As Canada readies to celebrate 150 years since Confederation, the National Farmers Union is putting its support behind Idle No More's "UNsettling Canada 150" call to action.
The Idle No More movement is calling for a national day of action in support of Indigenous self-determination over land, territories and resources on July 1 — the 150th anniversary of Confederation.
In a statement released this week, the NFU — a voluntary advocacy and support organization made up of Canadian farm families — called on the federal Liberal government to fully implement the calls to action laid out by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
It also expressed its support for Idle No More's demands for governments to resolve land-claim disputes and violations of treaty rights, and to "rein in extractive industries whose projects threaten the well-being of Indigenous peoples in their territories."
"We know as farmers that we need to be having difficult conversations about how we have come to the land on which we are farming," said Maureen Bostock, a member of the NFU's international program committee.
"We need to figure out how to move forward together, given that non-Indigenous farmers have benefited from access to lands acquired through deceitful, coercive or violent means."
Bostock is a vegetable farmer from Ontario who joined the NFU's recently established Indigenous solidarity working group.
The group was created to help NFU membership understand its shared history and build solidarity with Indigenous communities through policy work and activism.
"I farm on unceded Algonquin territory southwest of Ottawa. After I moved here I realized it was Algonquin territory — I was shocked to realize that the land was appropriated in the 1800s. The government had never sat down with the Algonquin people to sign a treaty. It's only the last few years that the land-claims process started in this area," said Bostock.
She said social justice is an important issue to the NFU and Indigenous sovereignty and treaty rights are among the most important social justice issues in Canada.
The NFU believes if it doesn't take up fighting for equality for Indigenous peoples, it would be a "betrayal" of its principals.
"Until we resolve inequity, until everyone has access to the same resources, and all of the injustices have been corrected and the land claims have been settled, our work is not done," said Bostock.
Dispels idea farmers against Indigenous people
One of the founders of Idle No More, Sylvia McAdam, called it a "huge step" for the NFU, which represents thousands of farmers across the country to show solidarity.
"This dispels the idea that farmers are against Indigenous people," said McAdam.
"For me, I'm extremely hopeful, grateful that more and more settlers, non-Indigenous peoples, and allies are recognizing that Indigenous peoples have legal jurisdiction and authority over our lands. This is truly inspiring. I hope that other organizations follow their lead."
A commonality between Indigenous people and farmers is the threat of climate change, said McAdam. Food sovereignty and Indigenous self-determination are also intertwined with climate change.
These are some of the many reasons why supporters of UNsettling Canada 150 won't be celebrating come July 1.
"How can there be a celebration when food sovereignty for Indigenous people is an issue?" asked McAdam.
"The water problems are ongoing. How can there be a celebration when Indigenous children still go hungry? … The fact that the treaties have not been honoured is another reason that Indigenous people are not celebrating Canada's 150."
There are a lot of hard truths to face about the history and consequences of settler-colonialism in Canada, said Bostock.
However, Bostock hopes shared beliefs between farmers and Indigenous groups around sustainability and environmental issues will help bring understanding.
"I think that's the basis on which the solidarity can be built. As we progress forward with the work that we are doing — how to build policy to address unresolved land claims, development on Indigenous lands … we need to work in solidarity with Indigenous peoples who are struggling to protect their lands and defend their rights."