Coffee outlet's Canada 150 message adds reminder about Indigenous history
'Canada is a great nation but we have to acknowledge some of our historical blemishes'
A Nova Scotia coffee co-operative is getting attention from coast to coast to coast for its message about Canada's Indigenous history.
Just Us! Coffee Roasters in Grand Pré, N.S., changed its billboard on Monday as a reminder of how long this land has been inhabited: "Canada 150. Mi'kma'ki 13,000."
Mi'kma'ki is the name given to the traditional territory of the Mi'kmaq people, which extends across modern-day Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, P.E.I. and the southern Gaspé Peninsula. Some believe it reached as far as Newfoundland and Maine.
While big celebrations are set to take place on July 1 to mark 150 years since Canada's Confederation, members of the Just Us! worker co-operative wanted to remember the history before 1867 as well.
'Canada is a great nation'
The sign was the brainchild of Av Singh, an agronomist and member of the worker co-operative.
"The sign was just to acknowledge that next week is National Aboriginal Day, and we want people to reflect on what that really means," Singh told CBC News.
"Canada is a great nation, but we have to acknowledge some of our historical blemishes, and one of the biggest ones is our treatment of Indigenous Peoples."
Just Us! general manager Joey Pittoello said the message has garnered an overwhelmingly positive response so far, and has been shared widely on social media.
"I had a Mi'kmaq woman call me from Moncton. She's never been to Just Us! but her main comment was, 'You guys rock.'
"She was happy to see this discussion."
'A vehicle for change'
Just Us! was founded in Nova Scotia as a social enterprise 20 years ago, buying directly from small-scale coffee farmers to give them a fair price for their product.
"The radical notion was that coffee can be used as a vehicle for change — personal and social transformation," Pittoello said. "It's neat to think that's what a sign can do, too."
Singh said Just Us! considers its four locations in Halifax, Wolfville and Grand Pré to be on Mi'kmaq territory, and while it pays taxes to the federal government, it does not charge sales tax to First Nations people.
"That's a treaty right we are acknowledging," he said. "Our interpretation is this is all Indigenous land."
Singh added he's happy to see the conversation the sign is generating online.
"It's overwhelming how many people are engaged around Canada 150 and realizing it's something more than just fireworks.
"It's a time to reflect and shift our paradigm around how we view our country."