What does it hurt to listen?
I am a seventh generation Canadian and have always felt a pride at being a member of a multicultural community which has, at least outwardly, prided itself on acceptance and the welcoming of all.
As I have grown older, however, I have realized that as a nation we are often far from the stereotype and what is worse, we are sometimes intolerant and even hateful toward others, especially the First Nations people. I do not advocate confrontation, but the attempt at consultation seems to have had lip service.
Sincere and inclusive consultation is the means leading to the path of justice. The purpose of justice is the appearance of unity, and without justice, there is little hope of resolving age old issues. It seems that as a nation we are in dire need of developing a tool for collective decision making, not an easy task.
When we see ‘otherness’ we are far less able to understand and acknowledge that the First Nations members of this land live in third world conditions despite inhabiting one of the richest nations of the world. Many reserves have not had potable water for decades. Relegated to the poorest land, stripped of languages and rich cultures, dehumanised in residential schools, marginalized by poverty, inhabiting substandard housing, they live where land has often been poisoned by corporate greed. Yet these members of the Canadian mosaic have survived. Among their ranks are lawyers, actors, judges, teachers, leaders.
The First Nations friends have a wonderful saying that is said after speaking. It is the phrase “All my relations”. This is not just a simple phrase but one that has deep meaning. It states that we are all one — all of us. DNA now supports it. Yet, it seems that the only way open to be acknowledged now is to confront; to say that “we are here; that what we believe matters; we will no longer be ignored.” There is no easy solution. Trains must run, ships must carry and empty their cargoes. Most of us live in a time sensitive world. But we are reaping the whirlwind from decades of misunderstanding and injustice. Many of these elders still hold secrets to protecting the environment and healing our bodies and spirits. What does it hurt to listen?
Zannetta Varley Anthony