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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

We owe Gaza an apology

BY Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash Dec 16, 2023

I truly feel like the Cree Nation has failed Palestinians, especially since October 7. It’s easy to sweep it under the rug that we don’t need to pay attention to what happens thousands of miles away from Eeyou Istchee, but I think it matters. Also, if our leadership can call for the observance of the death of Queen Elizabeth II through a minute of silence, I think it can – and should – position itself against genocide.

This is in a context where people in Canada are losing their jobs for saying that Israel is committing genocide for carpet-bombing an entire area surrounded by walls where residents have no freedom of movement whatsoever. So, I think it’s important for our leadership to be honest about those issues and take a stance, considering its privileged position when negotiating with the Canadian government, which sells millions of dollars of weapons to Israel every year. 

It’s important for me and other Cree voters to know whether our leadership – which was so vocal about the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation’s slogan “Every Child Matters” – is fine with the mass killing of Palestinian children in Gaza. Given the fact that we are also a people recovering from genocide, I was expecting we would express more compassion and solidarity. 

Imperialism and colonization use the same tactics. Much of what Palestinians are enduring today, we endured too – such as the mass killing of children, disease spreading in displaced communities, the erasure, the inter-generational trauma, and the theft of resources. 

As I write this, close to 16,000 civilians in Gaza have been killed since October 7. Because of the siege enforced by Israel in Gaza and the inability to run hospitals without fuel, food or electricity, the World Health Organization was reporting that “more people will die from diseases than airstrikes” and that they had documented at least 111,000 cases of acute respiratory infections, 12,000 cases of scabies, 75,000 cases of diarrhea (half in children under the age of five), among other health conditions. 

Where is our compassion? We begged Canadians and the entire world to hear our pleas and recognize the genocide of the Indian residential school system. The Palestinian diaspora in Canada amplified our voices as they could relate to our struggles, so I expect us to do the same for them. 

Words matter, and taking strong stances matters when we witness genocide. All I want for Christmas is some courage from our leadership as the worst human rights violations unfold in Gaza.

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Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash is Cree from Waswanipi, and is the Nation’s newest columnist. She is an activist and writer who also has a regular column in Montreal’s French Metro Newspaper.