News / Halifax

'Colonialism in a microcosm:' Halifax's poet laureate reacts to Parliament Hill confrontation

Rebecca Thomas says the police action shows Indigenous people they can only take part in Canada 150 on certain terms.

Halifax's poet laureate Rebecca Thomas delivers her first poem at City Hall in April, 2016.

Metro File

Halifax's poet laureate Rebecca Thomas delivers her first poem at City Hall in April, 2016.

As a Mi’kmaq woman, Halifax’s poet laureate is closely watching events unfold on Parliament Hill where Indigenous demonstrators have met with resistance as they counter Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations.

“I try to always put an optimistic spin, but when I see something as real as this I think that this is exactly how Indigenous people are told they can participate in Canada 150. You get to participate on our terms,” Rebecca Thomas said.

“We will celebrate you as Canada’s first people on our terms. But the moment we start doing things from an Indigenous perspective then we get policed in our actions. It’s colonialism in a microcosm happening right up there on Parliament Hill.”

Thomas’ father was a victim of the residential school system, and as a result she didn’t learn her language and spent years distanced from her Mi’kmaq culture.  

She’ll deliver her poem, ‘What Good Canadians Do,’ on the main stage during Canada Day celebrations in Halifax.

“It is going to be definitely a very typical Rebecca-style poem where I will be challenging Canadians...It’s all of the things we say that we’re proud of and that we have a legacy of this, that, and the other. But then you look at statistics like the increase on violence towards Muslim Canadians,” she said.

“When you look at how CBC had to take out their comments section on Indigenous stories because of the vitriol that would come through…So many (people) reduce themselves to a caricature and are proud of that, of the double doubles and hockey stadiums. And that’s not what good Canadians do.”

Thomas said she wants Canadians to empathize. Not sympathize.

“I don’t want you to feel bad for us as Indigenous people,” she said.

“I want you to say “Wow, you guys have gone through so much and you are still here and I can appreciate that struggle and so I might withhold my judgement.’"

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