I have been quiet for a while; so much BIG stuff is happening in my personal life but more on that exciting news another time.
Today, as I write this, I sit comfortably in my home which rests on lands cared for historically by five Indigenous communities; the Mississaugas of the Credit, Anishnabeg, Chippewa, Haudenosaunee and Wendat. We are coming to the end of Pride Month, a week after National Indigenous Peoples Day and days away from “Canada” Day. Conversations abound of what to do to celebrate this year.
These conversations are happening after the discovery of unmarked graves and mass burial sites at residential schools across Canada; after months and decades and centuries of abuse, mistreatment, murder and genocide committed by our government and our churches. I for one don’t feel much like “celebrating” this year.
But it wasn’t me…
Daily I hear talk, read posts from people who look like me about how it is unfair to paint all of us with the same brushstrokes as our ancestors, the people who made the laws, broke up the families, murdered the children. “We didn’t do this” I keep hearing. “It’s so unfair to accuse us of anything; this is not my fault.” Are you upset that you’re being called out as a colonizer or settler? Does it make you feel uncomfortable?
What possible justification can any white person give for our collective white fragility? I used to think I hadn’t done anything wrong too. I used to think I was an ally. But I’ve come to realize that I wasn’t an ally because an ally is active. It’s a noun and a verb.
Al-ly noun: a person or organization that cooperates with or helps another in a particular activity.
My silence was action in and of itself; my inaction was action. By not actively helping the Indigenous communities I actively allowed their repression, abuse and genocide to continue unabated. Our First Nations peoples have been saying for years that these abuses, this genocide was taking place and we sat back in our comfort and security, turning a blind eye. Shame on all of us. We benefited and continue to benefit from the system that actively represses our First Nations peoples and emboldened ourselves in a cloak of collective chosen ignorance.
What if this “Canada” Day…?
So maybe instead of celebrating this Canada Day, maybe spend time asking yourself, what have I done to advocate for completion of the 95 recommendations from the 2015 Truth & Reconciliation Commission or the 231 recommendations from the 2019 National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls? Have I even read the recommendations? What have I done to advocate for clean drinking water on reservations? Have I written even one single letter to an MP, Premier or Prime Minister demanding concrete action to better the lives of our First Nations peoples? Made one single phone call? Have I spent any time listening to my First Nations neighbours tell the stories of their loss, their pain? Have I offered to use the voice I have thus far chosen to keep silent, to join in their cries for change? If you answered no to any of those questions, maybe this Canada Day is the day to change that.
Maybe instead of celebrating we should all spend the day in quiet reflection. Spend the day listening to the stories of our First Nations brothers and sisters who are in such pain. Don’t turn away. Don’t step away from this work because it’s too hard, too painful; the Indigenous peoples of our nation have not had that option. Ever. I know I will be listening. Learning. Advocating. It’s long overdue. Let’s be real allies and do something!
If there is one thing to celebrate this Canada Day, it’s that our First Nations peoples are finally being listened to. And that we as a nation and the entire world, believe them.
For me, and my ancestors who came before me, I’m sorry it took this long.