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Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair

Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair is an Anishinaabe writer, editor, and activist based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. And his credentials are very, very impressive when you consider Sinclair is also a public speaker and media commentator who was recently named to the “Power List” by Maclean’s magazine as one of the most influential individuals in Canada. He has helped organized Idle No More Winnipeg events and he frequently speaks on Indigenous issues on CTV, CBC and APTN. In 2018, he won Canadian Columnist of the Year at the National Newspaper Awards for his bi-weekly columns in The Winnipeg Free Press and is a featured member of the “Power Panel” on CBC’s Power & Politics. Sinclair won the 2019 Peace Educator of the Year from the Peace and Justice Studies Association based at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. He was also previously named one of Monocle Magazine’s “Canada’s Top 20 Most Influential People.”

He is also one half of the very entertaining and informative podcast Niigaan and the Lone Ranger (Winnipeg Free Press reporter Dan Lett being the other half) and in this episode of Humans, on Rights we talked about how Canada Day should be viewed through the lens of reconciliation. And Niigaan confirmed that parts of Canada Day will still feature the old style maple surypy sweet experience.

Episode Transcript:

Stuart Murray 00:00

This podcast was recorded on the ancestral lands on Treaty One Territory, their traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota and the Dene peoples and on the homeland of the Métis nation.

Amanda Logan (Voiceover) 00:19

This is Humans on Rights, a podcast advocating for the education of human rights. Here's your host, Stuart Murray.

Stuart Murray 00:30

Saturday July 1, 2023, will mark the 156th anniversary of Canada. Why anniversary and not birthday? Because as my guest will remind all of us that there were people in Canada long before 1867. One year ago, the Forks indicated that it had done a lot of consultations in the community with the idea that they were going to change the focus of Canada Day and look at the importance of how Canada Day would involve reconciliation. There would be lots of events celebration, storytelling, food trucks, entertainment for the entire family, but there would be no planned fireworks. Well, the headlines in some of the local media said different. Merrill Hopeful former Liberal MP pan reimagined Canada Day plans at the Forks. Landmark Winnipeg Canada Day celebration rebranding New Day at the Forks draws mixed response. My guest today has a great history in a lot of things. He's a indigenous curator at the Forks he's a friend, but I want to welcome to humans on rights Niigaan Sinclair, welcome.

Niigaan Sinclair 01:43

Hey, Stuart, nice to be here. Thanks for having me.

Stuart Murray 01:46

Let me just put a little bit of background on who you are. I mean, you're extremely well known Egon. But I think it's important that people know that you got Sinclair's initial Nabi St. Peter's little Pegasus and an assistant professor at the University of Manitoba. He is a regular commentator on indigenous issues and others on national CTV national CBC a PTN. And I know he's got to run to an interview there shortly. He writes for The Globe and Mail The Guardian and has a regular column in the Winnipeg Free Press. In addition to that he and his colleague Dan let share their views on a podcast called neon and the Lone Ranger where they talk politics, culture and media from the geopolitical center of Canada. And Ground Zero is the debate over indigenous reconciliation. And we won't get into any talk about reasons which I listened to on your last podcast, by the way. Niigaan, one of the things is, I know you're a proud father. And I know we're going to talk about Canada Day celebrations from an indigenous perspective. But I was actually quite impressed that I read that you had done an interview about being a champion dad, and you were very personal about some of your history. I know you're a father, and you and I have talked about that. Just to put it into perspective for who people might not know a little bit about you from that side, what was important for you to do that conversation about being a champion Dad?

Niigaan Sinclair 03:06

That's an organization, I think in Ontario, it's the International Association of fathers or something like that. And they chose me as the dad highlight of the month or something like that, or, but I've been, for a long time, been involved in studies of sort of manhood or masculinity or, or perspectives of male identity. And I was involved in a project a few years ago, it was by Tessa Lloyd. And there's a book called 40 Fathers. And what they did was they picked 40 fathers across Canada, people like Justin Trudeau, Brett Hart, the wrestler, hockey players, business people, doctors, lawyers, teachers, so on, and I was picked to be one of the fathers in that 40 Fathers book. It was tremendously well received, and anyone who's interested can go check it out. I'm really proud to be part of that book. It's by Douglas McIntyre, and put out in 2019. And that sort of got me in this realm of- on the circuit talking about fatherhood. And since then, I've spoken to a number of groups across the country on what it's like to be an indigenous father, and how I myself have had a very complicated relationship with my dad, most people would know my father, Senator Murray Sinclair, but he had a very complicated relationship with his father, who was Henry Sinclair, who was my grandfather, who I had a fantastic relationship with, but he did not. And so I think that's very much kind of a indigenous male thing, that we have complicated relationships with our fathers and our uncles. And so I talk a lot about that, and how trying to be a father is one of the most revolutionary acts for us as indigenous people.

Stuart Murray 04:54

Yeah. And I think the fact that you, you had a daughter, you've got a daughter Sarah, and you talk about that in this article. I think it's one of those areas, Niigaan, that we see you on national TV, you're well well known. And I think that what you bring to the conversation on reconciliation is sometimes controversial. But you know, you always speak from the heart. And I thought that this article was exactly that. I mean, they're talking about a father. And so I just thought it was interesting to share a little bit about you that some people may or may not know, that see you simply as that- kind of that- I'll just say, the "TV star," I put that in air quotes, because, you know, just so you're aware of that.

Niigaan Sinclair 05:32

I'm not sure about TV star. But I would say that for my daughter, she would just see me as the guy that's wrong all the time.

Stuart Murray 05:39

Yeah, well, yeah, for sure.

Niigaan Sinclair 05:40

Happens if you have a 17 year old.

Stuart Murray 05:42

Yeah, I hear you loud and clear on that. So it's fantastic. Niigaan, what I did want to just spend some time with you was talking about the fact that as somebody who has been an indigenous curator at the Forks, and you know, for example, I thought it was amazing when you were involved in raising lodge at the Forks, I went down there, and I was part of watching you through that ceremony. Your passion, your knowledge that you're trying to bring forward for other people. I mean, despite the fact that you are the son of the chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, I mean, that's interesting. But that's not really why you are who you are. You have embraced something that is very, very special. When I was the inaugural president, CEO of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, you taught us so much, you taught us more than you can imagine. And one of the reasons that I think our relationship has established itself the way it is, Niigaan, is that you were patient. And the conversation I want to have with you is around this Canada Day celebration, I mean typically, you know, it's been lots of, you know, yahoo, Canadian flags, the booze is flowing. There's lots of music. And of course, the culmination has always been this magical fireworks that everybody oohs and awws about. I mean, fireworks are fireworks, but they cause a lot of ooh-ing and aww-ing. But the notion, and I think this is something that the Forks has done, is they've spent time in the community. And there's been indigenous led community consultations to say, when we look at Canada Day, and I think it's one of the things again, that I learned from you and other elders is to say that Canada Day for everybody is not about a celebration. I mean, it's an acknowledgement, but it's not necessarily a celebration. How would you like people, Niigaan, to come down to the Forks, and when they leave to go home, and share the ride home with their family, how would you like them to experience Canada Day from the point of view of reconciliation?

Niigaan Sinclair 07:40

So that's about eight questions in one question. So...

Stuart Murray 07:43

I've only got you for so many minutes, so I figured I'd sort of rattle them off.

Niigaan Sinclair 07:47

I'll try to address at least half of them anyways. So the first thing I'd say is what you said at the beginning, which is that the talk around the lodge at the Forks, what we call the wigwam, or at a place called Nijio Si Bin, which was on the- what they used to call the south point of the Forks, right across the bridge, you actually can't access that right now because of the construction that the bridge is on, and probably will be for the remainder of the year. But the lodge on that side, which is something that we established as a part of a multi phase project with Indigenous artists and ceremonial people and is continuing to be undergone- there's still a third phase to do in that development- comes from former CEO Paul Jordan. And now the management at the Forks, you know, put Claire McKay. And so all the different people who really committed for years to make sure that that would be indigenous space, including Mary Rashard, and the Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg for a very long period of time. There's a long history there, but the important thing to know is that that lodge is the first urban, permanent lodge that's been in Winnipeg in over 150 years. Winnipeg used to be the site, or what we now know as Winnipeg, was the site of an indigenous city called Nestaweya. And underneath the concrete is still the remnants of that city. Still the evidence of the occupation of that site we now call the Forks. But indigenous peoples referred to it as Nestaweya, we think of that space as three points. That's what that word Nestaweya means, three points. People came from three directions to be there. They came from the north, the Cree people from Lake Winnipeg, from the south on the Red River for the Anishnaabe people. And from the west. That was the Dakota, the Lakota and Dakota people, who then came in and occupied in that site permanently for 1000s of years. And so there's lots of history there. And I don't want to get into too much about that. But- but the Forks has always been indigenous space. And that's the key thing, I think, for listeners to hear, which is that as a result, the Forks has, for many years, not lived up to that responsibility of talking about what it means to be in a unique relationship with indigenous peoples, because it's a very popular space to talk about the rail yards, you know, what has happened since colonisation and the use of the train line that came into Winnipeg, which then connected the east and west of Canada. The first steps of Confederation are right here on treaty one in Winnipeg. And so we do a very good job telling that story, about the kind of steps of Manitoba in Canada's march towards the west, post 1867. And so there's lots of really interesting things that happened here, just footsteps from where the Forks is, is upper Fort Garry, which is, of course, the site not just of some of the first settlement in Manitoba- it's not actually the first site, the first fort. That's Fort Gibraltar, which is just down, down where the Forks is. That was a flooded out territory that indigenous people were told- telling non Indigenous peoples, don't put a fort there, because you'll flood out and, and of course, they didn't listen to them. So. So the upper Fork area is what everybody kind of hears about. But of course, that's also the site in which the Metis made a stand, in which they created the Provisional Government, took control of this area, and then basically declared Manitoba as a separate state. And it was only through the Manitoba act a few years later that Manitoba enters Confederation in 1870. And so there is such a rich history in the Forks. We don't tell much of that story. We haven't told that story until very recently. And so in 2021, when in Kamloops the 215 graves, or anomalies that suggest graves, were at that former residential school site. Canada changed on that day. It was changing for a long time, but that was the tipping point in many different ways. Because what it was is, it was bringing to light forgotten children, children that had died at residential schools, many of whom questions of where the- where they had gone to came from communities. And so you saw a cacophony, a huge response of, what do we do about this story? How do we tell the story of Canada? And if you remember what happened only a few nights later, the Winnipeg Jets were playing the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The second round, there was much interest and engagement between these two Canadian teams who hadn't faced each other in the playoffs before, but you couldn't sing Oh, Canada the same way that night. And the Winnipeg Jets took it upon themselves to say that we understand that when there are children who we are searching for, and they are all of our children. They're not just indigenous children, they're all of our children, you would never start to say, well, those children over there, who gives a care about them, because they're indigenous. They're our children. They're all of our children. And what happened in this country is the result of indigenous and non Indigenous peoples, good, bad, great, ugly, it's because the residential school legacy of the deaths that happened at those schools is very much coming from that relationship. And so the Winnipeg Jets asked Don Amero to sing Oh, Canada in a very different way. And it was a very beautiful way of recognizing that moment. And that's what the Forks picked up upon. For a long time, the Forks during the pandemic had shifted its operations and shifted its work. And as curator of the Forks, indigenous curation of the Forks history and culture. I've been involved for a very long period of time of a real change at the forks to honor the history of Nestaweya, history of indigenous peoples, and to talk about the Forks as it always should have been, which is a meeting place, a place in which people from all different communities, but in particular, indigenous and non Indigenous peoples have come together to build families and relationships and trade stories and families and eventually live according to treaty, the hope would be. And so simply put, having a maple syrupy, sweet fireworks display is not good enough. It doesn't tell enough of a story. Should we be celebrating Canada and all of its amazingness? Absolutely, we should talk about the amazing things that have happened in Manitoba. We should talk about the fact that we have been tremendous contributors to Canada's economy. Should we be talking about the amazing things Canadians have done, like Romeo Delaire or Sidney Crosby or Nellie McClung, or, you know, should we be talking about all those things? Absolutely. Like, no one is ever saying, let's not do that, no one has ever said we're going to cancel Canada Day. In fact, the Forks has never done that. Following the 215 grave sites or anomalies that suggests gravesites of Kamloops. We held a video- of course he was in the pandemic, so we couldn't get people to Forks anyways- But we held- we did a video with a display involving musicians, some of them indigenous, some of the Manitoba and some of them just Canadian. And we had- I was the host of that. And we did a video, at the lodge at the Forks, basically walking people through the history of what was happening in that space. And it was to great fanfare, great response. And what the Forks did the following year in 2022 is hold a- after community consultations, have a conversation with the community of, how do you want Canada Day to look? And that's where we got into a conversation around fireworks. And people said, well, fireworks would distract from some really important conversations that need to take place. And we've done fireworks very well for decades. It's not that we've said we're going to ban fireworks forever. In fact, if you hear what this year's display is, it's very much in the vein of fireworks. But in the past, we've done that very well, let's tell a story that will add to that narrative, but will build a more fuller and thorough understanding of Canada. And that's what last year was all about: about conversation, about exposure, about experiencing different elements of Canada, people from LGBT communities, indigenous communities, other marginalized communities, immigrants, which is really the story of Canada. It is crucially, importantly, the story of Canada, you just have to go to the- as you know, the Museum of Human Rights, or just walk around the Forks at any time of the day. You'll see that most of the communities there are immigrants, indigenous peoples, LGBTQ people. It's not just white people from Charleswood, and from Tuxedo and, you know, British and French people. We're talking about people from all different walks of life. And we have to talk about everybody. We can't just talk about the maple syrupy sweetness of what happened, we should, and we do. Any flag that flies knows that if anyone wants to talk about freedom, I mean, there it is. You don't have to worry about it, it's there. But we also tell stories that also involve everybody, that don't just focus on one group of people, or one very small segment of popu- of the population, who have benefited very well, by colonization and by violence. And we need to talk about colonization and violence, too, and that's what- that makes Canada Day, much richer, much fuller. And it's truly what Canada is all about. It's not to shy away. In fact, it's to be an adult. And that's what Canada Day will be this year, which is an adult event, something to bring your family to, that you can be proud of. Not something that only tells a very small segment, and, frankly, obscures much more than it tells. Yeah, I mean, you know, you answered eight questions very, very succinctly, Niigaan, thank you for that. I was gonna ask you, you made a comment. I just want to sort of back up for a second, and I'd love you to sort of unpack this for a second. You talked about, "hopefully live according to treaty." What do you mean by that? Treaty was supposed to be about sharing. Treaty was supposed to be about living together. Treaty was supposed to be about being brother and sister treaty was not supposed to be about take one group of people, lock them in the closet, and make sure they can never get out, and then treat them terribly and take away their children and teach them everything about the closet sucks. No one would have agreed to that, like treaty was not a land purchase agreement. Even though Canada treats treaties as land purchase agreements, treaties were supposed to be about agreements, living together, deciding that we're going to co-govern this place together. If we were to truly live according to treaty, we would share a government, we would share resources and all the profit of this place, and we would make decisions together. But unfortunately, that's not the way it goes, is it? The way that it goes is, is that we still have people who are locked in closets or, or people who are mistreated badly, people who have certain policies and laws in place to make sure that they absolutely never do anything other than end up with in a tent, living in the downtown of Winnipeg. That's an intention that Canada has always been a part of, and has undermined treaties, exploited treaties, to do that. My vision in my lifetime, if I can ever get to a point- and I like to think that, frankly, you and I are an example of treaty, there's a million reasons for you and I not to get along. And there's a million reasons for you and I to never be friends. Namely, we come from very different backgrounds, we come from very different languages, very different experiences. There's a million reasons that you and I should have never met. But we did. And I'm very happy to call you not just a friend, but also I think of you as a relative, I think of you as as someone because we've spent time together, we've laughed, we've cried together, we've- we've laughed together. And most importantly, that's what treaty is. Treaty is about sharing that relationship in a space with another person who's very different than you, but that you both see each other as partners, as family, as people who can share things together, and that- if I- I know that if you ever needed help, like to come on a podcast, I would answer that in seconds.

Stuart Murray 19:43

Which you did.

Niigaan Sinclair 19:44

And I know that if I needed help, which I have in the past, I can call you and you would be there for me. In fact, you've been sitting on my back deck, and we've had conversations about some really tough stuff. That's what our treaty relationship looks like, it looks like people respecting and honoring and sharing, making sure that we both have houses, or roofs that we can live under, making sure we both have food we can eat and medicines that can heal our bodies. And the most important thing of treaty is that I know that if something were to happen to me, and nobody would be there to take care of my daughter, that you would do it, and that I would do the same for you.

Stuart Murray 20:25

Yeah, yeah.

Niigaan Sinclair 20:26

That our children will be cared for, and they'll never be alone. And that's what treaty is all about.

Stuart Murray 20:30

And Niigaan, I love the explanation. And I've had the fortune probably from, from conversations with you- you know, I've had the opportunity to read a treaty. And I don't understand why it's not part of our curriculum. You know, every child in school should read a treaty, because it's exactly what you said, it is not even a long document. It is a very, very simple, focused document that talks about sharing. And I just find that, you know, everybody seems to want to back up, and nobody wants to really just take a moment to understand what that is. And I've had this, I guess, concern about the issue around Idle No More. When the Idle No More movement started. I looked at that and just said, you know, they may be disruptive, but they're disruptive for a reason. They're asking people to understand that one signatory to this agreement, of which there are two people on the signatory, has lived up to their expectations, and that is most First Nations. But the other side of it, the government, and sometimes the crown, who signed it, who have been able to sort of take all of the elements out of the ground and become very, very successful, have not lived up to what it is, that you very succinctly said, is a sharing relationship. And so I think, you know, that notion that we should simply understand what treaties are is something that every Canadian citizen should have in front of them.

Niigaan Sinclair 21:50

I mean, treaty is ultimately about responsibility. And that, in many ways, First Nations have very much lived up to our responsibilities. We've recognized Canada, we recognize the crown. We've also recognized that those who have joined our territories have needed help along the way, and we've been there to help them. We've also recognized Canadian law, we recognize the Constitution. Every time that you see indigenous peoples being peaceful, and marching or having demonstration, what that actually is, is a treaty obligation, because what it does is it's showing that indigenous peoples are peaceful. Like, we're not out there shooting anybody, blowing up any building, or flipping a car and lighting it on fire. I asked the question is, in social action movements across the world, what happens when people feel disenfranchised, marginalized or oppressed? It's usually a lot of violence. Look at the ways in which the southern United States looks, or Palestine, or in Africa or in Asia. Indigenous peoples consistently and continually recognize the rule of law, and recognize the power and importance of peace in this place, and very much are fulfilling their obligation of what that means to be a treaty person, to listen, and to care for, and to be kind. I would say that the government and Canadians in support of that government, who support SWAT teams with AK-47s being sent to meet indigenous peoples being peaceful, may not always be the kind of message that Canada purports itself to be. And most importantly, it's certainly not living treaty. Treaties is supposed to be about people respecting and honoring one another. And I think when I saw Idle No More, Idle No More was the peace- most peaceful social action movement in history, other than maybe the civil rights movement, and it was about peace. It was about justice. It was about round dances at a mall. And when we talk back to the Forks for a second, we are going to see a revolution this year, with the amazing work of what the Forks has done. And they've taken upon themselves to take a lot of advice, but most importantly, hire people like Jade Harper, who's come in to, to oversee the work of Canada Day this year, who's an amazing Cree woman who works in performance, she works in music, he works in film, and she this year is helping curate an exhibit in a day that will have beautiful things in the sky that will resemble fireworks, but will teach us about Cree constellations, and will teach us about, what does it mean to be a Canadian? And, most importantly, there will be the same old maple syrupy sweetness stuff, you'll be able to get a Beavertail, or get a ice cream, or- you'll be able to get all of those things that crucially, and importantly, are a part of Canada's celebration of itself. But you'll also get a message of inclusion that Canada purports itself to be. Oh, and by the way, multiculturalism, democracy, health care are all things indigenous peoples invested- invented in this country anyways, it wasn't Europeans that invented any of those things. They learned those things from indigenous peoples, and then helped make a country as a result. Indigenous peoples have always had the opinion that the community is as important if not more so than the individual. And that's where you get democracy, health care, multiculturalism, free speech. And so these are the things that we want to celebrate on Canada Day. And so naturally, you want to put indigenous peoples right at the forefront with British and French people. Yeah, a couple quick s- before I know you've got an off ramp here, I just was curious to see, as you look at all of the things that you've been involved in, and the number of times you're asked to speak across Canada, on a number of issues, particularly around reconciliation, your experience. Has your view of our red and white Maple Leaf flag changed in any way? it's really hard to see that maple leaf in the same way coming out of the pandemic. Pandemic was a very complicated time for all of us. And when we think about it, in terms of vaccine mandates, and then the so called Freedom Convoy movement, and all this things that people have put into the flag that have involved a lot of people's rights. I think that's an important story of Canada, you can't deny that there is a an important segment of the country that thinks of the flag in ways that I may not think of it. And the part about freedom of speech and democracy is that everybody's opinion matters. And since that's an indigenous ideal, that's not a British and French thing that they brought here. It's something that indigenous peoples brought to British and French people, the idea that the community and all the different opinions within it matter. I recognize and respect that there are certain views around the flag that are tied up with freedom and vaccine and tied up with, I think, some- some very one dimensional views around race and, and sexuality and one dimensional views around rights. That are... I don't agree with, but at the same time, I respect it. And I've listened to these views. I've researched these views. I've commented on these views. But at the same time, I think when we only talk about rights, we never talk about responsibilities. And Canada is far more about responsibilities, because it's the treaties that built Canada, not the king's declaration in 1763, that I have a right to claim everything. That's the royal proclamation, which Canada then made law in 1867. And just because Canada says that the king was right doesn't mean the king was right, that maybe there's another story of Canada that we share, and that we are a community that we are a place that everybody is welcome here. And to truly be about freedom means that you are also have the freedom to listen, and the freedom to have responsibilities to others. And that it's not just about one person declaring I have a right to do this. But saying that I have a responsibility to be a part of a community. And I actually think that's the most Canadian message of all, which is that if we are to live according to the very words of the national anthem, the very values we purport to represent ourselves, the very words that we teach children from kindergarten onward, about what it means to be Canadian, it means to care about your neighbor. And that means that we have responsibilities that guide us. And the most important responsibility is that there were people here before British and French people, and that welcomed those British and French people in and taught them everything that they need to know. And most importantly, all of those people are still here, alongside British and French people and all the other communities that have come to this place, and that we have an obligation to everybody, to all of our neighbors, in that we tell the story of everyone. I want that to be the story of Canada, not just a story about a couple people in their rights.

Stuart Murray 28:35

Yeah. And it's- so, Niigaan, if you had the opportunity, say you got a call from the Buckingham Palace and said the new King, King Charles, he would like you to give your advice as to what he should do with respect to his next visit as king to Canada, with respect to the issue around reconciliation. And as the Pope Francis indicated, this genocide that's taking place in Canada. What would you tell the king?

Niigaan Sinclair 29:02

First off, I would be in shock that the king would be calling me, but anyway.

Stuart Murray 29:05

Wait for it, my friend, wait for it.

Niigaan Sinclair 29:09

Here's what I would say. I actually- King Charles is pretty progressive. I would say that in many ways, we probably have the most progressive monarch in history at the moment. And so you know, the king has shown much interest and support for indigenous peoples in the country, unlike his mother, and unlike for previous monarchs to that. Very much, his mother treated indigenous peoples as a photo op, and didn't listen to the numerous times that indigenous people said, please help. Please engage, please assist us. And that King Charles, from the very first moment of his coronation, met with indigenous leaders. He had a special meeting with them. That tells you I think a lot that this king- most people who feel badly about the monarch and, and the, you know, the way the monarchy is in Canada and so on. I would say that you know, this king deserves a little bit of time to see- let's see how he does. I'm not as excited as perhaps others to say- you know, if we throw out the monarchy, we'd have to renegotiate the treaties. If we throw out the monarchy, all land reverts back to indigenous peoples. I'm excited to see that. But I don't think everybody's excited to see that. And I think that there would be a lot of confusion and conflict. And at the moment, I'm interested in peace and collaboration and dialogue. And so there's some that I think would love anarchy, on all sides of the political spectrum. But if the king called me, what I would say was, is that your job is to listen. And when your job is to listen then to act, and you brought up Pope Francis. One of the most remarkable things about Pope Francis is during the visit that he took last summer, and we're coming up to the one year anniversary shortly, he didn't just apologize. He actually listened. And the evidence of that in the things that he did, both at the end of his trip, and subsequently since, recognizing genocide, telling all the priests in Canada that indigenous cultures is showing the presence of God. He did that in Quebec City. The subsequent repudiation of the doctrine of discovery, which he didn't have to do, in fact, many popes have done it before him. He's not- he's like the 14th or so Pope to repudiate the doctrine. But he did it again, because he saw that it was important to indigenous peoples, he saw the banners that were being shown during his visit. And I would say to the king, do the same thing. It is your obligation to recognize your subjects, but then most importantly, to recognize the impact and power that you have. And when you listen, you'll realize that it is important for indigenous peoples that you acknowledge the harms that have taken place. The evidence of that is in the recent installation, or reinstallation of his mother's statue at the Manitoba Legislature and the fact that people are still very angry. People still see the monarchy as very draconian and very controlling, and very oppressive. And before we can put up any statues, or begin to talk about reconciliation with the monarchy, we have to have a king that shows kindness and that listens, and that takes action. And I think there's 100 things that the monarch can do to help guide and support Canada, in its pursuance of indigenous rights, or in the return of stolen land or, or the fact that the crown still has an obligation to help move Canada to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery, as just a few of the steps that that monarch can take. So I would say that listen, and once you listen, take action.

Stuart Murray 32:27

And I'm gonna ask you about your father, and we're going to really wrap this up, Niigaan, but one thing I do find is that, when I listen to you, and I've heard you make many speeches at different events, and you're- the way you sort of present is, you're quite focused on the real issues in front of us. And some people don't want to hear that. And you can kind of get a sense of some uncomfort when you talk about, as you did, when first nations are protesting peacefully and along comes, you know, these AK-47s and these dark helmets, and why is it that they have guns, and we're simply here, peacefully trying to make our point? I always sort of get a sense that regardless of how pointed you are, and I go back to your article, your column today in the Winnipeg Free Press, where you talk about celebrating today, working for more victories tomorrow. You've always been somebody that I think has been full of hope. Do you think that there's hope in terms of where we are on 94 calls to action?

Niigaan Sinclair 33:20

I see hope every day, I wouldn't be doing this work unless I had hope. If I didn't have hope, I would be out for myself. I would make as- as much money as possible, and then go find a bunker somewhere. And- because I think that there's many reasons to think that this world is going to a terrible place. And we continue to operate an economy as if we have no sense that there's climate change happening, that there's finite resources, that eventually people are going to war over water. And we act as though that's not about to happen. But we have much to do, and we have much more that we can do. And most importantly, we all have an obligation. We have an obligation to our children first and foremost. And not just- when I say our children, I'm not just talking about my biological children, I'm talking about your children. Like when I go to a school, and one of my favorite things that I do is go to elementary schools, I call every single kid my niece and nephew. Every single one of them, because I don't care if they're from Iraq, or if they're from the Philippines, or if they're from Britain, or they're from Canada, from multiple generations of being here. Every single one of them, I have an obligation, I have an obligation to make their lives a little bit better. That's what an uncle does. That's what a person does. And so when I'm out there and by- you bring up protests at Portage and Main, I brought that up earlier, though think about Portage and Main so called protests or marches is they never last. Notice that there has never been- that's not quite true. But for the most part, there's very rarely ever been an indigenous occupation or protest, or march- if we call it those things, usually it's just a celebration- that has disrupted and harmed people. Usually they are temporary. They're about trying to remind people that we are here. And then most importantly, to pass on a message of hope, to say, we need to all think of the earth here and think of the water and, and think of the fact that there are people who are being harmed for literally standing on their own territory. I mean, if we look at the latest one around the Wet'suweten as an example, I mean, these are people who want their own traditional governments recognized, they're standing on their very own land, and they are standing on an area that their ancestors are buried, and they're saying, Please don't build a pipeline over them, please don't create a project that will destroy the lives of the caribou, because those are our relatives. And please, don't recognize governments that we didn't recognize, that aren't made from us. They're made from an Indian Act. That's what the Wet'suweten- so when people are at Portage and Main talking about the Wet'suweten, what they're really talking about is, let's treat people like human beings. Let's everybody treat people like human beings. And so- and they never, they don't, they don't harm anybody. They don't sit there for four months, and paralyze Winnipeg, although absolutely they could. Sometimes there are some people who invest themselves in that, but for the most part, indigenous peoples are very much invested in, let's live together. But let's do it meaningfully. Let's do it in a kind way. And so I think your question was about, do I see hope? And what I see hope in is, I see not just indigenous peoples who continually be invested in dialogue and peace and generosity. That's the number one thing I think is the most hopeful thing of this country, and everybody can take from every single day of living here. But the second thing is, is I see Canadians who are also invested in that message, who are engaged in wanting to change things in a peaceful kind way. I've done it all this week, and I mentioned it in my column, just a few places I've been this week, the Winnipeg airport, PCL Construction, the Chartered Professional Accountants of Manitoba, those are just a couple places that I've been just this week, nevermind all the other places I go every other week, of people who are engaged in wanting change, because they want- they know something's wrong. They know that they want to do something, and what it is that they can do, educate and then take action on that education.

Stuart Murray 37:17

Yeah, beautiful. Okay. So on that note, I think, I know you've got other commitments. So again, I really appreciate you taking the time to come on my Humans on Rights podcast. And again, I thank you for your friendship, I thank you for your time. Give my very, very best to your father. And I look forward to another opportunity to sit on your back deck, drink some beer and have some tough conversations. So thank you very much.

Niigaan Sinclair 37:41

I think we drink tea on our-

Stuart Murray 37:42

Oh sorry, I drank tea. What was I saying? Did I say beer? We'll edit that out. Don't worry about it, it's all good. Anyway, I appreciate you. And I thank you for your time. And again, all the very best, and this Canada Day, I will look at it from a lens of reconciliation. And I thank you for sharing.

Niigaan Sinclair 37:57

Yeah, mi gw'etchen, thanks so much, Stuart. I'm really happy that I made it onto your podcast. I've made it to the apex of my career by being on your podcast. But most importantly, is that you only have to ever call once and I'd be here for you, so, mi gw'etch.

Stuart Murray 38:10

You're great. Thanks so much. Bye bye.


Thanks for listening to Humans on Rights. A transcript of this episode is available by clicking the link in the show notes of this episode. Humans on Rights is recorded and hosted by Stuart Murray. Social media marketing by Buffy Davey. Music by Doug Edmund. For more go to Produced and distributed by the Sound Off Media Company.


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