The reflection of a nation...
I was born into a lower middle class family and grew up in what could accurately be called white suburbia just outside of Toronto. At the time my knowledge of our indigenous population consisted of the stereotypes that came from westerns in the movies and on television and that Tecumseh was an Indian Chief who fought along side Sir Issac Brock to help defeat the Americans in the War of 1812 (it was actually more of a conflict we didn’t lose). They also offered great inspiration for professional sports franchises and of course, they lived on reserves far away from the schools I attended. I only bring this up to level set my ignorance.
Recently the psyche of a nation was put on display with the report of a mass grave of 215 indigenous children found on the grounds of a now boarded up Residential School, and soon after, other reports of unmarked graves found on the grounds of other such schools — the whispers of murdered children and cultural genocide were getting louder each day. This Residential School System, unique to Canada’s indigenous population, involved physically removing children from their families for years, stripping the children of their culture and language, and attempting to beat the Christian faith into them (and I say this most literally).
I am the first to say that a person should not pay for the “sins of their father” but since the last Residential School closed in the 1990s it’s impossible not to look in the mirror and question my complicity as a Canadian — even if it’s just for my ignorance. The complexity of the discussion is broad and is a layered compilation that spans over two centuries — European colonialism, religious expansionism, institutional racism, broken and misguided bureaucratic initiatives, cultural genocide, broken agreements, and broken promises. It begs the simple question, ‘“Where do I start”? My daughter asked me the other day what we can do about this and the only answer I could give was we need to shine a very bright light on the situation — we need to understand, we need to listen, and we need to acknowledge our history. We definitely can not let this slip back into the shadows where it’s destined to continue. In all of this, I’ve also come to conclusion Canada is a country that does not protect its children, and for this sin, will never become the country it says it is.
As well as shining that bright light on the situation, my humble suggestion is to better focus on our children; all our children. As a country, we need to ensure they are all safe, healthy and thriving. This will not address the sins of the past but it is a good place to start and will secure a better future.
So this is how I spent my Canada Day — reflecting and simmering with outrage.
It also struck me that Canadians may be (pound for pound) among the most dangerous people in the world… we are smart, have ample resources, and look how ruthlessly we treat our own children. When we say sorry, I wouldn’t assume we actually mean it.
This came out of a recent “Think Tank, Brain Trust ...
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