Thursday, July 1, 2021

The Saddest Canada Day

I borrowed this piece of art from a tweet:
Simone McLeod, 2014, Healing All Nations
 This year marks my 19th Canada Day, as we moved here in August 2002.  It is clearly the saddest one because of the accumulation of sorrows.  Canada did not handle the pandemic well with the elder care facilities being decimated last year, and bad governance exacerbating the third wave this winter.  The past week was so hot in the west that not only heat-related deaths exceeded covid deaths but that a fire started, generated a fire thunderstorm (no water, just clouds and lightning) which then started more fires.  And a third residential school's tragic legacy was revealed this week.  The toll of the three schools is over 1,000, and these efforts are just the start.  My wife and I are happy to be Canadians, but are sad that this country has treated its Indigenous people so very badly.

The past is not that far away--the last school closed in 1996.  Welfare policies today do what the old residential schools did--take kids away from their families.  Indigenous women and girls go missing at a far higher rate than anyone else.  Many reserves lack clean drinking water.  The government talks a good game about reconciliation, but continues to resist a variety of changes.  There has been some progress--there seem to be fewer places that are lacking in drinking water although still too many.  One of the most positive parts of the pandemic is that Indigenous communities and peoples were towards the front of the line, a big contrast from the residential schools that were allowed to be breeding grounds for tuberculosis and other diseases.  Of course, there was a great need for the Canadian Armed Forces to provide help to Indigenous communities and for these people to get vaccinated early precisely because they lack the health care infrastructure that could have gotten them through this crisis. 

So, as the vaccination effort and other relief efforts showed, we can do better.  We must do better. We must put pressure on local, provincial, and federal governments to back up their words with real actions.  We must put pressure on the Catholic Church to apologize for how they ran the residential schools and to release the documents.  We must figure out ways to listen to and include Indigenous people.  And we must stop taking Indigenous kids away from their families.

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