Making Real the Promise of Democracy (Perspectives on Democracy Series)
About the Perspectives on Democracy Series
As a social change agency, CKX seeks to leverage its platform to amplify voices on critical social justice issues. This series illuminates perspectives on democracy and pathways towards reconciliation and decolonization.
Our thanks and gratitude to Melissa Herman for her contribution to and crafting of this series, documenting stories and insights with Indigenous creators, artists, warriors, mothers, daughters, sisters and activists on their experience and engagement with democracy in Canada.
April Eve Wiberg is the founder of the No More Stolen Sisters Treaty 8 movement. A movement that started in search of justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Indigenous women denied justice. According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: A National Overview, there are 1,181 missing or murdered Indigenous women in Canada. April Eve is a mother who raises her children in Edmonton, Alberta. Her diligent search for justice is ongoing.
April Eve started off by telling me that she can only speak on her own experiences as an Indigenous woman in Canada. She told me that when she was growing up in a rural community in southern Saskatchewan, she felt the racism towards Indigenous people. That people would often refer to her as an ‘Indian’ and that, even though her dad was white, he was subjected to racism for marrying outside of his race. She said it was a stigma he carried with him, even after he remarried someone of his own race. It wasn’t until she moved to Edmonton that she learned that racism was something that non-Indigenous people were subject to. That Indigenous people also have a role to play in reconciliation. That we need to not express racism against non-Indigenous people. She shared that she raises her children not to see through a lens of color, but to love everyone for who they are. And that only then can we build meaningful relationships with each other for the betterment of the nation.
April Eve is discouraged however, with the lack of justice for Indigenous people. The verdicts in the cases of Tina Fontaine and Colten Boushie are some examples of grave injustices. She said that despite Canada priding itself on being a promoter and protector of Human Rights that we continue to be an example of Human Right abuses and injustices, one after another, and that something has to change.
When she thinks of democracy in Canada, she believes that every citizen of this nation has the right to be involved, either directly or indirectly, with the decision-making process around the decisions that affect Indigenous people. She said, in regard to reconciliation, that the word ‘action’ comes to mind. For example, with the upcoming Federal election in 2019, we need increased Indigenous turnout and until then, to be involved with provincial and territorial elections and advocacy. She said that even in her own First Nation, people need to exercise their right to be involved. She added that we need to create less barriers to civic engagement and action; like helping those without proper ID or fixed addresses obtain the documents they need. Many Indigenous community members lack these documents, in addition to finding it difficult to make it to the voting polls from their rural communities. She said that it is our responsibility to inform ourselves of who we are voting for to make the best decisions about which candidate to support. She thinks that changing the language we use when talking about politics will help our people understand that process better. Sharing the definitions of words like ‘justice’ in our Indigenous languages will help non-Indigenous people understand what our concept of justice is. As I’ve learned through my own experience and work in Treaty 8, we need mutual understanding of the words we use, from “success” to “justice” to “together” to “goodbye.”
April Eve said we need to take the wheel in terms of reconciliation to educate ourselves of our rights. She told me that she would like to see something similar to the Australian Reconciliation Action Plans done in Canada, if it isn’t being worked on already. And to make things like Diversity Legislation and training a standard in order to educate ourselves, especially our own people. She said groups like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) reading groups are a good example — groups that read over the TRC Calls to Action on a weekly basis in efforts to learn more about what they actually means. She says, with lateral violence so prevalent in our communities, that it is important to embody the things we hope to achieve and demonstrate love, kindness and support for one another. She closes with Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, “Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy.”
April Eve thinks that in the age of reconciliation, the TRC Calls to Action, and the Sixties Scoop Apology, that now is the time to make that promise real to us. But we have to live it, we have to see it, we have to smell it.
Melissa Herman lives in Treaty 8's northern region. Entrenched in the ancient traditions of the Dene people, she does her best to carry those practices with her, to extend to the modern world, in an effort to bring together Canada and Indigenous peoples.