Time for to­geth­er­ness

Mi’kmaq keptin’s de­ci­sion to re­turn Or­der of P.E.I. in­sults the good­will of Is­land res­i­dents

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OPINION - BY LEO DEVEAU

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.

GUARDIAN FILE PHOTO

John Joe Sark

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