Hey, Ontario, this land is stolen

Hey, Ontario, this land is stolen

Did you listen to the Ontario speech from the throne? Me neither. I was busy trying to be productive so I can afford to buy bread for my children. 

I did read it, though. And you know what jumped at me from the text? First, there’s a lot of attention paid to money (not mine, or yours), highways, jobs and folks. You kind of have to expect that from this bunch. 

But what hit me the most was all the stuff that wasn’t in the speech. 

For instance, French.

Oh, I know we don’t count. There’s not even two thirds of a million of us in this province. And for all I know every one of them votes like I do, that is to say, not for this bunch, so we doubly don’t count. 

It’s possible I missed something, but in the speech as posted to the government’s website I see precisely one (1) French word and it’s at the very end. Where it says merci.  

No, you’re right! I missed something. At the very beginning, it says this speech is addressed to “Honorables députés, Ontariennes et Ontariens.” So I guess we do totally count! Mea culpa! I shall proceed to express more gratefulness. En anglais, en plus, like a goodish Ontarian. 

Some people, struggling to find nice things to say about this exercise in meaningless rhetoric, noted that at least this time, the speech offered an Indigenous land acknowledgment. Or sorts, anyway. It does specify which Indigenous peoples have been in Toronto from time immemorial (the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinabeg, the Haudenosaunee, the Wendat and Métis, in case you didn’t know). But you know what else it says? That we are “acknowledging that we are on lands traditionally occupied by Indigenous peoples — they continue to care for this land, they continue to shape Ontario today and I want to show my respect.”

Lands traditionally occupied by Indigenous peoples. 



Not, note, lands white people from Europe stole because they had guns and Indigenous peoples didn’t. Not, note again, territories that were never ceded and therefore had to be taken by force . Even in those cases where there were treaties, it is very rare to find that treaty obligations were fulfilled by colonial powers who knew there would be no consequences if they didn’t and behaved exactly like you’d expect nasty colonials to. 

In Ottawa where I mostly live, I am on the traditional, unceded Algonquin Anishnaabe territory. 

That means the land on which I do my best work was stolen from someone. By someone, what’s more, who stole it on purpose. 

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission called on everyone in this country to do their part. For those of us who are not direct descendants of the Indigenous peoples from whom that land was blatantly stolen, this means, at the very least, recognizing and acknowledging that the land was stolen. And to learn something about the peoples it was stolen from. Not by demanding that their descendants make us feel good for asking. By doing the work required to research, learn, acknowledge and understand what happened. 

Doug Ford can’t do that. I hope one day he finds it in his heart to do so. But in the meantime, a land acknowledgement that only talks of Indigenous people “traditionally occupying” the land is weasely in the extreme. And don’t think I’m the only one who noticed.