Dear Senator Beyak,

You wrote an open letter recently in reaction to Prime Minister Trudeau’s announcement in regard to a second ministry working on Indigenous affairs. Many of the ideas of your letter are ideas we have heard before, as you admit, as part of the 1969 White Paper. You say the White Paper was simply ahead of its time, but rather I argue that perspective is outdated and has no place in Canadian society today.

You again raise issue with the portrayal of the residential school experience. You argue we are getting it wrong by believing there was incredible harm done to many, many Indigenous students, including physical, mental and emotional harm. You again say, that the early settlers were acting for the betterment of all. You are wrong. I am not a survivor, or an intergenerational survivor. But that does not mean I have not witnessed and been impacted by those harms.

I have heard women in my community speak of the fear they had when they heard government staff were looking to meet with the off-reserve Indigenous people in the area. I heard the stories about how they first hid, to allow themselves time to meet, because they feared the government was looking to send their children to residential schools. I’ve had friends talk to me about how their parents’ residential school experiences have fundamentally changed their own lives as intergenerational survivors. The settlers who implemented these policies and those that came before had one goal: the elimination of Indigenous people on Turtle Island. They did this for the land, the resources and the money.

You believe that Indigenous peoples in Canada do not have a right to be a nation within a nation, the right to self-determination, self-government or the right to their land. This is in contrast to what the Supreme Court of Canada has said in respect to Aboriginal title and rights. Do you doubt the Supreme Court of Canada, which has recognized Aboriginal title as well as inherent rights?

I acknowledge fully, that the current government approach to Indigenous affairs is not perfect. There are issues around inefficiency and bureaucracy impacting access to services and impacting the nation-to-nation relationship. But the White Paper is not the solution.

I will not sit idly while you suggest I relinquish my inherent rights to this land that stem from my ancestors being on this land since time immemorial. I will not sit idly while you suggest that Indigenous rights are the reason that remote areas have trouble attracting professionals. I will not sit idly while you suggest that a Status Card means that you are not a Canadian Citizen. I will not sit idly while you suggest that a payout is enough to satisfy our land claims.

Indigenous nations did not give up their rights to this land. Some signed treaties, the obligations in which Canada is not upholding. Some, like my own, have been petitioning the government for their land for generations, even longer than Canada itself has existed. These fights will not end, simply because you think it will be more efficient.

We and many other compassionate Canadians do want a solution. A solution which recognizes our inherent rights. We are not asking anyone to leave, we recognize that settlers are here and that we share this land. But it seems that you do not want to recognize that we were here first and have a right to this land.

Due to the fact that you choose to not recognize this fundamental fact of Canadian society, I request you take this as an opportunity to resign from your position as a senator, as in my opinion, this means you are not qualified to hold a position in which you have influence over the public policy of this society.

Sincerely,

Leslie Anne