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October 16, 2023
I would like to start by acknowledging that I come from a Caucasian background and I have walked through my 31 years of life with white privilege. I have never experienced firsthand, racism, segregation, or discrimination based on the color of my skin. July and August 2023 marked two years since I had my eyes truly opened to the racism that the Indigenous people of Canada have faced and continue to face, to this day.
On July 29 th, 2021 when I arrived at the host site at the NAV Centre in Cornwall to assist with and be a part of the evacuation of the Deer Lake First Nation (“DL FN”), I had no idea what I was really walking into. I had no experience or training in emergency management. I simply wanted to help the Deer Lake FN community and ISN Maskwa gave me the opportunity. I assumed that everyone at the evacuation host site would feel the same. I never expected that this host site would teach me everything NOT to do during an evacuation of our Indigenous brothers and sisters. I personally observed racism, segregation, and discrimination. What I saw needs to be shared so that these wrongs can be corrected and hopefully don’t happen again.
The community of DL FN had been residing at the NAV Centre for three weeks when ISN Maskwa arrived to provide Incident Command (“IC”) to the evacuation. Very quickly it became clear that the relationship between the community and the NAV Centre was horrific with a clear lack of trust and respect for the community members from DL FN. The damage had been done and the bridges had been burnt.