Skyla Hart says she hasn't stood for ”O Canada” for most of her life. (Photo: Ian McCausland)

Topics: Justice | Interview

Student activist Skyla Hart on why she doesn’t stand for ‘O Canada’

The 15-year-old says the national anthem celebrates stolen land and culture

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Skyla Hart made headlines last September when she chose to remain seated for O Canada at her high school, River East Collegiate, in Winnipeg. The 15-year-old student did it to honour her Cree and Ojibwe ancestors and to shine a light on Indigenous issues; she was reprimanded and removed from her class as a result. With the help of school staff, Hart later created Indigenous Voices, a student group that meets regularly to talk about Indigenous culture.


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Decisions I haven’t stood for the anthem for most of my life — since kindergarten. It celebrates stolen land and culture. I sit to point out the need for justice — because we don’t really see justice.

Problems My family and all Indigenous families have problems because of intergenerational trauma. Suicide is one of the main problems that Indigenous people are facing right now. If there was a kid out there who was suicidal, they would want to see another kid speaking out about it. They’d be able to relate to that, but so would other people. Sometimes adults forget what it feels like to be a teenager.

Action In our school group, we have Indigenous students speaking up about how to make the school a better place and how the school can help with it all. My mom works with Indigenous kids; she helps them learn about their culture. I want to do what my mom does when I’m older. Lots of Indigenous people didn’t grow up around their culture.

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Mike Alexander is an Anishinaabe writer and artist from Swan Lake First Nation in Manitoba.

This interview first appeared in Broadview’s July/August 2022 issue with the title “Skyla Hart.”


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  • says:

    Those of us who are "Boomers" (and older) grew up with respect, (No matter what we thought of the other).

    Lack of respect leads to anarchy and to the breakdown of further relationships.

    I wish young people (and those who think they have it "bad" in our country would try to live in Syria, Nigeria or North Korea.

    You live in a great country when you can complain about it.

    Replies

    • says:

      Boomers who were either wholesale responsible for Indigenous erasure through the maintenance of a racist social order now making demands for “respect”. If you took any time to examine your contributions to this structure - directly or indirectly, you might be able to imagine what it might be like to know the meaning of oppression. Luckily for Skyla’s generation, your intolerance is eye-rolling at best. She doesn’t care what you think. Respect is a two way streets It is earned and never extolled upon anyone because of age and lazy refusal to self-examine and engage in critical thinking.

      Replies

      • says:

        Your assumption is that everyone knew about the atrocities towards the "native Americans" in regards to the Residential Schools. As a Canadian I knew more about the Black oppression in the US through school than any oppressions in our "Home and Native Land".
        As for today all we have for correction is one side saying "Give back everything you took" (Which even the socialist don't want to do) and it's a poor approach of the situation.
        On the other we have a Government who's only proactive part is shedding a few tears and saying "We're Sorry". (Which is a poorer approach)
        Proactive work as the article suggests is far more effective than being disrespectful.
        Your assumption that I am intolerant is a poor excuse for a rebuttal. And the assumption like yours also hinders any "reconciliation" that those who are willing to give.

  • says:

    As a boomer, I agree with Skyla's point of view.