How a Chippewa artist is tackling racism in downtown Toronto

A large billboard in downtown Toronto aims to educate Canadians about how Indigenous communities are funded and to connect with young people.

Artist Jay Soule rented a billboard at a prominent intersection to dispel myths about Indigenous Canadians

A billboard at Richmond and Spadina in downtown Toronto aims to educate people and dispel racist myths. (Supplied)

At a downtown Toronto intersection, the black and red words are bold and loud. 

"Money received by First Nations are not tax dollars," the billboard reads. "It is payment from land resources, treaty annuities, interest payments from a federally controlled trust fund." 

It's the work of Jay Soule, originally from Chippewas of the Thames First Nation who works as a multimedia artist in the city. Known as Chippewar, the billboard is his latest public art venture.

The billboard, posted at Richmond Street and Spadina Avenue, is Soule's response to what he calls an unfounded belief that tax payers fund First Nations communities. 

"I heard it five years ago when Idle No More was going on and I heard it again a few weeks ago after the acquittal of Gerard Stanley, that 'what we have to do is stop using tax dollars to pay for the Indians,'" Soule said. 
(CBC Arts)

"I want to dispel the myths about where money for Indigenous communities comes from because I believe misinformation feeds in systemic racism." 

Pop culture 'Indigenized'

Soule said he's had positive feedback about the billboard, which he paid for out of his own pocket to the tune of $1,600 for the month of April. 

"I did it for the Indigenous community, as a way of arming them with the right information, because for too long we've been buying into the misinformation and the lies through the school system and the media and the government policy, and we've started to believe the lies," Soule said. 

Soule said part of his motivation as an artist is to connect with Indigenous youth by using pop culture and public space.

"I take pop culture and Indigenize it as a way to speak to the youth," he said.

"The youth are the ones who will take care of us in the future, they'll be taking action, they're educating themselves and it's important to arm them with the right information."