Time for togetherness
Mi’kmaq keptin’s decision to return Order of P.E.I. insults the goodwill of Island residents
Recently it was reported that Mi’kmaq keptin John Joe Sark has returned his Order of P.E.I. over the refusal to rename Portla-Joye-Fort Amherst historic site in light of the history of abuses committed by Gen. Jeffrey Amherst against Indigenous people.
Mr. Sark’s actions come from a place of grievance and resentment. He may feel lighter in not carrying the medal around his neck, but his actions suggest he doesn’t have the strength to carry the weight of all our history together.
Further, it insults the goodwill of all P.E.I. citizens who, through their government, recognized Mr. Sark’s leadership and role in the Mi’kmaq community on the Island in conveying the Order of P.E.I. to him. But it now seems he’d rather erase those parts of history that are not pleasant.
With respect, I feel he and many others need to begin to recognize what inclusive diversity actually means as part of Canadian citizenship in 2017.
Many understand that our country’s historical narratives are complex and messy. No longer is it just a British, French or even Indigenous-centric narrative. Such an understanding calls for all of us as citizens to own our stories together — based on our collective citizenship.
And though ethnicity and blood relations are also important identity features, the primary feature is that we are now Canadian citizens.
A spirit of reconciliation with First Nations people in Canada is not going to happen amongst the broader populace if all that is heard is continual blaming and shaming of the country’s colonial past.
It is akin to wishing we had had better parents when they’ve already long gone and we now have to live in 2017.
And yet, we’re all are here because of our birth parents, because of their own strengths, weaknesses and powers that were beyond their control.
By some mystery we now find ourselves all here together in one of the oldest and most successful democratic federations in the world.
If we can’t respect and share all our past historical narratives — the good, bad and the ugly — as citizens together under our one roof called Canada, then this great country’s future is in serious trouble. Leo J. Deveau is an independent librarian, commentator and writer. His new book “400 Years in 365 Days: A Calendar of Events from Nova Scotia’s History,” will be published by Formac this fall. He lives in Halifax and his paternal greatgrandparents were from Cheticamp.
John Joe Sark