Ryan McMahon's guide to Canada's colonial founding documents
by Ryan McMahon
This is your boy, Ryan McMahon, AKA, Captain Decolonization.
I didn't name myself. It's not a good look to give yourself a superhero nickname.
Instead, a listener from last week told me I was fighting a losing battle trying to prove Canada's colonial roots.
The email went on to say that if I were a superhero, my name would be Captain Decolonization and I would face my ultimate demise in a slow-sinking canoe, while battling Captain Canada and his robotic beaver sidekick, Robo Beave.
Every superhero needs his theme music
I'm going to digress here for a minute, just to be on the record.
I am a boy who grew up with comic books and I must say that if I were a native superhero here in Canada, I can think of much better names than Captain Decolonization.
How about: Nava-Hulk, or Spider-Clan Man, or Sioux-Per Man?
He's just a Sioux guy. His origin story is he was born Sioux and his superpower is he's Sioux.
So he's Sioux-Per Man.
Or how about Captain Native America?
Or best yet, Ryan Mc-Man.
He gets light-headed when he exercises too hard.
And when his truck gets stuck in a snow bank — and he's gotta push it out — he ends up with that deep lung burn.
That wheezy shallow breath? Where my chubby people at? You know what I'm saying.
He's an every-hero. Ryan Mc-Man, fighting his nemesis Lung Burn.
All right. Back to work.
Canadian Colonialism 101
So, as I said last week, I have my work cut out for me.
Last time, I tried to prove colonialism is even a thing in this country.
For some of you, it worked. For others, you still need convincing.
OK, let's say you don't entirely agree with me (I understand), but that you think I am on to something and you want to know more.
I got your back.
Let's just use the pre-existing documents, studies, inquests, etc. that have done ALL the heavy lifting for us.
These documents, processes, inquests and special departments have cost this country hundreds of millions of dollars.
Surely there is some good reading in here, right?
So, photocopy these documents, put them in your bathroom and every time you do your business, you'll get to know us just a little bit better.
These are the foundational documents you need to read to get to know this country.
Six of this country's foundational documents
Read The Indian Act. Seriously. It's hilarious.
It's a good place to start. You'll see the deep-seated racism shine through the text.
If it helps, imagine Kevin Spacey, Sir Ben Kingsley or Keanu Reeves dressed up in pre-confederation garb.
Close your eyes and imagine them reading it out loud!
You'll get a sense of the racist roots of this country.
You can read The White Paper, a terrible policy paper from 1969 that then Minister of Indian Affairs, Jean Chretien, proposed to eliminate Indian Status (and the rights therein), assimilate Indians into the body politic, and complete the wholesale theft of Indigenous lands and territories by adopting fee simple/private land ownership and extinguishing lands held in reserve.
You can dig into The Red Paper, or the Citizens Plus document, the groundbreaking document created by a group of great Indigenous thinkers, community leaders, philosophers and political leaders in 1970.
The document fundamentally outlines the opposition to colonial rule and the top-down approach Canada takes with Indigenous Peoples.
Here's the summary. It's a quick read.
You can read The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.
This is in reference to your Queen, Canada. It doesn't get much bigger than this — a ROYAL commission.
It's 4,000 pages long, but it essentially gives you the truth behind the country and provides a framework for a pathway forward.
Or maybe read The Kelowna Accord.
Again, it was an exhaustive effort to come to an agreement on a framework for moving forward within Canada.
Ultimately, Harper's conservative government squashed it and the opportunity was lost.
But it was a plan. It was a plan that Canadians forget exists when they talk about the impossibility of moving forward in 2017.
Thumb through UNDRIP.
The implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada would mean constitutional talks (which we need anyway, if we're going to make things right in Canada) and it'd essentially mean the end of the Big White Daddy attitude the government holds towards Indigenous peoples.
Indigenous peoples know there are answers.
I'm sharing these answers with you, today.
Ryan McMahon is an Anishinaabe filmmaker, writer, podcast host and comedian.