It’s easy to scoff at people who feel hard done by when you’ve had to scratch your way through life. Hey, the world’s a tough place. But some struggles are a little more complex than others.
Case in point: Canadian Aboriginals.
To those who would launch into the eye rolling “just get over it” speech (and there were plenty of them on our website comments board recently), think about the state of many First Nations members today.
Although thousands and thousands of Aboriginals survived, overcame and in many cases excelled in this society despite what they and their ancestors endured, others got sucked into a cycle of tragedy.
Is it a failing in genetic make-up that leads so many into lives of poverty and addiction? Of course not.
It’s a culturally based wound that began more than 200 years ago with European settlers attempting to eradicate First Nation languages, histories, families and religions.
It was attempted cultural genocide that damn near worked in many parts of Canada and continues to fester. And the dysfunction many fell into because of this treatment is only used to denigrate them further.
If you doubt how fresh these sins are, remember that the Canadian government only apologized for this shameful history a few years ago and the last residential school closed only in the 1980s. The ripples are still very active today.
Don’t believe me? Well, sometimes an unanticipated happenstance becomes the lens through which to view a bigger social issue.
Last week, B.C. Parks and Minister of Environment Terry Lake dealt with a very sticky situation after organizers of a First-Nations-only event at a public campground butted heads with non-Aboriginals wanting to stick around their sites.
(Many campers, however, took the honourable route and left of their own accord.)
Lake said he was opposed to displacing campers, and rightfully so. He also wanted to be “culturally sensitive” to the Aboriginals.
Let’s not sidestep.
If by “culturally sensitive” he means remembering that those people’s ancestors raised families and built lives at Juniper Beach and all over Canada only to be forcibly removed, torn from their kin and treated in unspeakable ways for no reason, he’s got a point.
Yet some people keep sticking their heads in the sand.
One Daily News letter writer made the audacious statement that conquering should confer rewards.
“White settlers… won the conflict for the right to the land from the First Nations people. When in history has a nation that lost its conflict over the land ever been entitled to more benefits than the nation that won? Only in Canada,” writes C. Cox.
This appalling notion is more common than we would like to believe.
But through this statement the writer is agreeing that our history impacts us today and in fact forms our surroundings. So just how should First Nations “get over” this part of history when it formed us all?
People like this letter writer also beat their chests with indignation over “status Indians’” education grants, entitlements on reserves and limited tax exemption.
But in the end, these measures still fall far short of healing the decades and decades of denigration this country’s original settlers were subjected to.
Clearly, more needs to be done and as trite as it may sound, it truly does start with compassion.