognizes as Genocide Remembrance, Condemnation and Prevention Month — Canada’s minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, Bardish Chagger, issued a statement reminding Canadians that “it is our collective responsibility to honour and give voice to the victims and survivors of genocide by learning about these horrific events and ensuring we preserve the truth of this history” to confront “prejudice, hate as well as all forms of racism and discrimination.”

In 2015, the year that the House of Commons designated this month, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission found that Canada’s residential schools amounted to cultural genocide. In 2019, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls concluded that the genocide of Indigenous Peoples has happened in Canada.

Yet, in Chagger’s list of historical examples, she omitted to mention the very genocide that Canada is directly responsible for: that of Indigenous people on these lands.

The United Nations’ Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide as any one of five acts committed with the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed deep-rooted inequalities in health outcomes. For example, Indigenous communities in Toronto are hospitalized more than three times the rate of the general population in the city. This jarring statistic provides a lens to understand the role that the health care system has played, and continues to play, through “medical colonialism,” a culture or ideology, rooted in systemic anti-Indigenous racism, that uses medical practices and policies to establish, maintain, and/or advance a genocidal colonial project.

The violence historically inflicted by the Canadian medical establishment on Indigenous peoples, with physicians often leading the charge using public funds, applies to all five acts outlined in the UN Genocide Convention. Horrifyingly, Indigenous children have specifically been targeted over time, with examples of this systemic discrimination abound.

In the early twentieth century, the medical profession did not intervene in any meaningful way to prevent children from contracting and transmitting tuberculosis in government-funded, church-run residential schools, thereby inflicting preventable suffering, and also resulting in the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of children.

In the 1940s, with the full support of the Department of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service, Canadian physicians and medical scientists exploited the imposed conditions of starvation in six residential schools across the country to study the effects of malnutrition through a series of experiments based on the diets of almost one thousand Indigenous children. The consequences of starvation and malnutrition continue to impact on the health of many survivors to this day, including through chronic illnesses and transgenerational harms.

Between the 1920s and the 1980s, a racially segregated system of Indian Hospitals was administered by various governmental entities. At its peak in the early 1960s, it had a total capacity of over two thousand beds in more than twenty institutions throughout the country. The experiments, abuses and assaults suffered by Indigenous children in these hospitals have contributed to a deep-seated sense of distrust of the Canadian health care system.

Over the last century, through both formal eugenics-informed legislation in certain provinces that was in place until the early 1970s and de facto practices that have continued to the present day, thousands of Indigenous women, including girls, have been coercively sterilized, forced to give up the ability to bear children.

Between the 1940s and the 1960s, federal medical evacuation policies resulted in the forced large-scale transfer of Inuit, including children, from northern communities to southern hospitals for tuberculosis treatment. From the 1950s to the 1970s, medevac airlift practices in Quebec resulted in children from different Indigenous nations (Atikamekw, Anishnaabe, Innu) being literally disappeared into and by the health care system. In both instances, some children never returned home and too many families still don’t know what happened to them.

These health care practices, policies, and laws have always been operational within the larger colonial system in Canada, structured by the Indian Act and other similar legislation, with the primary goal of destroying Indigenous people and claiming their lands. The egregious examples cited above, along with so many others in Canadian health care, unequivocally demonstrate medical colonialism’s role in the genocide of Indigenous Peoples, including by targeting a vulnerable population of any society: children. It should not be surprising that class-action lawsuits have been launched amid other initiatives seeking redress in several of these instances.

In the concluding paragraph of her statement, minister Chagger encourages Canadians to “remember and honour the courage and resilience of the survivors of genocides and their descendants.” It’s time for the Canadian government to take its own advice. If it is genuinely committed to “reconciliation,” then a symbolic, albeit important, first step would be recognizing the genocide it has committed against Indigenous people. There can be no reconciliation without reparations and restitution.


This is a recording of the April 29, 2021 book launch for There is Nothing so Whole as a Broken Heart: Mending the World as Jewish Anarchists, available now!

The event, revolving around the theme of “mending the world,” will feature reflections from editor Cindy Milstein as well as the following contributors:

Leigh Hoffman is a Jewish, punk, polyamorous nursing student, community builder, and socialist living in Tiohtià:ke (Montreal, Canada).

Aaron Lakoff is a media maker, DJ, and community organizer from Montreal. He is the Communications and Media Lead for Independent Jewish Voices Canada.

Ami Weintraub is a Jewish educator and anarchist living in Pittsburgh. They help organize Ratzon: Center for Healing and Resistance, a place for queer folks, youths, Jewish folks, and those from marginalized backgrounds to mend their jagged edges.

Malcah is an Ashkenazi Jewish anarchist living in waspy Kingston, Canada, occupied Haudenausonee and Anishinaabe land. She has been active within locally based antiauthoritarian projects for the last fifteen years.

Shoni is an anarchist Jewish representative of Neptune on earth.

Avi is a klezmer purveyor committed to yiddishkeit, anarchism, and cooking for community. He lives in Montreal on unceded Kanien’kehá:ka & Anishnabe territory.

NOTE: If you currently send the updates to Steve Martinez, please stop, as he was recently released.

Here’s the latest compilation of every other week updates: https://nycabc.files.wordpress.com/2021/05/updates-4-may-2021.pdf

NYC ABC, along with several other individuals and prisoner support crews, now send hard copies to all political prisoners and prisoners of war we support.

If you consistently mail the latest updates to a specific prisoner, please let us know so we can insure there’s no overlap. The goal is to have copies sent to all of the prisoners we list.

We’ve also been told that some prisoners are not receiving the copies sent in, yet we aren’t getting rejection notices. If you are in steady contact with a prisoner, please ask them whether or not they are receiving the updates and let us know.

Free ’em all,

NYC ABC

One part of NYC ABC‘s every-other-week Political Prisoner Letter-Writing event is presenting updates and announcements. These typically relate to or are written by PPs and/or POWs. Since February 2011, they’ve been printing and mailing hard copies of the updates and announcements to about a dozen imprisoned comrades.

In April 2013, along with other collectives and individuals, they expanded printing and mailing to include all U.S. held political prisoners and prisoners of war. As of September, 2014, that work has diffused over several support crews, collectives, and individuals.

Please download and mail the current edition to prisoners with whom you correspond and share links with those who might be interested in doing the same.

NYC ABC is an anarchist collective focused on supporting US-held political prisoners and prisoners of war and opposing state repression against revolutionary social justice movements. NYC ABC is a Support Group of the Anarchist Black Cross Federation. More information available at https://nycabc.wordpress.com

— NYC ABC Post Office Box 110034 Brooklyn, New York 11211 nycabc[at]riseup[dot]nethttps://nycabc.wordpress.comhttps://www.facebook.com/nycabchttps://twitter.com/nycabchttps://www.instagram.com/nycabchttps://www.paypal.me/nycabchttp://www.abcf.net/nycFree all Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War! For the Abolition of State Repression and Domination!

Every year, activists and militants from the Historical Materialism network organize The Great Transition/La Grande Transition conference. While it still can’t be held in person this year, due to COVID-19, the silver lining is that all the panels will be available online, around the world, free of charge! One of our authors, Torkil Lauesen, will be speaking on a panel titled “The time for new global organizations to confront global capitalism?”

Here’s how the organizers describe this year’s theme:

One of the deepest political lessons of our times is that the radical left is undergoing a crisis. We are currently unable to articulate a clear vision for the future. “Anti-capitalism”, “anti-racism”, “Change the system, not the climate”, “Another world is possible”: our vocabulary expresses a negative and defensive political impulse, underlining our incapacity to put forward a positive, inspiring project.

Now is the time to act. The multi-faceted crisis we are going through requires the creation of new utopias. This is why The Great Transition invites you to reflect on alternative models and new political strategies in tune with our current situation. Click here for further details about our conference themes.

This year, we will be presenting over twenty panels covering various themes such as radical internationalism, alternatives to platform capitalism, the political economy of disability and the democratization of unions. Our keynote speakers include Holly Lewis, Asad Haider, Robert Brenner and Arlene Inouye. The theme – Building Utopias – is all the more important today as we seek to imagine and build the world to come.

For more information: https://thegreattransition.net

We reached out to the creators of the True Cost of Coal rhyming narrative & activity book to learn more about the beautiful book and why they decided to make it.

What is the Beehive Design Collective?

The Beehive Collective is a collective of artists, activists, educators and organizers who work as word-to-image translators of complex global stories, shared with us through conversations with affected communities. We then share those images and stories with many communities in the form of graphic storytelling.

The True Cost of Coal: A Companion Rhyming Book is described as “a narrative companion to the True Cost of Coal graphic, created for a younger audience.” Can you start by telling us about the True Cost of Coal graphic: what is it and how did it come about?

Saku Bee: For a long time, Bees have talked about wanting to transform one of our posters into a colouring book aimed at younger audiences.  We decided that “The True Cost of Coal” poster was the prime candidate as its single narrative format makes it easier for younger audiences to understand than the more analytic posters that go into detail about the dynamics of globalization, like “MesoAmérica Resiste”. As a parent to a toddler, I was reading rhyming storybooks to our kid sometimes 10 times a day, and I got the cadence stuck in my head. That’s when I started to write the narrative of the True Cost of Coal to the cadence of a Dr. Seuss story. My partner, who is also a bee and a hiphop artist jumped in to help co-author. So, whenever I would get stuck in the rhyme, he was able to write the next many lines. After the first draft was done, we were able to send it to educators and ask for their edits and suggestions.

Can you describe this companion rhyming book for us a little bit?

Well, the rhyme itself has a cadence that is fun to read – no matter your age – and it takes you from the creation of coal, through the first peoples, colonization, industrialization, mechanization (the replacement of workers by machines), resistance, and the future that people in Appalachia hope for.

The final section is a colouring and activity book, that goes deeper into the terms and concepts of the main text. We talk about terms like colonization or even unions assuming the reader understands what these things are, which isn’t true for a younger audience… so this section explains these things and also has interactive activities so that the reader can think more deeply about these issues.

Why did you decide to create a companion book for younger audiences? What age range is it aimed at?

The age range is 9-99, as we think that adults will love this book as much as younger people. Rhyming books are typically marketed at 3-6 year olds, but we think that the topics might be too mature for an audience that young.

The book covers a lot of complicated and painful ground, from colonization and the Trail of Tears, to the labour movement and the Battle of Blair Mountain. Why do you think it’s important to make these ideas and histories accessible to younger people and what are some things you kept in mind when thinking about how to do that effectively and responsibly?

Younger audiences need more resources that teach about the history of colonialism, labour struggle, and grassroots resistance in an accessible way.  Parents and teachers we know are hungry for materials they can use to start these important conversations too.  Communicating responsibly with youth about this history can be challenging, so we use nature metaphors, and images that focus on the fighting spirit of the living rather than on sensationalizing the tragedies or using the violence and death for shock value.  We avoid creating narratives where any child will feel shame or guilt, but rather be inspired to fight for a better future. Youth are rising up against the climate catastrophe in inspiring ways worldwide, and we hope this book can be used to show how the climate chaos of today was paved with oppression and fought with fierce resistance. This was not the case of mere short-sightedness, but the result of a power dynamic that undermined the ability of local communities to determine their own fates. Once we understand this as historic fact, we can see ourselves as part of a struggle that has existed for generations.

Where can people buy a copy of The True Cost of Coal: A Companion Rhyming Book?

Through wonderful distributors like Kersplebedeb!   Get your copy here.

If you are a bookstore, distro, or educational institution who would like to order in bulk, please email us at [email protected] or visit our website at truecostofcoalbook.com

 

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