Origins: Canada’s True Identity
When you think of Canada, what do you think of? I think of bronze medals, ice, forest, and maple syrup. But beyond the stereotypical things we consider Canadian, I see our country as a respectful, safe, free, open, and neutral place. The words diversity, acceptance, connection, and apologies come to mind. But never would I have paired the origins of Canada with the word “cultural genocide”.
Growing up in a public school, I’ve had opportunities to meet some First Nations people and learn a bit about their ways. I’ve always known that the land we stand on was and is theirs, but I’ve never made the connection or filled in the empty history; failing to ask myself the question of how we got from just First Nations people to the diverse country we are today?
Looking at our Canadian identity and what we stand for, I believe we value truth and respect. Although most of me still believe that, reading the Truth & Reconciliation Commission made me realize that there is so much more to Canada than what meets the eye. The “dark side” of our history is something we don’t often talk about. To “fix” what we did or mend this broken relationship, we must first own up to our mistakes, and to do that, we must be open and truthful.
It is so important to not just show our “proud” moments but be open about our shameful moments too. The “dark” part our history is a part our story and stories need to be told. It is important we own up to what we have done and stop hiding from it. If the horrific parts of our history aren’t shared, how can learn and grow from them? How can we move past them? The fact of the matter is we can’t move forward without looking back, which to me, is one of the main reasons why reconciliation is so important.
Questions: The Long-Term Effects of a Broken Relationship
- Why is reconciliation important?
- How does our relationship with the First Nations people affect Canada’s identity, progress, and the people?
- How does our relationship affect our political, economic, and social decisions currently?
Trying to wrap my head around our origins, actions, identity, and how it all connects, the big question of “why is reconciliation important” led me to more specific questions relating to the effects of our relationship with the First Nation peoples.
Starting out grade 9 TALONS with the talk on Columbus and tackling the big idea of how history is written by the winners, the “discovery” of Canada lands in a similar boat. So much happened in the 150 years of Canada, it is not only important to understand what happened and hear both sides, but see why reconciling this lost relationship is so important. It would be easy to just gloss that part of our history over and live in the “safe, respectful, and open” façade of a country we call Canada, but abandoning reconciliation changes our country’s identity as a whole. The truth of the matter is that our relationship with the First Nations people is still affecting us today, and ignoring this is not going to progress us further.
Looking at how something in the past still affects us today, I wanted to explore current issues and see…
- how our relationship with the First Nations people affect our political, economic, and social decisions, as well as our progress
- how this relationship affecting us right now as a country and as a people
- how this affecting the first nations, the immigrants, the Canadians
- how our relationship affects our Canadian identity and our values
Research: Slowed “Progression” in “our home and native land”
When I think of our country and of the First Nations people, it is interesting how we often see the First Nations community as an obstacle to “progress” our country in an economic way. Because Canada is so rich in natural resources, one of the ways we are “progressing” our country forward is to export these natural resources. Building pipelines and mining the land is one of the many ways we extract and export. A few particular projects, such as the Kinder Morgan Pipeline and Northern Gateway Pipeline, created a lot of controversy and concern.
On the one hand, creating a pipeline will strengthen our economy, but on the other hand, it has the possibility of destroying the very land we are on. Besides the environmentalists, the First Nations people, who have a very strong relationship with nature, have made claims on lands and have “slowed progression” of some of these projects.
An example of this is found in CBC news, where a “Former First Nations chief stakes claim on B.C. mining minister’s property.” Bev Sellars, the former chief of the Xat’sull First Nation at Soda Creek, made a claim to raise awareness about placer miners. Upset that it was so easy to be certified as a free miner, she wrote “I didn’t have to contact the people of the private property … I didn’t have to prove that I had any awareness about the environment or the impacts of the industry. I didn’t have to know about the right of the local First Nations people.”
A reason why Bev Sellars is feeling so passionately about raising awareness is because back in 2014, “the Xat’sull First Nation was one of the communities affected by the breach of the tailings pond at the Mount Polley mine.”
David Haslam, the Energy and Mines Ministry spokesperson said that a placer mineral claim is “only for the purpose of conducting exploration activity” and is subject to a number of legal conditions and restrictions. “These restrictions make it extremely unlikely that any of the surface of this placer claim would actually be available for the recorded holder to conduct any form of exploration activity”, said Haslam.
Although this may be true, this doesn’t solve the issue that 1. Many people are unaware of placer mines and the destruction it can cause 2. That the people making the decisions are not listening or taking into full consideration the possible destruction it could cause, and 3. Canada’s relationship with the First Nations people has not progressed to a point where we are both understand each other. In the last part of the article, it states that “Haslam said the province is committed to collaborating with First Nations and works closely with the First Nations Energy and Mining Council so that First Nations’ perspectives on mining can be better understood.” Yes, this is great news, but it just shows us how far we have to go for, in the year 2017, we still don’t have a great understanding between the two groups.
Another rising issue is the construction of the pipelines in Canada. The Northern Gateway pipeline has had a lot of controversy. In a recent article, titled “B.C. government failed to properly consult First Nations on Northern Gateway pipeline, court rules”, it talks about how the First Nations argued how the “province wasn’t living up to its duty to consult with them.” Although there are a lot more details to this current issue, I chose to talk about it for it shows, yet again, how our relationship plays such an important role in progressing our country forward.
If we had a better relationship, then greater understanding can take place. The First Nations would greater understand the politics and economic issues and the Canadian government would greater understand the environmental concerns. We would be working together, instead of trying to find faults in each other.
Conclusion: Can’t Move Forward without Looking Back
Through my research, I have realized how far we have come and how far we still have to go in reconciling and restoring this broken relationship. Only researching two to three current environmental issues, I know I have only touched the surface on what I wanted to know. I still want to answer the big question of “why reconciliation is important” and tackling the question of “how does our relationship with the First Nations people affect Canada’s identity, progress, and the people?” and “how does our relationship affect our political, economic, and social decisions currently?” I am curious to know more about the conflicts we have and seeing if we, as a nation, are actually listening to each other?
I also want to know if reconciliation is possible. With different values, can we come together as one nation? Can we build a relationship based on respect, trust, and truth when so much destruction and hurt has occurred? I am not sure if reconciliation is truly possible but I believe that we can progress to a point where we understand each other, listen to each other, and make decisions together.
I chose to research about current events to show that our relationship with the First Nations people is still relevant and affecting us in the now, which leads me back to the main question of “why is reconciliation important?” To answer a part of that question, it is important because our relationship is causing setbacks and slowing down our “progress”. How can we truly move forward without looking back? I hope to find a greater understanding by digging deeper into these questions, finding personal relevance and meaning in the truth.