If you call yourself an ally to Indigenous people I need your attention right now because we have young lives that need to know they matter. In light of both recent verdicts in the court cases involving Tina Fontaine & Colten Bouschie (& so many more that have happened recently) Indigenous young people in Canada are afraid. There was a time when young people would share how they feel unsafe walking down the street, taking the bus, calling the cops if they need help or seeking any type of safety or accountability through typical “justice” system means. I encouraged those youth to build their system literacy, ask for help and speak their truth. I’ve seen many of our young people express their pain on social media, asking for help and speaking truthfully and it’s an important part of grieving. However, I am saddened and angered by the amount of non indigenous devil’s advocates commenting, harrassing & trolling these young people. People saying “justice was served” and other unhelpful comments are making our young people feel even more unsafe, making them less likely to reach out and ask for help. We don’t need more young people bottling things up, it leads to thoughts of suicide. So hear this, I am asking for help on behalf of our young people who need hope right now.
They need to know that there are non Indigenous relatives who still love them. Who respect their pain. Who will listen to their cries and respond to their requests for love and support with encouraging words. If you’re an ally we need more than thoughts and prayers. We need your help to protect the hearts and bodies of these young people.
It is not fair to ask these young people in their grief and very justifiable fears to educate the rest of Canada about how to fix these systems they had no part in creating, these systems that too frequently fail Indigenous kids and families. Regardless of what’s fair, I want you to please take action in one or all of the following ways:
- Send a message to Indigenous young people in your life reminding them why you love them and that you are here to support.
- Check out #SettlerCollector on twitter and follow their lead. Defend our young people and Indigenous helpers as we process our emotions and organize our thoughts. We need you to fight these digital battles on our behalf because I know for me at least, I don’t have the energy to do it right now.
- Educate yourself and your circle of non Indigenous relatives and allies about the details of the cases and the history of colonial injustices against Indigenous kids and tell them to quit asking young people to relive these traumatic details
- Show up. When we ask you to come to a rally, a sacred fire, a protest camp, or whatever the families of these victims ask for, show up. It is not your time to speak when you get there, it’s time to be a support, it’s time to listen. It will hurt you to hear, but it hurts much more to live those realities. Bring signs, bring more people, bring knowledge. There’s strength in numbers.
- Advocate for systems change, especially in the justice system (see my last post on justice for more details). But we could also use help advocating for systems change in child welfare, education, Employment Insurance/welfare and health.
- When Indigenous youth are expressing their pain about colonial systems, sometimes rough language is used. Don’t take it personally. It’s not about your feelings, it’s about justice for our families.
- Be kind. In this darkness right now, we need to see kindness and love on display as much as possible
I share these ways of helping so that you don’t ask young people in their fear/pain to give jurisdictionally accurate instructions to systems in our country. I promise you, those reports have been written, those recommendations have been made. If you need more ideas on how to support Indigenous young people — I’m afraid that’s all I got right now. I’m scared and exhausted too. Once I can process my own feelings and try to rest, I will continue this work, continue organizing in community and continue the work of my ancestors to take care of the people and the land. I’ve said this many times, but if you keep fighting, so will I.