Karen Restoule: My experience as a First Nations woman inspires me to stand against antisemitism

We cannot let the darkness of lies shroud us from speaking out truth
People gather following a demonstration in support of Israel and the release of hostages, in Toronto, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023. Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press.

A large pro-Jewish crowd gathered in front of Parliament in Ottawa on Monday to express their support for Israel amidst the ongoing conflict with Hamas and to decry antisemitism in Canada and abroad. Organized by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, speakers included Liberal MP Anthony Housefeather, Conservative MP Melissa Lantsman, and Hub contributor Karen Restoule. The Hub is pleased to run an expanded adaptation of Karen’s poignant remarks here.

It is with honour that I stand with you here today. I raise my hands to all of you, and to all of those who have come before you, for the courage that each of you carry.

I see it. Just by virtue of who I am, and where I come from, I see it. I, too, come from a long line of people who have struggled to fight hatred, prejudice, displacement, negative stereotypes, and discrimination. I empathize with you. I see and recognize what you are going through.

Much like us, it is clear: Jews are Indigenous Peoples of the Land of Israel from time immemorial. And I am proud to stand with you today and every day.

However, it must be said that while our experiences exist in parallel, they are not the same. Some have suggested correlations between Hamas and Israel in the Middle East and the reconciliation work led by First Nations here in Canada in the West. Over the past weeks, here in Canada, we have heard the use of the terms “colonizer”, “settler”, and “decolonize” to justify terror, violence, kidnapping, rape, and targeted civilian massacres. I fundamentally reject the politically motivated adoption of our historic and ongoing relationship with the Crown by some Canadians to justify this.

To be clear: there must never be an acceptance, tolerance, or justification for evil actions by terrorists and criminals in modern Canadian society.

And while, yes, these realities have existed at one time in our shared history as Canadians and Indigenous Peoples, we have found ways—and will continue to find ways—to peacefully resolve our differences through truth-sharing, dialogue, action, and growing mutualism.

As a First Nations woman and as a proud Canadian, I commit to stand witness, to be a Keeper of Truth. Every Canadian across this country is a witness to the events that unfolded on October 7th and to the steep increase in antisemitism that has transpired since then, including here at home in our country.

There has been a disturbing trend to normalize boycotting Jewish Canadians, to normalize calling for the eradication of Jewish peoples from their historic homelands, and to target Jewish-led businesses, schools, and places of worship.

We cannot let the darkness of lies shroud us from speaking out truth. The truth that October 7th happened. That it targeted innocent civilians with unimaginable scales of hatred and violence. We must all speak out courageously against antisemitic hate in our own land today. We share a collective responsibility to address wrongs. To act. To make things better.

It’s fitting that we gather here this week, as soon, in just a few evenings, hundreds of thousands of Jewish Canadians and friends will join together to light the menorah, remembering the miracle of the oil that lit the temple for eight days, the temple whose foundation rests to this day in Jerusalem.

As our days shorten, it’s a reminder that there is a miracle of light burning in all of us, from a power beyond us. Let’s remember that light in the days, weeks, and months ahead. Let us speak truth, show love, and work relentlessly toward lasting peace.

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