True North Strong, but is This Freedom?
The wheels of my plane touched down on frozen Alberta tarmac in March of 2014. I looked at the plains, at puffed wheat hay bales and straw fields glazed in March frost. The sky was dull and grey, like the down of Canada geese. I remember feeling the bee sting poke in my nose as my eyes welled up with saltwater tears. After 9 months abroad, this was home. I was in love, and in awe of Canada.
I don't feel national pride often, that day was years ago now. But I remember it so clearly. Even the brittle dry air and the sandpaper wind that greeted me as I exited the airport. No more Golden Coast humidity and suckling sweet air. Looking back, that day evoked tears because I felt so blessed to live in a country where natural beauty surrounded me, the eerie tinge of pollution didn't waver above the horizon, I was taken care of under universal health care, and water ran to my taps. But it wasn't just gratitude that roused the bee hive in the bridge of my nose, it was gratitude mixed with deep sadness.
It hurts me to think that there are people who arrive the same as me, get off the same as me, and go to their home the same as me, yet they do not experience Canada the way I do. Canada is not free of racism, many do not welcome immigrants and refugees, and more are guilty of crying out racial slurs in the name of some collective I cannot fathom. Our media shapes the voices of marginalized Canadians through a white washed lens, and bias veils policies and practices, structures and institutions, with an adhesive sheen we cannot seem to wipe away. Minority Canadians are not the only ones to suffer on this land. Indigenous people in Canada fair much worse than I, because of how colonizers and Eurocentric white people destroyed and manipulated them all those years ago. Through some hallucinogenic pleasure, we have carried racist and assimilatory practices through the years of white hegemony in Canada. Bands go without running water, pipelines threaten to destroy Indigenous land, and the Indian Act laughs in the face of change. Is this the Canada I know?
To a large extent, Canada has evaded the public eye of racial scrutiny. We are seen as the nice neighbour of our delusional partner to the South. I would argue that we just did a better job of hiding the body.
Now we learn of residential schools, of intergenerational trauma, of the hurt and the suffering and the violent hatred that has moved into this country like the permafrost of the North. Is this enough? How can it be when Indigenous people continue to be imprisoned at rates that exceed their national proportion, or when Indigenous youth are being killed by suicide every minute? How can it be when minority Canadians are targeted by hate crimes and made ashamed of their audacity to enter Canada and have any aspiration of social mobility?
This is the Canada I touched down on years ago. This is the Canada I place my feet upon today. Where is the radical empathy? Why is the beauty of this land not mirrored in our people's actions? I intend to use this section as a platform to begin to melt the permafrost of racism in Canada. I wish to acknowledge the injustices, but also the successes of Indigenous and minority people in Canada.
I acknowledge now that I am
limited in my perspective. I am a white woman who has had little encounters with the hardships of the world. I have not lived a single day of my life feeling threatened or betrayed by the colour of my skin or my cultural beliefs. But, I have taken the time to learn about these matters and to study them as they occur in Canada. I pledge to take a reflexive approach as I disseminate the wrong doings that occur in Canada by highlighting Indigenous and minority scholars and writers.
Canada is true North, but we will not be strong and free until we address the structural injustices plaguing this nation.