How do we leap towards a better future? An Indigenous perspective on the Leap Manifesto: By Natalie Knight
The months leading up to the 2015 federal election stirred up demands for change so that all of us can live the lives we want. Other articles in this issue of The Volcano show how many of us are struggling for good housing, healthy food, safe relationships and freedom from violence and discrimination. And some of us are struggling against corporations to protect ancestral Indigenous lands from destruction.
One of these demands for change is the recent “The Leap Manifesto: A Call for a Canada Based on Caring for the Earth and One Another” that was published on leapmanifesto.org in September.
The Leap Manifesto offers a series of reforms that would make most people’s lives better if they were put into place. It says that we need to take drastic action in this decade because of climate change, poverty, racism and sexism. The Manifesto says that we should use renewable energy like solar power instead of fossil fuels and oil, and that we can do this one hundred percent by 2050. It demands that the government create a basic annual income, more jobs, better and free transit, and change our food sources so that we eat food grown locally. It also says that Canada should give immigration status and full protection for all workers. The Manifesto calls for an end to austerity by increasing taxes on the wealthy and corporations. It also urges everyone to vote by saying “every vote counts.”
The Leap Manifesto includes two reforms that would help Indigenous people. Both of these reforms are demands coming from Indigenous political movements from the last 30 years. First, it says that Indigenous people should be recognized under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 144 countries voted in favour of the UN Declaration in 2007, but four countries voted against: Canada, United States, New Zealand, and Australia. The UN Declaration is not legally binding but countries tend to take it seriously. If Canada voted for the Declaration, it would recognize Indigenous peoples’ right to culture, language, and equal job and school opportunities. And it would recognize Indigenous rights to ancestral lands. Signing on to the Declaration could allow First Nations, Inuit, and Metis to go to court and challenge Canada to give back land that is currently occupied by settlers. The UN Declaration could help Indigenous people in Canada to fight inside the colonial government.
Second, the Leap Manifesto calls for stopping the destruction of the environment through resource extraction like fracking. Moving to a 100% clean economy would help Indigenous people because their lands would be protected and cared for. The Manifesto also says that jobs in clean energy and care services like teaching and medical services should replace industrial jobs that tend to harm the environment.
Enacting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and moving away from resource extraction could directly benefit Indigenous communities in Canada. I’m glad that the Leap Manifesto offers these reforms. But it also leaves me wondering if settlers are ready for the more radical possibilities these reforms point to. Some people would lose their jobs in the tar sands or building the pipelines or working at oil processing plants and on shipping docks. And in the unlikely event that the Canadian courts recognized full and unqualified Indigenous rights to ancestral land, would everyone be ready to give land back? Would you be ready to dissolve the state of Canada and redraw its borders in the name of justice for Indigenous people?
The Leap Manifesto doesn’t talk about dissolving Canada or redrawing its borders. It is a reformist document that tried to take on many important issues and influence the 2015 federal election. The Manifesto doesn’t go far enough to say that Canada is a settler state that won’t exist when Indigenous nations are fully independent. Instead the Manifesto offers two strong ideas to help Indigenous people in the short term. Maybe we can also talk about long term revolutionary freedom for all people, and real justice for Indigenous people. These are very hard conversations and things to imagine. This work takes time, and the leap will last longer than one lifetime.