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Reflections on Canada Day

Canada Day Reflections

Growing up in California and immigrating to Canada in my twenties, I had a very positive outlook on Canada and the Indigenous Peoples who occupied, travelled, and cared for the land before colonial settlement.

When I moved here, I learned about the treaty system, the different nations and the history of trading and collaboration that is portrayed as a mutually beneficial and productive past. My son learned in school about Iroquoian longhouses, Inuit igloos and the Plains nations’ tipis. I learned alongside him about bannock and pemmican and how colonizers wiped out the Plains bison. For me, this was culture so rich that when I was elected to Council I was eager to discover more about the ceremonial traditions, the meaning of tobacco and flags, the captivating expressions of Indigenous spirituality and history through powwow dances and indigenous artwork.

This is also when I started to understand the dark history that was not taught to me as a new Canadian or to my son in the educational system. I saw the disproportionate representation in our homeless, foster care, and prison populations. And I saw the discrimination that came with it.

I have been, and still am, on a significant learning journey. I, like many Canadians, continue to learn every day. I’ve been educating myself about the trauma passed down through generations, the damage of the treaty systems, the attempt to completely eliminate indigenous culture through residential schools, and the horrifying and unnecessary deaths of thousands of children who were taken from their homes and their families and forced into an environment where they were robbed of their culture, their language, and their dignity.

As I have been listening to Edmontonians, researching and learning, I am looking for ways a mayor and the municipal government can support truth and reconciliation. I’m committed to continuous listening and learning—it’s critical, but it is only a first step.

There are many things about Canada that make me proud. These are the reasons that people like me and thousands of other immigrants to Canada chose to call this country home. While Canada is indeed a great nation, it was not built without inflicting suffering on Indigenous peoples. We still have so much work to do to address these past transgressions and today’s systemic racism, a fact that we must acknowledge not just today, but every day.

So, on Canada Day, a traditional time of celebration, there is pain in our hearts as we come to grips with an awareness, long overdue, of the atrocities that are at the foundation of the country we seek to celebrate.

This mix of emotions and realities demands a balanced approach. And so, I will be attending Canada Day celebrations as we have much to be thankful for. However, I will also attend the Every Child Matters rally to honour those who were lost, survivors, and all Indigenous people as a recognition of the work we have before us as a country. Do I have a single, elegant policy solution to fix what’s broken here? No. But I can commit to incorporating the commitment to truth and reconciliation into the fabric of my administration if I am elected as Edmonton’s next mayor, and into my day-to-day life—elected or not.