My wife and I are a microcosm of Canada. Oh, we don’t consider that about our relationship but when I stop and look at it, I can see how much the country is reflected in our togetherness. Can two people possibly reflect an entire nation state? It’s not as hard to understand as you might think.
We’re separate people who have come together to form a union. Within that union there is equality, harmony, balance and respect. We don’t seek to become the other person; we only seek to value and celebrate their identity. What makes us stronger, what gives us the energy and the enthusiasm to keep moving forward, is the knowledge that we need each other in order to do that. Sounds an awful lot like Canada to me.
I’m Ojibway from northern Ontario and my wife is a blend of white Australian and West Indian. The idea that two completely different backgrounds could come together to find a common purpose and create a nurturing home, is wonderful.
The idea that our mutual history is galvanized by our separate ones is empowering. Her story began when her ancestor was sent to Australia on a convict ship. Her ancestor was imprisoned for stealing a chicken to eat, to survive. Her story continued to the selling of her great-grandmother on a Freemantle dock. She was a slave who became her great-grandfather’s wife. So my wife carries a slave’s blood and the rebel genes of a transported felon. It’s an amazing story.
My story starts with residential schools. My entire family was forced to go there and the whole generation of adults when I was born was afflicted by the memory of those days. They’d been stripped of everything. They’d been effectively removed from themselves and who they were created to be. The pain of that resulted in the dissolution of our family. Eventually, I was sent to foster homes and later adopted.
We were both adopted actually. Both of us struggled to find our identity. We went through a lot of hard lessons. We learned to survive the best way we could. We tried on a lot of identities in the search for the one that fit, that felt right and good. By the time we met in our late 40s, we knew more about what we didn’t want than what we did.
Both of us have fought hard to overcome the pain of that lifelong displacement. We both seek healing because we know that it takes the understanding and addressing of a whole history to move forward into a better one. We know that who we are today, and who we will be tomorrow, is built on knowing how we got to here, this day, this step into our common future.
So how is that like Canada? Well, it’s the coming together of stories to create one great one. It’s the recognition that we are individuals working together to create community. It’s knowing that we need each other and that a shared strength is a greater strength. It’s embracing our whole histories, even the dark, bruised parts so that we can prepare the path to a better future.
Moreover, it’s the notion that race is not about differences. Rather, it’s about how energies combine to form a remarkable whole, more capable of moving forward together than apart. It’s the belief that cultures embraced are stronger than cultures denied.
More than anything, it’s about equality; the recognition that mutual respect builds a stronger union. Forgiveness grows out of that. So does healing. It’s how you build a better history. Starting today.