To The Editor:
This Canada Day I will reflect on what factors in my life have led me to be so obtuse about the impact of colonialism on Indigenous People.
I am a 7th generation Canadian, from UK and European ancestry who never had to be torn away from my family to go to school. In school I learned all about my people and their ancient history, never gave a second thought to anyone who didn’t share my roots.
There was little to no reference to First Nations people except in dismissive terms.
We were called settlers, not invaders. We claimed the right to land that was never ours because the system we unilaterally installed said it was ok. We colonized where we were not wanted and thought our whiteness gave us dominion to do so. That’s the picture painted for me and the one I settled into without any critical analysis.
I never heard of residential schools until I was nearly 40, and even then, it was presented more like a religious boarding school where students were there by choice. Were there snippets of truth out there that I ignored, or was the horror of the experience beyond my comprehension, because I had nothing to compare it with?
I don’t know.
I am ashamed that I felt no need to investigate, blindly dismissing the experience of First Peoples as something not relevant to my life. I hid behind the systemic racism that permeated through everything, blinding me to reality, including my own complicity.
I do know that the truth has slapped me across the face, especially in recent weeks, and woken me up to the damage of the myth I participated in. The myth that Canada was different because we were kind, compassionate and giving people, to be admired and respected for our altruism.
I believed that myth, even when my eyes and ears were starting to tell me otherwise. I have been a social justice activist my entire adult life but managed not to prioritize the struggle of First Nations beyond signing petitions and attending rallies. I was ill equipped to deal with the complexities of generational racism or to acknowledge that I was part of the oppression whether I realized it or not.
I live on stolen and un-surrendered Sinixt land.
I know little of the history of this land, but I am committed to learn.
I am committed to fully supporting the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and demanding elected officials make true reconciliation a priority.
On this Canada Day, I will celebrate my awakening as I re-read the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People with a firmer resolve to be part of the solution. I will not be festive because I am grieving the loss of our potential.
However, I will be reflective on how I can contribute to bringing the values of fairness and compassion into reality for everyone, so I can celebrate that achievement in the future.
Cindy McCallum Miller, Thrums, BC