Something really struck me about what Mel Bazil said at the Dze L K’ant Friendship Society’s National Indigenous Peoples Day (NIDP) celebration.
“Throughout the rest of the year [the Friendship Centre deals] with a lot of intense issues, so this is a great way to step away from that and put our best foot forward and celebrate what is good about our nations,” said Bazil, friendship centre alcohol and drug facilitator and NIDP master of ceremonies.
Last year at this time was a period of reckoning for Canada. As Canada Day approached, the spirits of 215 Indigenous kids — whose bodies were found buried at a former residential school in Kamloops just a few weeks earlier — loomed over our collective conscience.
Some municipalities went so far as to cancel Canada Day celebrations.
The past treatment of Indigenous people in Canada truly is a national disgrace, but what is more disgraceful is the ongoing treatment. In virtually all aspects of Canadian society, our First Nations brethren fare more poorly than other Canadians. This includes employment, education, health care, justice, housing and resource development.
Much of that can be attributed directly to the effects of colonialism and forced assimilation.
But moreover, it is a lack of political will that makes progress painfully slow. Some of the slowness is unavoidable owing to generational trauma. Healing takes time.
But a lot of it is we’re talking the talk but not walking the walk.
That is not to say we haven’t made strides, but let’s not kid ourselves, this is not about reconciliation. Reconciliation was a poor choice of words for the process as it suggests there was a good relationship at some point that can be restored.
As a country, we have a lot of intense issues to deal with in the coming years and this may well be the most important of all.
Tomorrow, though, is a day to put our best foot forward and celebrate what is good about our nation.
I’ve never been one for grandiose patriotic pronouncements and I eschew American-style exceptionalism.
Canada is, however, even with all of our warts and blemishes, a relatively great nation.
Tomorrow, as we wave our flags, we can be proud of many things about this country, bearing in mind, of course, we still have a lot of work to do.