OPINION: Territorial acknowledgments nothing more than box-ticking

A sort of tuneless anthem has taken root in Canada, as it has become widely accepted that prior to everything from government meetings to hockey games, we are subjected to an acknowledgment that participants are on the traditional, unceded land of various Indigenous peoples.

And in today’s politically correct climate, only a few people have raised their voice to question the practice.

Advocates of the land acknowledgments argue that the recitations are an honest and historically accurate way to recognize the traditional First Nations of a place. They say that the practice commemorates Indigenous people’s principal kinship to the land and keeps the spirit of reconciliation alive.

Hmm … I wonder.

At a recent municipal council meeting, I heard the mayor express gratitude for the First Nation of the region for “sharing their land with us for these many centuries,” and, being a writer, it got me considering some analogies.

I considered how I would feel if my car was stolen and the thief left me a note, assuring me that every time he gunned the engine he’d make a point of reciting a thank you for my “sharing” my classic Impala with him.

I doubt that it would make me feel any better about my transit pass.

And my cynicism isn’t unique.

Frances Widdowson, a Mount Royal University professor, says the reality is that the lands will never be handed back to Indigenous peoples and she calls the acknowledgments nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

“What happens 10 years down the road when some Indigenous people suggest it’s time that we start paying rent on the land, given that we’re admitted over and over again that it isn’t really ours?” she asked.

It’s a good question. I doubt we’ll be writing any cheques.

Another argument supporting territorial acknowledgements points out that they have existed for hundreds of years as part of many Indigenous cultures. That may be, but I doubt that many schools, town councils, or hockey coaches have brought in an elder to speak about this topic.

I was certainly never taught about the practice. The recitations just started happening after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its 2015 report on the devastating legacy of forced assimilation and abuse left by the residential school system.

So, let’s have a reality check.

That report listed 94 calls to action based on its findings. Almost five years have passed and at last count only 10 have resulted in actual action.

And therein lies the problem.

Territorial acknowledgments are an exercise in box-ticking. It’s a way of making white society feel better about things in the face of political hypocrisy, unfulfilled promises, and meaningless rhetoric aimed at First Nations.

Worse, the empty gesture presents the danger that we all get a wee bit desensitized to the real problems facing our First Nations, letting us feel good about ourselves without having to do anything to solve those problems.


Tim Collins is a Sooke News Mirror reporter.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Garden suites coming soon to Saanich

Work is underway to legalize purpose-built detached garden suite rentals

West Shore RCMP catches driver going 50 kilometres over speed limit

Driver caught on Veterans Memorial Parkway between Sooke and Kelly Roads

Saanich Gulf-Islands’s Elizabeth May coy about leadership plans

The federal Green party leader talks possibility of running as MP without being leader

VicPD officer used siren, emergency lights to get kids to school: OPCC report

Annual misconduct report includes VicPD former chief Frank Elsner and other officers

Scheer says Canada more divided than ever, as NDP and Bloc hold cards close

While Liberals were shut out of two key prairie provinces, they took two-thirds of the seats in Ontario

Horvat’s hat trick lifts Canucks to 5-2 win over Red Wings

First career three-goal game for Vancouver captain

Runners brave wet, windy weather for Ucluelet’s 20th Edge to Edge

“The spirit of the runners I have nothing but compliments.”

Estheticians can’t be forced to wax male genitals, B.C. tribunal rules

Langley transgender woman Jessica Yaniv was ordered to pay three salon owners $2,000 each

Two youth arrested in UBC carjacking at gunpoint, after being spotted in stolen Kia

‘A great deal of credit is due the alert person who called us,’ said North Vancouver Sgt. Peter DeVries

Open house for Royal Beach tonight

The third open house to gather public input on Royal Beach takes… Continue reading

POLL: Are you satisfied with the result of the federal election?

The ballots have now been counted and the dust has settled on… Continue reading

People’s Party of Canada’s anti-immigration views ‘didn’t resonate’ with voters: prof

Party was formed on anti-immigration, climate denying views in 2018

Windstorm knocks out power for 10,000 in north and central B.C.

Power slowly being restored, BC Hydro says

Most Read