I have been an engaged student of Canadian history for as long as I can remember. It was my major focus of study in university. One of my proudest childhood moments was being awarded the grade 8 history award from the local chapter of the IODE – the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire! The name kind of says it all.
In a few weeks’ time, Canadians will mark our nation’s sesquicentennial – Canada 150. For some, it will be simply another long weekend. For many, it will be cause for great happiness and celebration; a time to give thanks for the privilege of living in a nation which is respected and admired around the world. But for others, most notably many our indigenous brothers and sisters, it is cause for great distress, anguish and lament.
The launch of the #Resistance150 movement says Michif artist Christi Belcourt, began with she and some colleagues, “talking about how Canada 150 was being celebrated, which was ignoring basically all of the First Nations, Métis Nations and Inuit people that have been here for 15,000 years. We knew we were going to hear about Canada all year long — and not only that, but the spending for Canada 150. That's half a billion dollars to celebrate Canada's birthday. Meanwhile, over 100 First Nations still are without potable drinking water. There are a lot of crises here in this country that need to be dealt with first.”
Continuing, she writes, “The other thing is that we wanted to be able to showcase the good things that are happening in our nations that we should really be celebrating. We wanted to feature examples of history, of resistance, resilience and resurgence. All the restoration work being done on the grassroots level. It's really inspiring.”
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and the Eastern Synod have made a clear and unequivocal commitment to promoting right and renewed relationships between non-indigenous and indigenous peoples within Canada, believing that recognizing and implementing indigenous rights is essential to being the kind of society Canada strives to be and the kind of Christians we are called to be.
As I have embarked upon my own personal journey toward reconciliation, and walked alongside those from our church who are committed to walking a similar path, I have learned a lot. But I have so much farther to go; so much more to learn.
Like many of you, I will not be here when we mark Canada’s bicentennial in 2067. But if I were, I would hope that I would be able to engage that event with a greater sense of pride and personal integrity than will be the case for Canada150. And I would further hope that I would be able to look back on the intervening years between these two events and be able to identify ways in which our church had contributed toward helping Canada to responsibly address the shameful legacy that is an undeniable stain on the history of “our home on native land.”
I love my country. I love Canada. But I’ve learned too much. I feel too much shame. As such, Resistance150 and Canada150 will stand side by side for me on July 1 this year. I hope they will for all of us.