WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Terry LeBlanc says someone always pays the bill for others' prosperity.
In the early years of Canada, it was aboriginal people who paid the bill for the country's growing prosperity, says the head of an ecumenical institute for indigenous theology.
Aboriginal people surrendered their land, language and spirituality so others could prosper, said Terry LeBlanc, the Winnipeg-based founding chair and director of the North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies.
LeBlanc said indigenous people have always been viewed as people to be subjugated.
"In early Canada, the concern was to find land and resources and prosperity," he told the Social Justice Institute April 12.
"Today, when Prime Minister Stephen Harper espouses our need to find prosperity for all Canadians, I ask 'Who is paying the bill?' Any time prosperity is pursued, someone has to pay the bill.
"You can take a cursory look at history and see that someone always pays the bill for someone else's prosperity," said LeBlanc.
The Social Justice Institute April 12 at Trinity Lutheran Church focused on Truth and Reconciliation: Churches Engaging the Legacy of Residential Schools.
The Social Justice Institute is an ecumenical event which aims to raise awareness, encourage social analysis and theological reflection, and stimulate justice action.
Of Mi'kmaq-Acadian ancestry, LeBlanc cited examples of racism towards aboriginal people, not only in Canada but elsewhere. In Australia, for example, there was a decree that aboriginal people were not human.
"In fact, it was legal to kill them on sight until 1921 if they were a nuisance. They were considered part of flora and fauna, and today are still covered in Australia under the Flora and Fauna Act," he said.
Such policies are what LeBlanc called the "thinking trajectory and driving force towards colonialism." While today is often referred to as the neo-colonial era, he emphasized that colonialism is not dead. People of one nation are still exploiting the resources and people of other nations.
Reconciliation calls us to examine and change how we view one another and how we interact, he said.