Over the next hill

Much work re­mains to build bridges of un­der­stand­ing and re­spect amongst all Cana­di­ans

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OPINION - BY JOHN JOE SARK Dr. John Joe Sark, LLD is Keptin of the Mi’kmaq Grand Coun­cil.

I wish to re­spond to Mr. Peter Bland­ing’s ar­ti­cle of Au­gust 3, 2017, en­ti­tled ‘Sec­ond class cit­i­zens.’

You are ab­so­lutely right, Mr. Bland­ing. Many of our Indige­nous peo­ple are treated like sec­ond-class cit­i­zens and live in Third World con­di­tions.

The Cana­dian and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments have made cos­metic changes in their deal­ings with Indige­nous peo­ples of Canada. Bri­tish racist at­ti­tudes still pre­vail. We, the Mi’kmaq peo­ple of P.E.I. and the whole Mi’kmaq Na­tion, as well as all other Indige­nous peo­ples in Canada, were wards of the Crown, not Bri­tish (Cana­dian) sub­jects.

Although not con­sid­ered cit­i­zens of Canada, every avail­able able-bod­ied man vol­un­teered and fought on the side of Canada and Great Bri­tain in the First World War and Sec­ond World War. They fought to free Europe from tyranny. How­ever, back here in good old Canada, we didn’t have the right to vote in fed­eral or pro­vin­cial elec­tions.

Un­der Cana­dian law in 1867, a “per­son” was de­fined as an in­di­vid­ual other than an In­dian. Over the years, Canada has de­clared racism and big­otry as well as dis­crim­i­na­tion and in­tol­er­ance to be un­ac­cept­able both legally and so­cially.

How­ever, in the 1990s, Parks Canada pre­sented a video to the vis­it­ing pub­lic at Prov­ince House that called Abo­rig­i­nal Peo­ples “in­fi­dels and hea­thens.”

At that time. when I raised this is­sue with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Parks Canada in Charlottetown, they said that this was a his­tor­i­cal fact. So, I sent my com­plaint to the Min­is­ter of Parks Canada at the time, Lu­cien Bouchard, re­quest­ing that this racially of­fen­sive video be re­moved from all Parks Canada Sites in Canada. He was a strong min­is­ter and fol­lowed up. It’s too bad that the min­is­ter we now have seems to be lead around by the nose by Parks Canada.

Given that his­tor­i­cal ev­i­dence has shown that his main in­ten­tion was to ex­ter­mi­nate all Indige­nous peo­ples in Canada and in the U.S.A., it’s in­sane for any gov­ern­ment to hold onto this hate­ful racial po­si­tion and not to change the name of this of­fen­sive Na­tional His­toric Site at Rocky Point Prince Ed­ward Is­land that is named af­ter Gen­eral Amherst.

Cana­di­ans have trav­elled a long and wind­ing trail since the Charlottetown Con­fer­ence in 1864. Some of us have suf­fered pain and lone­li­ness as well as frus­tra­tion and in­jus­tice; and much work re­mains to be done as we at­tempt to build bridges of un­der­stand­ing and re­spect amongst all Cana­di­ans.

As we move for­ward in our life jour­ney, all of us glance back from time to time, re­mem­ber­ing where and what we have been, re­flect­ing on our in­di­vid­ual ex­pe­ri­ences while hon­our­ing our her­itage and our tra­di­tions.

It is my hope that Parks Canada will re­al­ize that our col­lec­tive des­tiny in this coun­try still lies over the next hill and that they could help us all move be­yond the next bend in the river.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Cana­dian Mi’kmaq vet­er­ans are shown at an army camp in France prior to de­par­ture to the front lines dur­ing the First World War.

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