Monday, July 1, 2013

A Canada Worth Celebrating

Kanata by Greg Hill

Tomorrow I'm meeting with people from a university in England and I have the pleasure of explaining to them why my office (an Aboriginal resource centre at a university) exists. Today being Canada Day and all, I got to thinking: What would be a Canada worth celebrating?

Some obvious things come to mind: honour the treaties, stop the Keystone XL pipeline (and other environmentally violent projects), treat Indigenous women with respect, recognize our nationhood.

Tomorrow, I will tell the Brits about why our office exists. It is because colonization is a fact in this country. I will use the example of residential schools as one of its most violent forms (but I won't fail to mention the theft of land, and the destruction of the role of women and governance traditions). And I will explain the way this assault on Indigenous peoples has created a plethora of socioeconomic issues that plague our beautiful women, men, children, elders, and communities.

Will it be a lot for them to learn in 5 minutes? Probably. Will they understand it upon reflection? I hope so. Will it shatter what they think they know about "Indians"? That's certainly what I'm going for.

On Friday I was talking to other activists about hope - Indigenous rights advocates, feminists, and proponents of diversity. We wondered, like all activists do at some point, if the work we are doing is any different than it was 30, 40 years ago. More importantly, is the world better off?

"Should we lower our expectations?" questioned a woman who's been in the field for over 30 years.

To me, the answer is obvious: No. I have absolutely high expectations of Canadians, and the role they must play in decolonization and reconciliation. And I don't plan on lowering them one bit. I also have hope that it's possible, because the majority of Canadians are loving and compassionate people.

This is why my office at the university exists: it is a responsibility. Canada wanted to eliminate so much of what makes our nations great through the residential school system. Apparently, 5 years ago, Canada realized what they did was wrong and issued an apology. Today, all school systems in this country have the responsibility to make space for Indigenous ways of knowing to be reclaimed and to grow and flourish.

When Canadians take the time to understand this history, to assume their responsibility, to respect our nationhood alongside their own, and to take tangible action to decolonize Canada, I will stand with you and say:

Happy Canada Day.

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