Friday, June 30, 2017

Oh Canada--it is time to grow up.

You know you're old when....

You remember your country's Centennial birthday. "It's the hundredth anniversary of Confederation! Everybody sing together!"

That year we travelled from British Columbia to Quebec in my parent's black station wagon towing a pink trailer to attend Expo 67. To fully grasp the insanity of this adventure, my parents had 6 children under the age of 10 and my mother was pregnant with no. 7.

I got lost at the Fair, was found by two French-speaking nuns. I didn't understand the language (even after numerous Saturday mornings of watching Chez Helene on the CBC) but I wasn't worried because they were nuns, right? They brought me to the Lost Children's Centre where I was given ice cream. My sister was sent to recover me, my parents were furious and I've been getting lost ever since.

What was unknown to me in those exciting days of Canada's 100th and bursting national pride was that children my age were being taken from their parents and forced into residential schools. In the very country that I was being taught to love, children were being grievously harmed by the policies of that country. The very institutions that took pains to return me to my parents were separating other children from their parents.

The only difference between me and the kids forced into residential schools is that I was white and they were aboriginal. I don't classify that as a difference. A kid is a kid is a kid. It boggles my mind. 1967 was hardly the dark ages. What the fuck was going on in the minds of those men and women? How could any human being conclude that taking children from their parents was a legitimate, moral act? What "problem" did those Canadians hope to solve by inflicting emotional and mental cruelty on other Canadians?

Fifty years later, lesson learned: It didn't solve a fucking thing. How could it possibly? Common sense--not hindsight--makes that clear. A 7-year-old school kid could have told those overpaid policy makers it was a bad idea. Our eyes are open, we have the facts, there's no stuffing that genie back in the bottle.

I'll celebrate my country's 150th birthday--but I'm not interested in rewriting the past. I'm not interested in equivocations or whitewashing so we can all have a good time. I don't want my little grandsons to be celebrating Canada's 200th birthday, wondering what was wrong with grandma's generation that we gave up on making this right when the going got tough.

We're all feeling warm and fuzzy right now and I don't want to be a buzz kill but I know this nation is capable of doing better. I know her gifts and untapped strength. I know she's a tough old bird who drives out the weak-minded and greedy, and rewards the morally conscious. If we don't dig in our heels and resolve to get  this right, then what the hell do we have to be proud of?

I'm going to sing the national anthem and celebrate the years to come with a mind, heart and will moving toward reconciliation with the first peoples of Canada--the best of Canada--the First Nations.

I pray every Canadian does the same. Happy Canada Day.

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