'This could happen in Canada': Indigenous musician on Charlottesville

The violent events that unfolded in Charlottesville, Va., on the weekend are nothing new to Canada’s Indigenous community, says Ian Campeau of popular electronic powwow music group A Tribe Called Red.

Systemic racisms needs to be addressed here at home, A Tribe Called Red's Ian Campeau says

Ian Campeau wants Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to make addressing racism a top priority. (ATCR/Facebook)

The violent events that unfolded in Charlottesville, Va. on the weekend is a steady reality for Canada's Indigenous community, a First Nations musician says.

"It's funny how everybody seems to ask 'How did we get here?' Where did this [violence] come from?'" Ian Campeau of the popular electronic pow wow music group A Tribe Called Red, told CBC News.

"It stems from the idea of North America," the Ojibway from the Nipissing First Nation, Ont., said

"The idea of North America stems from white supremacy. You can't come and colonize people without thinking that you're superior to them. You can't come and commit genocide against Indigenous people and think that you're not superior to them. You can't create legislation that dictates their day-to-day life," he said, pointing to the Indian Act."

Tensions in Canada 'just as high'

Racism is lurking everywhere in Canada, especially against Indigenous people, and it's alive and well within governments, he said.   

Campeau says he wants Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to make addressing racism a top priority because people are dying every day over it while Canada is operating on a "giant pillar of racism."

Trudeau condemned racist violence and hate in all its forms via Twitter on Monday while acknowledging that Canada "isn't immune to racist violence and hate."

"It's funny that Justin Trudeau would use that language that he disavows the violence, yet he still hasn't gone and seen the kids that are killing themselves in remote communities.

"Why don't you [Trudeau] see that as racial violence? It's like the lives of Indigenous children don't matter to him. Systemic racism needs to be addressed as much as Nazis in rallies."

Over the last several months Campeau has been on the road promoting ATCR's latest album, We Are The Halluci Nation, and spending a lot of the time performing in the U.S.

Campeau believes the white supremacist movement helped vote President Donald Trump into office, and unleashed the recent acts of hatred that brought them out into the open.

He blames "the leadership of the country, starting with his [Trump's] blatant racism denouncing the acts of Mexicans and condemning them all as criminals and rapists and murderers. Knowing that if you were able to vote for that person, knowing he had these sentiments, you were actually voting supremacy."

He believes the racial tensions in Canada are just as high, referring to the murders of six Muslims killed in a terrorist attack in Quebec last January.

"Of course this could happen in Canada," Campeau said. "There's a lot of the same 'Unite the right' groups that were down in Charlottesville such as the Proud Boys. We had a mass shooting [here] that no one is talking about anymore."

'We need to call it out'

The problem stems from the colonization of the world and the doctrine of discovery, Campeau said.

Scrapping colonial laws and adopting an Indigenous world view that no race is greater than another will help reveal the many layers of racist ideologies, Campeau said.

"This isn't a political view. We need to call it out as we see it. These ideologies are [and always have been] violent," Campeau said.

Campeau uses his platform as a Juno award-winning artist with ATCR to address various social issues, and he suggests that confronting racism through social media is helping to disarm racist ideologies and bringing an awareness of the hatred faced by Indigenous communities.

"People hide behind this idea of free speech … but that doesn't mean that I can't confront them. If you hold people accountable to what they say and do it's very hard for them to argue their way out of it," Campeau said.


Brandi Morin, Métis, born and raised in Alberta, possesses a passion for telling Indigenous stories. Based outside Edmonton, Morin has lent her talents to several news organizations, including Indian Country Today Media Network and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network National News.