So we’re on lockdown eh?

We may as well just go ahead and implement the pass system again right? Well if
you don’t know what the pass system is then maybe its time for us to take a look
back into Canadian history. In 1885 (treaties time) the Canadian government
implemented a pass system under the Indian act which our Indigenous peoples of
Canada were required to obtain a pass from the Indian agent to leave the
reservation. My grand parents (Moshum and Kokum) and great grand parents
(chapan’s) were deeply affected by it and how they progressed in life simply just to
So you gotta think back to the time of my late great grandfather Henry Paul’s time in
the 1920’s when times were tough, there was epidemics too (the Spanish flu) that
somehow wiped out a lot of our Indigenous relatives. Our Indigenous people were
on lockdown only to stay on their own reservations anyway, and would have to
apply or plea with the Indian agent to get a pass to leave the reserve. One hundred
years later and we are repeating history in a way, because now we are in 2020 and
it’s almost illegal to go out in public, and now some reserves are putting up road
blocks and check ins; as far as issuing fines to people whom disobey the precautions
in place to prevent the corona virus spread. (Wabasca in northern Alberta already
has the fines, and self quarantine system in place).
All in all its for our safety right? Which is nice and refreshing that our leaders are
taking precautions to protect our Indigenous peoples, it was stated recently by all
our treaty chiefs, and our national chief Perry Belgarde “our people are the most
vulnerable, because of the overcrowded housing issues, lack of sufficient medical
supplies or services, and poor health conditions in the general Indigenous
populations…”. So I guess its safe to say that we’re used to this as Indigenous people
in how we’ve had to survive these epidemics, we have a history of resilience by
living on the bare essentials and rations. Even now some First Nations across
Canada still don’t even have clean/safe drinking water or access to affordable food
staples that most Canadians do.
There is another interesting parallel here as well with our current prime minister
Justin Trudeau, and his late father Pierre Trudeau whom wrote the ‘white paper’ of
1969. In the Canadian legislature, a policy paper is called a white paper. For many
First Nations, the term ironically implies a reference to racial politics and the white
majority. The 1969 white paper proposing the abolition of the Indian Act was
formally called the statement of the Government of Canada on Indian policy. By the
1960s, the federal government could not deny that Aboriginal peoples were facing
serious socio-economic barriers, such as greater poverty and higher infant mortality
rates than non-Indigenous Canadians and lower life expectancy and levels of
education. The civil rights movement sweeping the United States brought public
attention to the intense racism and discrimination experienced by African
Americans and other minorities. The movement also led many Canadians to
question inequality and discrimination in their own society, particularly the
treatment of First Nations. (source:
Interesting parallel that nearly 60 years later these same issues are still prevalent
amongst First Nations peoples across Canada with the son of a prime minister that
once tried to implement these policies. I met Justine Trudeau in person once when I
was on the CP150 tour and I was tempted to ask him about where he stands in
regards to his father’s legacy of the white paper, but I’ve never been very
comfortable at addressing the elephant in the room. Either way it was an honour to
meet a prime minister so I just stuck with that and let the politicians work it out in
their house of commons. Prior to the Corona virus lockdown ‘Trudeau’ was on TV
telling all First Nations across Canada to take down the blockades and then law
enforcement came in and arrested many of them, as well as, issuing fines ETC.
Now that we’re on lockdown all Canadians are in this position where the
government is ordering all people to stay home to stop the spread of the novel
Corona virus pandemic. There are a lot of Indigenous people online posting memes
and reminding Canadians of how does it feel? How does it feel Canada to live like
you’re on a reservation? How does it feel to be restricted travel? To be shorted on
supplies and/or have your freedom taken away? In light of this situation Indigenous
people are having a good laugh out of this truth and reality that is now the reality of
most Canadians. Laughter is good medicine, so says most Indigenous people across
Canada, regardless of what we go through in life or where we’re at let this be a
reminder that life is too short to take things so seriously. However the only thing we
should all be serious about right now is keeping safe at home, reconnecting to our
roots, our culture(s), our spirits, and having infinite patience until this pandemic is
no more.
Written by: Dallas Arcand 2020