Canada 2017

'A future worth celebrating.' #150waysfwd calls on Canada to do better

Rudayna Bahubeshi and Justin Wiebe are not celebrating Canada 150 — but that doesn't mean they don't have high hopes for the future of all those who live here.

'We come from different communities that experience similar barriers.'

Toronto friends Rudayna Bahubeshi and Justin Wiebe want to share ideas from, and deepen relationships between, Indigenous and racialized communities. (Taha Muharuma)

Rudayna Bahubeshi and Justin Wiebe are not celebrating Canada 150 — but that doesn't mean they don't have high hopes for the future of all those who live here. 

Together the Toronto-based friends have launched 150 Ways Forward (#150waysfwd), a critical brainstorm powered by social media. With the help of like-minded peers from Indigenous and racialized communities, largely connected on Twitter, they are crowd-sourcing suggestions for beyond 2017. 

We caught up with them to discuss the results so far and how their personal identities factor in.

Note: their answers, submitted in writing, have been edited for length and clarity.

What's your main concern about the conversation around Canada 150?

We see a dangerous simplification of Canada's past and present in the conversation around Canada 150. 

The tone has been predominantly celebratory and speaks to a very particular experience on these lands; it erases those who can't access the resources and opportunities many associate with being Canadian.

So much public money and space has been devoted to celebrating a shared Canadian identity, but what does a shared identity or experience look like when many Indigenous communities can't access clean water, when Black students are systematically expelled from schools or when racialized immigrants face hiring discrimination? Meanwhile, many others live their lives without knowing about any of these or other issues. 

Indigenous, Black and People of Colour (POC) — especially those experiencing poverty, disabilities or sexuality/gender discrimination — are often erased and excluded from spaces and conversations. Alongside our communities we really want to help disrupt that.

How does your project, #150waysfwd, address these concerns?

Keri Cheechoo (@InkdWordSlinger) tweeted her suggestion from Ottawa. (Keri Cheechoo)

We want to put the celebration on hold and have a real conversation about what an equitable future and a future worth celebrating could look like. 

Our project is very explicit about centering Indigenous, Black and POC perspectives. For us this was critical because in the history of this country it is these peoples who have continually been oppressed and ignored.

We're inspired by the many activists and leaders who courageously wrote, spoke and took powerful actions to demonstrate why we need to expand the conversation on Canada's past and present and urgently address inequities perpetuated by colonialism.

People put themselves at risk to educate and call us all to account. Despite often being excluded, our communities continue to resist and create space for ourselves and others. We think it's critical this conversation and those efforts don't fall off people's radars.

Have you noticed any trends in the calls to action you've collected so far?

Janelle Pewapsconias (@ecoaborijanelle) sent her suggestion in from Saskatoon. (Janelle Pewapsconias)

The strongest trend we've noticed from people across the country is a recognition of ongoing injustices directed at Indigenous Peoples and a strong desire for Canada to do more in support of Indigenous Peoples.

Also, many calls to action show a deep commitment to equity and building solidarity between Indigenous and racialized communities. 150 Ways Forward emerged from this idea of solidarity.

Justin is Michif (Métis) born and raised on his homelands in Saskatoon. Rudayna is Black, Muslim and born to immigrants. We're friends and we both do work around city building and equity. We come from different communities that experience some similar barriers.

We have a desire to better connect our communities, deepen relationships and support one another.

Can you highlight a few of the suggestions you've gathered?

For you two personally, what does a future worth celebrating look like?

Tendisai Cromwell (@tendisai) shared her suggestion from Edmonton. (Leila Syed-Fatemi)

It looks like people being able to bring their full selves to their work, cities and any spaces they choose to occupy without fear of persecution on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, ability, sexuality, gender or economic positionality.

It's a future where Indigenous peoples are able to fully access their lands and resources and make decisions about those lands and resources.

It looks like Black, Indigenous and racialized people being able to thrive without the systemic barriers that often require them to be twice as skilled or lucky.

We want to see policy makers, leaders, decision-makers etc. not hesitate to name systemic racism. We want them to not only think about how we eradicate oppression from our current systems, but also explore economic restitution, intentional healing and the development of equitable new systems.

We have a desire to better connect our communities, deepen relationships and support one another.- Rudayna Bahubeshi and Justin Wiebe

We also believe that we need the leaders in our government, corporate and non-profit sectors to actually represent our population.

When Indigenous and racialized peoples are meaningfully represented and can bring both their expertise and lived experience to their leadership, we have a much greater potential to create a future truly worth celebrating.