Genocide and Islamophobia stare us in the eyes
Genocide and Islamophobia stare us in the eyes
In this Filipino Heritage Month and Indigenous People’s Month
In the month of June, we join Filipino Canadians in celebrating Filipino Heritage Month – a time for taking pride of our history, culture, and contributions as an ethnic community. June is also Indigenous People’s Month, and we would like to think it is also the time that Indigenous people (IP) will celebrate their culture, identity, history and life as a community.
However, with the discovery of 215 children’s remains in Kamloops Residential School, and knowing about the nature of these schools which were designed to erase the identity, language and culture, not to mention community ties, of the Indigenous children, we cannot help but see the irony of this reality.
These children were taken away from their families and communities supposedly to be assimilated into Western ways, by erasing their culture. These schools were run by the Catholic Church and we don’t have to guess what religion these children were converted to. It is well known now that students in these schools suffered beatings even just by speaking their language, and subjected to sexual abuse, as attested by the testimonies of many survivors aired in Canadian television this past week.
We cannot help but sympathize and show solidarity with the IP as they seek justice and healing from the abuses of the residential school system funded by the Federal government and run by the Catholic Church. Now IP leaders are asking that the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission toward justice and healing be implemented seriously. They seek, among others, an apology from the Pope, for the role of the Catholic Church in the residential school system. We wonder if Filipino-Canadians, majority of whom are Catholics, would add their voices to this call.
There are issues our Filipino Indigenous communities share with the Indigenous peoples in Canada. In fact, the latter have supported the cause of the Indigenous peoples of the Philippines in their fight for their land being exploited for its rich resources by mining companies, resulting in their displacement, among others. Those who resist are imprisoned and some are even killed.
Schools established by the Lumad (IP) in southern Philippines, where children are taught their own history, heritage and culture, by educators among the Lumad community themselves, were destroyed by the Philippine state forces over accusations that these schools teach children how to rebel against the government.
As citizens of one of the most diverse countries in the world, we cannot look the other way when a group or groups of people are discriminated against and oppressed through a variety of ways because of their background, culture, religious and political beliefs. We cannot remain silent when discrimination and racism are directed against particular groups, as we have also been victims of these practices at one time or another. The least we can do when this happens is to sympathize with and show solidarity in the fight against discrimination and oppression.
The most recent case of a hate crime against a Muslim family out for a walk in their community, resulting in the death of four people and seriously injuring a little boy – the only survivor – cannot but affect us in a profound way. This was perpetrated by a 20-year old Canadian who used his vehicle to run over the family in a murderous rage, apparently driven by Islamophobia. We grieve for the family and we feel prompted to do what we can to express sympathy and extend solidarity in the fight against Islamophobia.
So many statements of support for the Muslim family were expressed by Canadian politicians of all parties and levels of government, condemning Islamophobia, when not too long ago, some of these politicians were denying its existence, Muslim leaders say.
What is needed now, among others, is for media to play its role in educating people on the residential school issue, and the fight against Islamophobia and other forms of racism and discrimination. These are issues that impact on us as Filipinos, for Muslims and IPs are among the members of our own community. These issues affect us not just as Filipino-Canadians, but as human beings.
Thus, The Philippine Reporter is publishing relevant articles and statements expressing the stand of various groups on these current issues. (See related stories: Pinoys in Canada express solidarity with Indigenous Peoples in Canada and Canada’s hypocrisy: Recognizing genocide except its own against Indigenous peoples)
Individuals are no less affected by these issues.
Here’s what Justin Abigail Yu, publisher of the magazine Living Hyphen, has to say about continuing anti-Indigenous violence and genocide:
“Justin Trudeau in his statement to the discovery of 215 Indigenous children on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia wrote, ‘The news that remains were found at the former Kamloops residential school breaks my heart – it is a painful reminder of that dark and shameful chapter of our country’s history.’
“When we continue to peddle the idea that this is a “chapter in our history”, we continue to violently harm Indigenous communities by invalidating, delegitimizing, and outright DENYING the ongoing and current violence that residential school survivors and their families must endure.
“The last residential school in Canada was closed in 1996. I was 7 years old then. I had just moved to a new school from Scarborough to Markham, struggling to fit in but finding my footing with a girl group while performing Spice Girls at recess. How many Indigenous children were robbed of that kind of simple and silly childhood that they deserved?
“Instead, Indigenous children were forcibly separated from their families by the Government of Canada with the explicit goal of “killing the Indian in the child.” These children were malnourished, molested, raped, and tortured in these schools, which were largely managed by the Catholic Church.
If you think this is the past, then you need to pick up Tanya Talaga’s Seven Fallen Feathers to understand just how the Indian Residential School System continues to impact not just survivors but their families. You need to understand how the Government of Canada continues to underfund schools on Indigenous reserves despite claiming to move towards “reconciliation”. You need to understand how Indigenous children, youth, women, girls, PEOPLE continue to die at the hands of this colonial government.
“And then you need to do something about it. Start with reading the Truth & Reconciliation’s Calls to Action (Google it) where Indigenous communities literally tell us what we can do. No more helplessness. The answers are there.
“This is not a history lesson. This is current affairs.”
Sixteen-year old Filipino-Canadian student, Naeema Ticzon Garcia, when approached by The Philippine Reporter to reflect how the recent event involving Islamophobia has affected her, writes:
“As a Filipina-Canadian Muslim, I grew up witnessing discrimination towards myself and others in the Muslim community my entire life. That is not something anyone deserves to experience simply because of his or her religion. The horrifying tragedy in London is a huge example of this. Uneducated individuals like Nathaniel Veltman cause unnecessary violence and harm upon innocent people like the Afzaal family everyday. The recent increase of hate crimes based on people of different religious backgrounds and ethnicity destroys lives, impacts families, and instills fear within community. Proper representation and spreading awareness in the media are so important for people to understand and recognize Islamophobia as a real problem that needs to be addressed.”
Thus, what matters now, in this month of June, Filipino Heritage Month, is for us to proudly commemorate our heroic struggle for independence, celebrate our culture and contributions to Canadian society, and express as well our support and solidarity with others — the Indigenous Peoples, the Muslim community — in putting an end to the oppressive institutions, systems and practices – residential schools and Islamophobia, among them — that destroy this country and its humanity.