Arny Nagy is a member of the Haida Nation, a long time defender of the fishing industry, president of the United Fishermen and Allied Worker’s Union for 25 years, cannery worker for 37 years, and now an Aboriginal advocate for those who need representation on housing, social services, and unemployment issues.
He knows the word’s truth and reconciliation, and he agrees with them but doesn’t think they are a true reflection of the action.
“They are the new political buzz words,” Nagy told The Northern View. “Everyone is talking about truth and reconciliation, about building closer relations. I agree with that if there is true commitment. But, there hasn’t been any true commitment shown toward it.”
Nagy cites several examples of areas where he feels truth and reconciliation are not being acted upon.
“When we look at the Canadian government appealing the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in regards to the chronically underfunded child welfare system, and how they’re challenging it in court, the ruling and the compensation package clearly shows that they’re not willing and ready to look at that issue.”
He said alarm bells are ringing because nothing is being done about boil water advisories in First Nations communities, as well as no consultation with First Nations regarding the accelerated harvesting of timber and other natural resources on unceded territories.
“We talk about truth and reconciliation, and it’s under the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous People, but that’s a document. That’s a piece of paper. It doesn’t mean anything to me. It doesn’t mean anything unless you breathe life into it,” Nagy said.
“I think that there has to be proper recognition of the damage that was done by residential schools, by the day schools, by the 60s Scoop and the intergenerational trauma that has been created among First Nations people.”
Nagy said the proper reconciliation would include criminal charges.
“There are over 5,500 people the government know about that were operating those residential schools and those day schools that committed those crimes against those children, and nobody’s been charged,” the advocate said.
There has to be a preservation culture, he said, teaching of totem and canoe making, regalia making and with teaching first nations languages as part of the curriculum, and teaching the correct history of what truly happened.
“When people look at what happened, they see the adults. They don’t picture the nine or 10-year-old child that was being raped and sexually abused,” Nagy said. “That’s the real part that I have a problem with because when I sit down [to work with clients], and they start telling me about what happened, I look up, and all I see is that young child crying for help.”
Asked about how he sees the youth of today moving forward with truth and reconciliation, Arny said so much is promised to young people, but it is not being delivered, and if he were a youth today, he’d be “pee’d off with the system that is continually turning its back on all youth.”
He feels strongly when he sees young people speaking at rallies or addressing the United Nations about Indigenous rights regarding genocidal policies like removing children from First Nations homes.
“I’ve always said they are forced into that situation because we failed. We failed in our fight to ensure a better future for youth. I recognize that because we haven’t been able to make the changes that are needed. There is no real political will to deal with in a respectful manner that recognizes rights and title. So, what else are they to do?”
“I think there can be truth and reconciliation. I hope I am around to start seeing those major inputs happen before I make my final journey … I want them to have a better future. But if you can’t get rid of the policies that discriminate and make First Nations people lesser in society than everybody else, that will never happen.”
K-J Millar | Journalist
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