Truth First

I was born and raised in Ottawa, the son of a politician. Obviously Canada day was in the picture, whether guests at the family cottage or trips to Parliament Hill. As the years went on the celebrations on the hill became even more of a spectacle with the Snowbirds, concerts, and mega fireworks.
I’m not sure I knew what it meant to describe myself as a proud Canadian. I was reminded that I lived in a free and fairly liberal place that other people wanted to come to. I knew some Colonial history and had no idea about the history of this land before the Europeans arrived. I had a romantic idea of the noble savage, but not much else.
On the banks of the Ottawa river, at our cottage we argued about whether the path to the beach was made by loggers or “Indians”. We envisioned convoys of boats filled with European explorers led by first nations guides in canoes. (The river, originally know as the Kitchisippi, a rich watershed of wildlife and home to the Huron, Algonquin and Iroquois, later polluted by a Nuclear plant, paper processing and other industry, we were warned that the fish we caught might have too much mercury in it.)
But the aboriginals were always either non-existent, part of a diorama at the national museum or living on someplace called a ‘reserve’.
This year I took advantage of the free course in aboriginal history https://www.ualberta.ca/admissions-programs/online-courses/indigenous-canada/index.html and my eyes were finally opened to the light and the lie I have been living all these years.
I say lie. Passively I have been aware of substandard living conditions for indigenous in this country for many years. Through the press it had come to my attention that developers or oil companies wanted to build golf courses/ pipelines on aboriginal land, still do, and that there were protests and still are. I listened to other non-aboriginals complain about the ‘Indian problem’ and those protests. And passively I tut-tutted, nodded in sadness and sympathy for the First Nations but did little else.
I’ve watched Canadian governments tearfully apologize to the natives, again and again, more heart felt and chest thumping each time. I’ve heard the promises and voted on those hopes.
The U of A course opened my eyes to the absolute fraud of treaty negotiations, the Indian act, the White Paper, and of course residential schools.
I say lie because I was born in 1958 and the last residential school closed in 1997. The math says I was living in a country––and all governments during my lifetime––that supported true appropriation of culture, children, absolute disrespect and meanspiritedness in the true sense of the word. And I had no idea this was going on.
Now, for those leaders and others who say that cancelling Canada Day is tantamount to dismantling the country I say this: Imagine you have lived in a family where Uncle Bob has regularly and secretly raped your siblings for years. Everyone in your family “kind of” knew but wasn’t going to say anything. Your family lived a stilted and perhaps unhappy kind of existence. Gatherings, weddings, new members were celebrated with fake smiles and you may have presented yourself well while deep down knowing the truth. And if you didn’t know the truth you knew something was somehow wrong. Really you were living a half life under the controlling hand of Uncle Bob. Wouldn’t you like to finally break the pattern of continuous lies and abuse.
I say this: I dismantled my crooked deck last summer and got to the root of the problem. It now stands level. Dismantling is sometimes a very worthwhile thing.
This is what has been going on here in Canada. We know a little of our history and we have been living a lie, trying to ignore what we do know. Celebrating every July first, celebrating when Newfoundland joined confederation, tearfully sighing with relief when Quebec didn’t ‘leave’ this great country.
I would say that to heal this country we must know the truth, we must learn just what is here worth celebrating. At this point to ignore the sins created by our leaders, carried out by the Catholic church and condoned by the rest of us who turned a blind eye, is not cause for any means of celebration. There is nowhere to point a finger except towards ourselves for knowingly living the lie.
We talk about aboriginal anger or black rage, well, tell me, whose rage put 150,000 children in residential schools? Whose rage has hidden the truth about their deaths. Whose rage last year arrested an aboriginal journalist for merely putting pen to paper? I will tell you that rage did not originate with the aboriginals. Whose rage continues to lynch and kill blacks, transgender, anyone outside of ‘normal’. Who has the rage? It’s so sadly obvious.
It will take far more than money to rectify this crime, this genocide. It will take upheaval, a paradigm shift and a new way of respecting and acknowledging the true founders and original care takers of this land.
To proudly travel the world, or welcome immigrants to this land, as Canadians we will have to make all aware of the new fabric of what we are truly made.
My wish for this country is that the truth does in fact set us free and that we can be a model for human rights around the world. There will be no reconciliation without truth.