The 180

We need decolonization before reconciliation, argues Ryan McMahon

Anishinaabe comedian and writer Ryan McMahon says Canada needs to get serious about talking about land and decolonization before reconciliation can be possible.
Ryan McMahon is the host of the Red Man Laughing podcast. (Ryan McMahon)

Anishinaabe comedian and writer Ryan McMahon has spent a lot of time talking and thinking about reconciliation this year. His podcast Red Man Laughing has devoted its fifth season to the topic, and he travels across the country holding workshops about reconciliation. 

During that process, he says he's noticed a large gap between the conversation about reconciliation happening in indigenous communities and the one happening in mainstream institutions. 

"I guess I'm shocked and a little frustrated with the level of [the mainstream] conversation being sort of like...a basic lifeskills program," says McMahon.

He argues that conversation too often focuses on kindness and understanding instead of asking hard questions about land, sovereignty, and treaty implementation. 

"I would argue that before reconciliation, we really need to look at decolonization," he says. "Decolonization starts with land. It starts with the question of land. Do indigenous people have the ability to live freely on and with relationship to the land, as we did prior to confederation? And the answer right now is no."

McMahon says true reconciliation will require Canadians to move beyond empathy and treaty acknowledgements and pursue systemic change. 

Click  the blue 'play' button to hear the interview.