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Canada Indigenous Leader Fasts for 27 Hours Inside Museum Prison as Tribute to Nelson Mandela

Derek Nepinak's performance was meant to draw attention to the parallels between apartheid in South Africa and the discrimination faced by indigenous people in Canada.


Updated:December 5, 2018, 12:43 PM IST
Canada Indigenous Leader Fasts for 27 Hours Inside Museum Prison as Tribute to Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela

An indigenous leader from Manitoba, Canada locked himself in a faux prison for 27 hours in order to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela's 18-years-long incarceration in South Africa.

Derek Nepinak fasted for 27 hours inside a prison installation inside the Canadian Museum for Human Rights on Tuesday as a reflection on the African apartheid regime. The prison cell was designed to be eight foot by seven foot in dimensions, the same as the cell Mandela had been locked in. All Nepinak had inside was a thin blanket and mat.

According to a report in the Winnipeg Sun, Nepinak's performance was meant to draw attention to the problem of apartheid or racial segregation that the indigenous population of Canada faces within the country.

He said that the time he spent in the cell, part of a Nelson Mandela display that went up earlier this year to in the museum, was uncomfortable and he spent most of it thinking about how to sleep.

He also said that while he sat in the cell, he stared at a board that read 'mobilisation', reflecting that though there had been mobilisation against apartheid in SA, there was no such mobilisation in Canada for the indigenous population. The former grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said his performance was meant to draw attention to the cause.

The issue of discrimination against Canada's 1.7 million indigenous persons has been raised by leaders before. In September 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke about the issue in speech to the UN, admitting that the indigenous population had faced "humiliation, neglect and abuse", adding that he would work towards protecting them. However, a report released in June this year by Statistics Canada, the national statistics agency, found that 27 percent of the population in Canadian prisons comprises of indigenous persons in 2016-17, even though their total population in Canada is just five percent. According to a report in Washington Post, Canada's 2017 budget has allocated 65.2 million Canadian dollars to be distributed over five years starting 2017 in order to reverse this trend.

The indigenous population in Canada also faces disproportionately higher rates of suicide and other health risk as opposed to non-indigenous Canadians.

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