“When defining Canada,
You might list some statistics
You might mention our tallest building,
Or biggest lake;
You might shake a tree in the fall
And call a red leaf Canada”
-Shane Koyczan, “We Are More”
35.16 million people.
All unique, diverse, not one coming from quite the same cultural background.
That’s my favourite thing about Canada. Our never ending diversity. Take a quick walk through my school hallways and you’ll see people of all different cultures and ethnic origins. Personally, I come from a (mostly) aboriginal background. I say mostly because the only lineage I know of that is European on both sides of my family is Scottish. Other than that, I am Cree, Anishinaabe, Dene, Metis, Haudenosaunee, specifically Onondaga and Tuscarora. I was born in Edmonton, Alberta and moved to Six Nations, Ontario when I was two.
Admittedly, I initially struggled with this assignment. “Tell the world what makes Canada great”. This isn’t a question I can answer with ease. Probably not what you would like to hear, but you should understand my perspective and thought. Let me explain. Recently the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released their report. Many don’t even realize what the Commission’s purpose was. Briefly, they were collecting data on residential schools, their legacy and making recommendations to achieve reconciliation. To explain further, residential schools were used to commit cultural genocide against the Aboriginal people of Canada by the government and churches. Therefore, to speak about the greatness of Canada it is important to discuss the Aboriginal People of this country. John Ralston Saul put it best in his article from the Globe and Mail, June 5, 2015.
There are good and bad things in our society, successes and failures. But there is only one fundamental reality that remains unaddressed. That is the situation of Indigenous peoples.
This is the single most important issue before us, whether we are recently arrived in Canada or have been here for centuries. This is the prime issue on which we should be judging governments and potential governments.
The commission identified documentation that supported survivors’ claims about all types of abuse: physical, mental, emotional, sexual, and spiritual. These were outlined in awful detail which isn’t appropriate for this particular blog. Remember too that many of these innocent young children were taken from their homes, by strangers, forcefully, with no choice from their parents. The tragedy and intergenerational trauma resulting from the whole residential school experience is a dark place in our collective history. However; from this darkness Canada truly has the opportunity to show the world just how great we are!
Canada is a very culturally diverse country. What does this mean for Canada? Is it effective, and if so for who and in what ways? It is important that the Aboriginal People are not left behind as Canada continues to grow and change in diversity. We are and will always continue to be an important part of this “fabric.” As per one of the 94 recommendations in the Commissions report to work towards reconciliation is through education. Canada has a strong and dominant education system so I know that an articulate and accurate Aboriginal history can be portrayed.
Like many others I see Canada as thriving and an awesome place to live. Unlike others I am unable to say my parents came from…my grandparents came from…my great grandparents came from. I will never move to another country, ever, this is my homeland and my ancestors from thousands of generations ago are buried here. The connection to this land is strong for me.
Finally, we need to ask ourselves why it is that I would be ten times more likely to end up missing or murdered compared to the other candidates simply because I am Aboriginal. Something is wrong with that but that’s not to say it can’t be “righted” so to speak. The development of Canada has been heavily influenced by the sharing, kindness and generosity of the Aboriginal people and it will continue to thrive in this way. The fact that I am simply able to sit here on my laptop writing this, in my living room while the sun quietly sets outside already shows that I am privileged to live in a country that allows people like me, people who are different, are female, are a different ethnicity, people who have strong opinions that aren’t always the most popular one, to thrive in our society.
There is always work to be done, but there is no place in this world I’d rather live!
“Each life unravels differently,
And experiences are what make up
The colours of our tapestry.
We are the true north,
Strong and free
And what’s more
Is that we didn’t just say it
We made it be.”