Failed Reconciliation

Our kids are in elementary school right now. They got to school just outside the city portion of the City of Ottawa. We live in a populated area with schools all around us. As one might expect, part of what they learn about is Canadian history. Now, I have no time to extol the virtues of this kind of teaching because Canadian history is flawed.

The Canadian present is flawed and the colonizers of Canada are the most flawed of all of this. Who are the "colonizers"? Well, pretty much the people who go to these schools. The people who drive on the roads, work at the gas stations, and work on many of the farms around us. They run the businesses in the city, they drive the buses in the city. They gather at restaurants and they got to movies.

In Canada, we use the word: reconciliation. This is meant to explain the way Canadians make good with Indigenous communities we have not made good with ever in our history. It is a path forward of sorts from a group who is best known for genocide and the cultural erasure that comes with it for a group that has been erased and ignored as the colonizers go about celebrating their supposed superiority.

If there is something Canadians like me appear to be very good at though, it is making superficial reconciliation offerings without taking personal responsibility for past and current wrongs.

We want to make the superficial changes brought to us by Truth and Reconciliation. We look through the recommendations brought to us (well, let's be honest, many of us don't) and we comb through it with a highlighter looking for things we can do.

We look at indigenous art and we invite elders to our events.

We want to celebrate indigenous athletes in the Olympics and we want to learn the term for the unceded territory we live our lives on.

But we are too damn selfish to want to make real change.

We don't want to direct money to indigenous communities because "we want to see how they'll spend their money."

We don't want to fund livable communities because taxes suck and look, we have homeless people too.

We don't give our children any meaningful education on Indigenous culture and the failures of our government to recognize them as a sovereign group. 

We don't give the same education to Indigenous children that we give to our children.

We want white (stolen) land owners to be able to kill indigenous men without repercussions and to have the white man come out looking like the victim.

We want systemic oppression of indigenous women to be in the open. Not so we can change it, but so that we can be reassured that there are other Canadians who don't care either. It eases the mind, doesn't it?

We want reconciliation to be the responsibility of indigenous people. We want them to "put in the work." Not us. We weren't the ones who stole this land, were we? Stop blaming your issues on us hard working white people. Isn't that how this works? This comes back to our collective strength in denying individual culpability in the problem.

"It's not me! I cried when I watched a video on residential schools!" some might say.

"I tweeted about how bad Lynn Beyak is!" might be the defense of others.

Look, we're angry that the lyrics to the national anthem were changed to be gender neutral and WE DON'T CARE AT ALL THAT THIS ANTHEM DOESN'T REFLECT THE PEOPLE WE TOOK THIS LAND FROM.

We are collectively failing the people we stole the land we live on from. We don't get better by skirting responsibility. We don't get better by allowing racist comments made at the dinner table go unnoticed. We don't get better without calling on our schools to do better at teaching our real history. We don't get better without contacting our Members of Parliament for action, not words.

Admit this is about you. Listen to the Indigenous voices around you speaking truths that you'd rather ignore. We need to make ourselves uncomfortable with family and friends and need to commit to real, not superficial, change.

It is not easy, obviously. But it is easier than being the target of 24/7 white supremacy and then being blamed for it. It is easier than being shot as you sleep or sexually assaulted as you walk down a road.