Phew. We made it to Canada Day again. Yes, we were warned that it takes about 18 months for a pandemic to run its course, but I wasn’t ready to believe it. And yet here we are, marking another July 1st without our parades, fireworks and outdoor concerts. At least we can get together in small groups for a barbecue and celebrate our country’s birthday.
The discovery of the graves of hundreds more Indigenous children at residential school sites has many people questioning what there is to celebrate, however. For this is not just a story that the First Nations elders pass down from one generation to another in their traditional storytelling style. This is not just Indigenous history. It is Canadian history.
This moment in time will be remembered for more than just a pandemic, here in Canada. This year will stand in history for the moment in time when we all had to realize that our first Prime Minister, our first leaders, in government, the Church, and even the scientific community, had some pretty messed up ideas about the people who lived here first, and continued to live in their own traditional ways, on the land.
We are only starting to realize the depth and breadth of damage that has been inflicted on our First Nations people who were forced to attend and suffer the impact of the Indian Residential School system. Those who survived lived to tell the stories of their peers – tales of physical, mental and sexual abuse at the hands of the people who operated the system designed to strip them of their Indigenous culture.
It is a crushing feeling, to hear these stories and witness this incredible pain that our First Nations people have been suffering for so many years. If there is a positive side to this story, it is that these lost children have been found. The stories of their elders have been validated at last.
What can we do, as non-Indigenous Canadians? We can educate ourselves. Seek to understand that trauma inflicted on a community such as that in the Sixties Scoop and the residential school system has a negative, crippling impact on both the present and future generations.
Let this Canada Day mark a change in our cultural identity as a nation. Let’s support our First Nations people with respect, by standing quietly as allies while they tell their stories, seek justice, and sing their children home.
“You are free now, you may go home to Creator, to your mom and dad, your aunties and uncles who are waiting for you. You are no longer stuck here; this world is letting you go.” – Councillor Barbara Sarazin, Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation.