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August 12, 2020
Anishinaabe comedian Ryan McMahon is one of Canada’s most perceptive social commentators. Season 5 of McMahon’s Red Man Laughing podcast is devoted to “reconciliation.” In his view, the brand of reconciliation peddled by Canada’s mainstream politicians is a massive failure. For many lawyers, McMahon’s critique likely grates on their ears. For those willing to be nudged out of their comfort zone, McMahon’s criticism rings true.
Reconciliation continues to fail because it rests on a foundation of systemic racism. It is predicated on the denial of Indigenous peoples’ inherent rights and the willingness of the Canadian state to use violence to suppress the exercise of Indigenous rights.
Reconciliation continues to fail because it attempts the impossible — the reconciliation of a right with a lie. The right is the pre-existing interest Indigenous peoples had and continue to have in their land and the right to make decisions about their land before and after the colonizers’ arrival. This includes the right to benefit from their land and decide how their lands should be used or not used.
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