In the same Morning Star edition that reprinted Mayor Cumming’s letter to the Syilx Nation expressing our collective grief, I read the dreaded but not surprising headline: “Low-key Canada Day in the works.”
I am deeply disappointed that we are throwing a party when so many are mourning and suffering from wounds ripped open. I see that Vernon is carrying on the generations-old Canadian tradition of offering words to our Indigenous people with little to no actions behind them.
The confirmation that many little ones lost their lives at residential schools followed by a deliberate murder of a Muslim family in Ontario begs the question what are we celebrating in our Canadian identity? And before you dismiss the murder of the multi-generational family as an action of a sick individual separate from the majority of Canadians, I’d suggest you have not been listening to Islamic women.
Women who are identifiably Muslim routinely experience verbal and physical violence from strangers in our country. Last week, a Muslim woman was verbally accosted at a bus stop in Vancouver and not one of the handful of bystanders said or did anything. The continued mistreatment of Indigenous people, the acceptance of Islamophobia and the open and subtle racism that is embedded in our nation needs to be confronted and transformed.
That there was only one voice on city council that raised the issue of acknowledging the discovery of the murdered Indigenous children on Canada Day is shameful (although thank you Kelly Fehr for doing so). And before people accuse me of being anti-Canadian, I have been a grateful Canadian all my life. And typically a proud one. I am not proud right now. I hurt. I am questioning what we stand for.
But if you mark July 1 this year, please do some soul searching and ask yourself how you will contribute to making this country safe for all. I hope in future years we can sing “with glowing hearts we see thee rise, The True North strong and free,” and it rings true for all.
Susan Armstrong, M.Ed. R.C.C.