I took this image a few moments ago. This is the rainy season in Ecuador. Since January was all about sunshine, and because there are still sunny interludes, I am getting darker with each passing day. Of course, I would be darker still if I was able to sunbathe while nude, either on the property or along the beach front. It is what it is, and so I adapt as best I can.
This gloomy weather is being accentuated by the gloom and doom of events in my country, and our neighbouring southern partner, the USA. I don’t often use my blog site for commenting about any of these gloom and doom events such as the recent shooting of 17 in a Florida High school, or the Racism uproar in Canada following the acquittal of a farmer in Saskatchewan following the shooting death of a youth from a nearby Reserve. But, I find that I have to speak out my mind. I am torn in the process. The collective unconscious being set loose in both countries is troubling, and downright scary if one follows the polarisation that is growing in both countries. So, I will take a few moments here to talk about the shit in my own back yard – Saskatchewan, Canada.
We have a problem. One faction wants to have farmers better able to protect their families and property, their livelihood that feeds our country and many other countries of the world. The problem is that enabling the use of firearms to protect private property and life hasn’t worked anywhere else in the world where laws permit the ownership and use of guns. Our neighbour to the south are the best example I can use to illustrate this “solution” to a real problem of violence being suffered in rural areas, especially rural areas near reserves, though not limited to those areas. Shooting deaths don’t really solve any problems, however they do highlight the fact that there are problems laying beneath the surface events that are cancerous and festering.
In Canada, the recent case involving a white farmer and a local aboriginal youth has resulted in a lot of spillover anger on both sides of the ever-growing divide:
The online response to the acquittal of Gerald Stanley in the death of Colten Boushie has taken on a life of its own with people hurling hate and throwing a substantial amount of money at two rival GoFundMe fundraising campaigns.
No one, it seems, wants to look beneath the surface. It’s too confusing and too much work. Besides, one needs to be willing to leave polarised truths aside to actually listen to what the “enemy” is saying. I have a background in First Nations Studies, have taught in First Nation communities, as well as having a strong background in Canadian History. I know everyone keeps saying that we have to let go of the past and move on to building a better future. But how do you do that without knowing the roots of the problems that have led us to this point in time?
We have an Indian Act, the Constitution of 1763 when the English took control of Canada, the treaties signed between two “nations” or “peoples.” The First Nations people didn’t even have the status of being Canadians until the 1960s. No matter hard hard you try, or how much sense it makes, you can’t dismiss history. The Supreme Court would have no choice but to continue to apply all these past documents to any legal challenges.
The world has changed. When I went north to teach in the furthest north school in Saskatchewan, trapping was a legitimate economic activity. With the work of environmentalists, that way of making a living was destroyed. However, no other economic livelihood took its place. You can’t farm or ranch in the north. You can’t get a part-time job at MacDonald, or be a cashier at Walmart on a northern reserve. This is a fact that creates new problems in these modern times on northern reserves. When you factor into the problem how Residential Schooling created a generations deep problem that left parents dysfunctional and unable to properly raise their children, life on the reserve becomes chaotic and dangerous. I don’t want to turn this post into a litany of woes, but it is necessary to realise that if you live on a reserve, especially as a young person, life sucks big time.
So, the voices clamour, “Get them off the reserves so that they can get a decent education and jobs.” Do you have any meaningful solutions to make this happen? These solutions have to fit within the legal guidelines upon which our country was built if there is a chance for being put into place.
If there is to be any effective solution, it can only come when the leaders of the First Nations, the provinces, and the Government of Canada sit down together to go back to square one and build a new accord. Nothing else will work because you can’t through out a few centuries of law. If I had my way, we’d have all these key players put into a room with the doors locked and the keys hidden until there is a consensus on doing the work to solve the roots of the problem.
However, even should this miracle come to pass, we still have a problem with racism. Of course there are no innocents in this. Both sides are racist, seeing the other as a threat. It doesn’t matter if one is black and the other white, or any other colour in between. Racism exists. It takes a lot of guts to look at oneself in the mirror and admit this and then to work at rooting out behaviours and attitudes that feed racism. There is no law or government agency or law court that will solve the racism problem. This is a problem that can only be solved by each individual, on their own. A wife can’t turn her husband around. She can only make sure that she becomes a more open and accepting person. Even after all the work, the “racist within” will always be lurking waiting to escape and cause havoc. It isn’t easy. No one said it would be easy.
Until then, the best that one can do is not feed the anger and stoke the fires of racism, of darkness. Thing of your children and grandchildren, and the young people yet to be born in our country. No matter how hard it might be to work together, the rewards will be worth it.