Courier editorials – Empathy, education, and reflection; how we’ll be spending Canada Day

From the Tuesday, June 29 edition of The Saint Croix Courier

On our front page today, you will, I hope, have noticed not only the front page story but our masthead has been made orange rather than its normal blue. The reason is we want to show solidarity with our Indigenous communities on the heels of the discovery of several graves across the sites of several former residential schools across this country.

Each discovery is heartbreaking, and brings further into light the dark past of our country, and the barbaric system forced on our First Nations families.

And that is the basis for the cancelling of Canada Day events, as has happened not only in our corner of the world, but across our country.

It is not to negate the day itself, but rather to re-purpose how we spend Canada Day in 2021. Rather than face paint and eat cake, events have been cancelled to allow not only for reverence of our First Nations communities and the clear injustices they’ve suffered, but to allow space and time for each of us to stop and consider our history. July 1, 2021 is being opened to reflection and empathy rather than fireworks, and I for one think it’s a wonderful move on the part of our local leaders.

Like many of you, the education system in which I grew-up did not cover the residential school system in Canada. If it did, it was a mere mention, but no in-depth analysis of the facts of that system was provided. It simply wasn’t discussed or taught.

In discussion with friend who grew-up in a Catholic household, and who is struggling with their relationship with the church as these crime scenes are revealed, he said he had hoped when these atrocities were taking place, the church members involved had truly believed what they were doing was ‘the right thing’.

But now, seeing the great lengths which were gone to so these graves would be hidden from the eyes of the country and indeed the world it became clear; the churches and governments which operated these institutions (I don’t think ‘school’ is really the right term) knew not only what they were doing, but that it would be viewed as abhorrent to most and hence decades upon decades of cover-ups and hidden history was created.

And it’s only now, as proof of this history is revealed that records are being offered, and admittance of disgusting practises muttered. And yet I still see no apology from the church, and I’ve seen naught but crocodile tears from successive governments who deplore the practises of these institutions on the one hand while fighting court battles against those seeking reconciliation on the other.

And all the while, our First Nations communities have told us these stories, but we could not nor would not listen. Cowessess First Nation Chief, Cadmus Delorme, articulated it well:

“You know, in 2021, we all inherited this. Nobody today created the Indian Act. Nobody today created the Sixties Scoop. But we all inherited this. And if we want to say we’re proud Canadians, then we will accept the beautiful country we have today, and we will accept what we inherited.”

And that is why Canada Day events have been cancelled. It is neither punishment nor pandering.

What we have been offered is the opportunity to understand what we inherited. It is only through the tools of discussion, education, and empathy to understand the dark parts of our history that will allow us to ensure said history never repeats.

We did not create this history, but we have inherited it. It is what we do with the inheritance that will define our future.

Krisi Marples