For an Internationalist Perspective in North America (Winter 2020) Responses

North American Internationalism Requires a Reckoning with Settler Colonialism and Indigenous Sovereignty: A Reply to André Frappier

It is telling that the piece about North American Internationalism, basically an interview with a militant of QS, says nothing, in either the questions or the answers, about the First Nations of Canada or Quebec. The Quebecois left, despite rhetoric about confronting the imperialist Canadian state, has often seemed even more backward about the question of settler colonialism and indigenous sovereignty in North America than at least some Anglophone Canadians, and some elements of the left in the U.S.

Being in Montreal, one recognizes immediately that you are in a much different country than other parts of Canada, and doubly so in comparison to the U.S. The Quebecois, and even more so, the Metis, are oppressed people within U.S.-dominated Canadian society. But, a bit like the Israeli “left”, it is vital to self-critically oppose settlerism and occupation, even or especially when one claims to be socialist and fighting one’s own national oppression. You cannot build a free society on stolen land.

The social and political formations of Quebec and Mexico, no less than those of Canada and the US, need to grapple with and overturn settlerism, land theft and genocide, all of which are on-going realities, not just artifacts of a dead and distant past. There is no authentic internationalism or anti-imperialism, and no authentic socialism or class struggle in societies shaped by land theft, occupation and genocide, without addressing and upholding Native Nations’ sovereignty and learning from their differing relationship between people and land.

Anti-Racist Action in its heyday was an international network/organization with chapters in Canada and Quebec, and prior to that I worked in an internationalist alliance of  organizations that included Puerto Rican independentists, extra-parliamentary forces in Mexico, anti-colonial and anti-imperialist groupings in the U.S., and elements in the Quebecois movement, that sometimes referred to Quebec as the northernmost Latin American nation. But one of the lessons of those experiences is that solidarity with indigenous self-determination must be a cornerstone of any alliances or efforts to transform “Turtle Island.” The questions of missing and murdered Native women, and other examples of ongoing and contemporary genocide and land theft are more pressing than ever, whether in Quebec or California.

Michael Novick, DSA-Los Angeles
Anti-Racist Action-Los Angeles/People Against Racist Terror (ARA-LA/PART), publishers of Turning The Tide: Journal of Inter-communal Solidarity

André Frappier responds:

As Michael Novick points out in his comment, there was indeed an important omission concerning Indigenous peoples in the interview I gave to DSA and I apologize for that. I agree entirely that the struggle for social justice in Québec cannot be achieved without recognition of the rights of Indigenous peoples. It is only by establishing a common strategy for the Canadian working class and the Québec working class in alliance with Indigenous peoples that we can establish a framework for a new society that redresses the historic and ongoing injustices of the existing Canadian state, of which the dispossession and oppression of Indigenous peoples constitutes the most egregious example.

In its program, Québec solidaire (QS) recognizes that First Nations have never renounced their sovereignty, either by treaty or in any other manner. This means that they may freely choose their future and that this is an inherent right.

The program also recognizes that establishing equal relations with Indigenous peoples requires that we cease to take for granted Québec’s territorial integrity and welcome the prospect of the cohabitation on the same territory of sovereign peoples who can freely choose their future.  Such recognition will obviously have very concrete territorial and other repercussions, which will include ensuring that Indigenous peoples have the freedom and capacity to pursue their full social, cultural, economic and political development. QS will negotiate nation-to-nation in order to establish a plan for governing this territory.

To ensure that the point of view of Indigenous peoples is adequately represented within the Party, the QS convention which took place in November 2019 set up a standing committee on Indigenous issues (Commission autochtone), which is represented on the Party’s National Coordination Committee by Alisha Tukkiapik, an Inuk community worker from Kujjuarapik.

It is important to understand that the struggle for social change in Canada cannot unfold along the same lines as in the United States. The Canadian state has built itself up as a representative of the Anglo-Saxon bourgeoisie by extinguishing the rights of minorities, in particular those of Indigenous peoples and the Québec people.

If Québec independence represents the weak link in the Canadian imperialist chain, it is only the beginning of a struggle which will have to lead to a social transformation by the Québec working class and the Canadian working class in cooperation with Indigenous peoples with a view to building a free confederation of workers’ republics and Indigenous peoples.