News | Decolonization and anti-oppression workshop tour hits Montreal

Tami Starlight urges people to “unpack their privilege”

Since April, anti-colonial and indigenous activist Tami Starlight has been traveling across North America offering decolonization and anti-oppression workshops.

Starlight’s workshop tour, which made a stop in Montreal last Thursday at Concordia University, included a historical discussion on decolonization and oppression in Canada, as well as the “basics of grassroots, horizontal, democratic, anti-oppressive, collective community organizing.”

Starlight described herself as an “indigenous two-spirited woman of trans experience,” explaining that she has faced oppression and multigenerational patterns of colonialism and was thus in an ideal position to facilitate the workshop.

“Often people who facilitate these workshops on anti-oppression have grown up with tons of privilege,” she told The Daily.

Starlight started the workshops while working with the Occupy movement, and soon noticed a disconnect between many Canadians and their colonial past and present.

“People come to these workshops with fairly basic knowledge [of colonization],” she said. “[But] there’s a need to unpack their privilege and develop an understanding of anti-oppression.”

For Starlight, “unpacking of privilege” includes acknowledging the government’s role in “perpetrating the madness.”

In the workshop, Starlight argued that capitalist ideologies, based in extraction and exploitation, have resulted in systemic oppression and effectively silenced indigenous voices over the years.

Supporting the state through capitalism, she said, and cultivating a false sense of “uber-nationalism,” only aids this continuous oppression.

“It’s going to be a long struggle,” said Starlight. “There are a lot of people drinking the Kool-Aid, so to speak. But when it comes to being engaged with your community in a meaningful way, we need to understand all of these privileges and all the colonization and historical context in which we are all operating.”

In closing, Starlight advocated for community building as a solution.

“Part of the system that perpetuates [oppression] is that we don’t know each other at all. We are disconnected from people and their historical contexts,” she told The Daily.

“We’ve developed a Canadian culture of minding our own business […] a so-called ‘sleepy nice Canadians’ reputation. When we create community capacity and relationships with people in meaningful ways, then we are a strong community, and then we can create change.”