Are we really okay with colonization?

Dear editor,

When talking about immigration, the most frequent thing I hear is that people are largely okay with the idea, so long as immigrants are willing to adhere to our society’s values and laws. Some are fearful that immigrants are coming to Canada solely to impose their culture over top of ours, looking to erase what is established and what we hold dear. Looking to tamp out our customs and traditions and religion, and supersede them with an outside one.

Now, ignoring that this isn’t true—there’s a word for what people are fearful of. That word is colonization.

Why would people be afraid of colonization if it “brought about some good things” in North America? If we’re “happy with how things turned out”? Is it possible that we’re only okay with colonization if we benefit from it, and not if we’re the ones being colonized?

So why do we expect Indigenous people to get over it?

Treaty Three was signed with the understanding, from the point of view of the Indigenous, that it would be a mutually beneficial contract. The indigenous nations of this area signed with the European nations, signalling friendship and goodwill. The Indigenous would allow this new nation to use their land for trade routes, and would trade goods with them. And look at what happened.

Until we understand not only the spirit in which Treaty Three—and all of the treaties—were signed, and the terms within them, we will never understand how much those same treaties were truly broken. For some of us, the word “colonization” is just that—a word. For others—for our very siblings in humanity—that word represents a system that brutalized and tried to erase their nations, their way of life, their religion and culture, their peoples, their ancestors, their parents and grandparents. The residential school system is not so far off as we would like to believe, even now disputes rise up again and again over treaty rights, and people are willing to ignore their Indigenous neighbour if they slip while crossing the street.

As a Christian, I am called to love my neighbour as myself, which includes upholding the dignity and value of those society would seek to oppress, and has oppressed. I am called to listen when people say that they are hurting, like when Jonathan listened to David after David said that Jonathan’s dad, King Saul, was trying to kill him. So I am equally baffled by how many of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ have not yet had anything to say on this issue, and especially when we have so much to say at other times of the year. The concerns of our neighbours are important, especially when it comes to seeking justice. 

We cannot do anything about the colonization of North America; it’s in the past, and there is still much healing to be done from it. We can, however, do something about the name of Colonization Road now. And, as somebody who got married and changed addresses this year—an annoyance, for sure, but not an insurmountable one—I’m worried why we’re not willing to do literally the very least that we can do.

Let justice roll on like a river, and righteousness like a never-failing stream (Amos 5:24).

Sara Moen (née Kellar)