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Interview: Soaring Eagle’s Camp Toronto

By: 
Gustavo Monteiro

March 24, 2018

On a Sunday afternoon, March 4, a group of Indigenous youth and allies set up the Soaring Eagle’s camp in Tkaronto (Toronto), in front of the Old City Hall where they could be visible and able to apply pressure on public institutions to do a better job in regards to accountability to those who commit crimes against Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island. After Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine´s verdicts were made public, camps were part of a nationwide strategy to send a clear message to the settler government of Canada. The first action took place in Winnipeg on February 22, organized by Darla Contois, and then spread across the country. Socialist.ca spoke to Koryn John (Indigenous youth) who started the Soaring Eagle’s Camp in Toronto.

Why did you decide to set up a camp here in Tkaronto?

KJ: When we found out Gerald Stanley [was acquitted in the murder of Colten Boushie], it was a big shock in the community and it was really upsetting considering the details of the case. We had a rally at Nathan Phillips Square and a lot of people spoke and talked a lot about accountability and a lot happened that night and we sang, we mourned, we cried. We all started to heal a little bit and on Facebook there’d be comments from other people in the country saying that “Colten deserved it” and the messages that I got from a lot of people saying that “all you Indians deserve to die and Colten is just another out of many that are going to come” and that also was very upsetting. Not feeling safe, feeling like as Indigenous people we have gone through a lot of injustices and I felt like there’s not a lot of sensitivity or support or understanding and so that was a big shock, the backlash from the country and a lot of people.

Two weeks later as we’re still feeling down and talking about Colten and still doing vigils and rallies, we found out about Tina Fontaine so that was while we’re down. We got kicked while we’re down. I think particularly these two cases were so close together and I think it seemed a little silly to get and go rally again two weeks later, vigils again two weeks later. Once you do things like it, it loses its meaning. Come on! We’re just here. Are we going to come back in two weeks? In a month? When does it stop? How long is it going to continue? I felt like a lot of people felt the need to do something more, rallies and vigils are great, they’re great to do it and it’s healing for the community, but because they’re so close together, it just seemed like a double way, it was really shocking.

We definitely had to do something more. I was thinking of things to do. I talked to people, my first original idea was to maybe having a bunch of youth do a long walk from Toronto to Ottawa and then march up to the Parliament building and then either camp out there, occupy there, but then as I was thinking the logistic and reaching out to people, then I saw Eagle’s Camp opened up by women in Winnipeg and it was good to see the other people in the community had that same “We need to do something!”, “This ends now, this isn’t enough!”. Then Calgary opened up a camp, Soaring Eagle’s camp, then Regina opened up and so I spoke to few people from those camps and I said what can I do here in Toronto and they said: “Open up a camp!”. I reached out to indigenous youth movement, reached out to Idle No More, reached out to few organizations to see if it was possible, because I never organized anything, never planned an event, normally don’t do public speaking and that’s why on Saturday, at the Tina Fontaine’s rally, I spoke and told everyone this is my plan.

What are your goals in setting up the Soaring Eagle’s Camp here in Toronto?

KJ: The goals what we want to see a lot of accountability in these institutions, in child welfare, in justice system, someone needs to be held accountable and also need a lot of people to admit that they’re wrong and then right their wrongs so then it doesn’t happen again. As far as demands, once we get more youth here, we’re going to try and have a meeting for youth to speak and see what things they want to see, because that’s why we are here. Colten and Tina were both youth, so we’re going to talk about things we’d like to see.

What do you think about the new framework proposed by the federal government to work with Indigenous people and justice system?

KJ: A little thing that people say in the community, they don’t say Justin Trudeau, they say “just another Trudeau”, because he’s just like his dad. There’s a lot of broken promises that his dad had and a lot of people are starting to see that through this Trudeau, so as far as what he has to say, I’m not going to even listen to him, He’s irrelevant to me, I don’t think he’ll bring me any change, the youth any change, any indigenous people any change. I’d never listen to him. He puts a good show for people and that’s what he’s good at. I know a lot of people think that he may seem sincere, but it’s about actions not just about talk and we haven’t seen a lot of actions.

Since March 4 folks at the Soaring Eagle’s camp have received support from organizations such as Black Lives Matter, No One is Illegal, Idle No More Toronto and other people have showed a lot of support assisting with donations, holding space when folks need to be absent and keeping the camp a safe space.

Federal government has failed on its nation to nation relationship with First Nations across Turtle Island simply because they don’t respect Indigenous sovereignty and their territory. As per Arthur Manuel’s answer to a question about land and self-determination to Indigenous people, he said: “The remedy is not apologies and hugs but recognition and restitution.”

To support Soaring Eagle’s Camp, you can check their Facebook page to find out about donations and updates: Soaring Eagle’s Camp: sectkaronto (Facebook) / @soaringeaglescamp (Instagram)

 

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