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New program asks Canadians to pay ‘rent’ to Indigenous people

The initiative, Reciprocity Trusts, encourages ‘rent’ from Canadians who are living on First Nations land.

Reciprocity Trusts are encouraging residents of B.C. to pay approximately $400 annually to the Indigenous people of the land upon which they live and work.

The scheme is designed to pay reparations to First Nation’s People for the immense generational damages wrought by colonialism.

Image: VegNews

The idea for Reciprocity really came from conversations with Indigenous colleagues and friends over many years,” said Sarah Reid, Reciprocity Trust’s program director.

We were hearing from Indigenous people who are impacted by ongoing colonialism in their day-to-day lives. So we asked, ‘Well, what can I do in my own life as a settler in these lands?’”, she continued.

According to Reciprocity Trust’s website, “British Columbians can start saying thank you for over 150 years of rent-free living by paying a little back each year.

‘Rent’ is calculated on the basis of property value or (conventional) rent with the organisation asking for a 1 percent contribution out of these figures.

What about Australia?

This move raises questions about what non-indigenous Australians can do to pay their ‘rent’.

Aboriginal activist Bobby Thorpe. Image: Documentary Australia Foundation

With it’s equally ugly colonial history, Australia is no stranger to de-colonial rhetoric.

In fact, Aboriginal activists such a Bobby Thorpe have been promoting similar campaigns for decades. Australian campaigns support the exact same principle; that non-indigenous citizens should pay reparations as an acknowledgment of their ancestor’s sincere wrongdoings.

Generations of Australians would be familiar with the phrasing, “pay the rent”, from the popular Midnight Oil song, Beds Are Burning. 

Despite gaining limited popularity in Australia’s discourse on First Nation’s People, it becomes apparent that the concept of paying reparations for colonialism’s impact is not new.

There is also a foundation within Australia, made up of both indigenous and non-indigenous members, called the Pay The Rent. This organisation aims to achieve similar goals as Reciprocity Trusts including reparations for the continued effects of colonisation and stolen land through donations.

It’s known that nothing can compensate for colonialism’s abhorrent legacy of destruction, however, in the acknowledgment of land which was stolen from First Nations People, these movements are a significant step in the right direction.