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Refusing Canada


plate3“I don’t want no fucking country…” Dionne Brand [i]

This is a call for us all to refuse the country, the violence of its founding and maintenance, and its profound, ongoing mechanisms of exclusion; this is a call to refuse its false sense of belonging. This image, and the above quote, calls us to upend the national imagination and embrace otherwise possibilities.

The Canada 150 logo is described as a series of diamonds coming together to form the national symbol of the maple leaf.[iii] It is intended to be a celebratory logo of belonging and inclusion, to represent the many pieces of a multicultural whole that come together to form Canada.

But, as Rinaldo Walcott reminds us, the oft celebrated multicultural project of Canada is not a project of belonging, but rather a project of Whiteness that exacerbates the problem of belonging for those who do not subscribe to this normative Whiteness. [ii]

It is not only a project of profound Whiteness (and antiblackness), it is also a settler colonial project. Canada is an ongoing project of violence that seeks to subdue and destroy Indigenous peoples, cultures, and lands. To celebrate Canada is to celebrate colonial conquest, settlement, and the attendant violence necessary to secure the nation’s ongoing legitimatization and normalization.

If the Canadian government wants to make reconciliation a central part of its birthday celebrations, doesn’t there need to be truth as part of the process before we can celebrate reconciliation? And, if we’re being truthful, isn’t there more than truth needed before we can celebrate reconciliation?

Instead of allowing Canada to recuperate its image through celebrations of reconciliation and inclusion (a classic counterinsurgency method, as Dean Spade reminds us), truth telling disrupts the peaceful, multicultural narrative that marginalizes the experiences of those who are subjected to the colonial violence of the state.

A politics of ‘no fucking country’, a politics that upends the nation and its symbols, is a process of truth telling; it is not merely a rejection of the violence of the state, but a generative stance, the opening of otherwise possibilities. The politics of refusal is not merely reactionary, nor is it foundering for lack of otherwise possibilities. In this image, the logo is flipped and the diamonds no longer symbolize celebration but the sharpness of their edges, a cutting edge that brings clarity. In refusal, we find a tool to aid in crafting the future we are hoping for.

"I am not a nation state, nor do I strive to be one... " Leanne Simpson [iii]

There are otherwise worlds being built, otherwise possibilities being breathed and being dreamed into being. There are alternatives to the nation state. As Leanne Simpson writes in the above essay, Indigenous nationhood models otherwise worlds, ones that do not rely on violence, that are not enclosures. Indigenous nationhood demonstrates for us a possibility that requires a different sort of embodied relationality and accountability to one another and to the land we live on.

So, in refusal of the settler nation state of Canada we find not only a rejection of the celebration of the ongoing colonialism but we find an opportunity to support and celebrate the ongoing resistance to it. In refusal, we disrupt the normalization and legitimization of colonial violence and open space for otherwise possibilities to be dreamt and built into being. That is something worth celebrating.

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Shirts, sweaters and stickers are currently being sold with the Colonialism 150 logo, with proceeds going to the Onaman Collective's Indigenous Tattoo Gathering, an important gathering and practice of Indigenous sovereignty. They can be purchased here. More information about the gathering can be found here.

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The above reflection was included with the Colonialism 150 logo as a contribution to the book Surviving Canada: Indigenous Peoples Celebrate 150 Years of Betrayaledited by M. Tait and K. Ladner.

The logo has also been mentioned in other mainstream media, including: a panel I was invited to be a part of on CBC Radio's The Current, in Canadian Art online, Rabble.ca and The Walrus

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[i] Dionne Brand, Land to Light On (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1997), 48.

[ii] Rinaldo Walcott, "Land to Light On? Making Reparation in a Time of Transnationality," in Metaphoricity and the Politics of Mobility, ed. Maria Margaroni and Effie Yiannopoulou (Amsterdam: Rodopi B.V., 2006), 89.

[iii] Leanne Simpson, “I am Not a Nation State,” NationsRising.org, http://nationsrising.org/i-am-not-a-nation-state/

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