Jun 5, 2019

On Canada

The MMIWG report basically demands funding (for research and services), access to resources, more equitable representation, and fair treatment, all of which I can get behind. One of the most important indicators of a successful nation is how well it treats its minorities and the impoverished/underprivileged, and there is obviously room for improvement in this area in Canada. Their suggestions make sense and are important for not just indigenous girls and women but all Canadian citizens. 

But I have a problem with a couple of aspects of the report:

"15.2 Decolonize by learning the true history of Canada and Indigenous history in your local area. Learn about and celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ history, cultures, pride, and diversity, acknowledging the land you live on and its importance to local Indigenous communities, both historically and today."

I am totally cool with learning about other cultures and history. It's an important part of living in our modern global society and a necessary step in ending racism and intolerance. What I have a problem with is the "celebrate" part.

I don't celebrate Jesus Christ as my lord and saviour or bow down to Allah. I don't wear a turban or a hijab. I think dictating what and when people can or cannot eat is ridiculous. I'm pretty sure a rain dance won't make it rain, and I'm almost certain that a dude in a chariot doesn't pull the sun across the sky every morning. I don't support valuing male children over female children. I'm not especially fond of jazz, metal, or throat-singing. I think it's cool if you want to see a naturopath, but I'm probably just going to take some ibuprofen.

The demand that I "celebrate" indigenous culture just because they were here first seems to run exactly counter to the kind of inclusive, accepting society we should all be actively working towards. I can respect the fact that your cultural beliefs and heritage are important to you without actually subscribing to them.

Re: decolonizing: Most high school English courses now have a unit on Canadian identity, and the students are asked to read a bunch of short stories and explain how they contribute to the uniquely Canadian voice. I remember having to do this myself in my Can Lit class in high school a million years ago. This task is impossible because there is no singular Canadian identity.

The indigenous people of Canada are an important part of our history and identity, but arguably no more so than the Scottish fishermen of the Maritimes or the Mennonite farmers of the prairies or the Africans fleeing slavery from the U.S. or the Japanese immigrants who died building the railroad or the French missionaries or the Middle Eastern families seeking refuge from violence or the Greek, Italian, Chinese, Irish, Russian, German, Mexican, Korean, Portuguese, Dutch, Vietnamese, Thai, etc. etc. etc. people who now call Canada home.

“An absolute paradigm shift is required to dismantle colonialism within Canadian society, and from all levels of government and public institutions, ideologies and instruments of colonialism, racism, and misogyny, past and present, must be rejected.”

Indigenous people of Canada, I see you. I recognize that your story has not been told honestly in the past, that you have been neglected and abused and mistreated. I acknowledge your pain and suffering.

But Canada is not just you. This land that we all call home is no longer just yours, as much as that might hurt to accept.   

Without some sort of catastrophic event, be it asteroid or global warming or nuclear war, that destroys all (or most) of humanity, the absolute paradigm shift you desire is impossible, and, while it is nice to look back on the good old days, the past is the past. Living in and longing for the past prevents you from living now. And isn't now what ultimately matters?