A group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth climate activists have filed to trademark the 'Take Back Canada’ slogan used by Conservative Party of Canada Leader Erin O’Toole.
Climate Strike Canada, which organized nationwide climate strikes last September, served O’Toole and the Conservatives with a cease and desist letter Thursday morning, saying the activist group has used the slogan since 2019, before the Tories. While the strikers used the phrase to call attention to Indigenous sovereignty campaigns, they say the Conservatives are using it as a dog whistle.
“It’s grounded in colonialism and white supremacy,” said Cricket Guest, 22, a Métis Anishinaabe land defender.
“When Erin O'Toole came out with ‘Take Back Canada,’ it was very obvious that it was both a response and a companion to what Donald Trump is famous for saying, which is ‘Make America Great Again.’ It’s also obviously a response to a phrase coined by Indigenous youth, which is ‘land back.’”
Climate Strike Canada hasn’t received final confirmation about whether it will receive the trademark for the phrase, but the group said it’s asking O’Toole and the Conservatives to stop using the phrase in the meantime.
O’Toole’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Canada’s National Observer about the cease and desist letter, and questions about the meaning of the ‘Take Back Canada’ when used by the Conservatives.
The slogan also raised eyebrows earlier this year.
“We chose to take legal action because ‘Take Back Canada’ in the context of the Conservative party’s slogan is racist, historically revisionist, and promotes the erasure of Indigenous peoples,” said Giiwedinong Kisinaaikwe, one of the youth involved in the process of filing for the trademark, in a statement Wednesday.
“Canada has never belonged to people like Erin O’Toole. Canada was founded on stolen Indigenous land.”
In an ideal world, Guest said, O’Toole would not only stop using the phrase but also begin working alongside Indigenous sovereignty movements.
Canada has never belonged to people like Erin O’Toole. Canada was founded on stolen Indigenous land," said Giiwedinong Kisinaaikwe, one of the youth involved in the effort to trademark 'Take Back Canada.'
Earlier this year, amid rail blockades and demonstrations nationwide in support of Wet’suwet’en people working to oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline, O’Toole said he would criminalize activist efforts to shut down key infrastructure.
“It is a form of common law assault and should, in the appropriate situations, be treated as such,” O'Toole said at the time.
Emma McIntosh / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer