Dec 28, 2017
Canada and Canadians west to east are participating this entire year in a Year of Reconciliation. The theme relates to our First Nations people, the original native Americans. Here in Vancouver, our west coast world-class city has bloomed noticeably in our downtown east side areas with a colourful array of symbolic murals and decorative icons in windows and along the alleys. On the streets tourists wandering Gastown encounter our Indian brothers and some sisters who sit alongside the light posts and in doorways carving wood into quite fine small artefacts craving attention and cash.
Vancouver City Council set aside Saturday, September 23 for a celebratory march from the main public library uptown on Georgia across the viaduct on into our own neighbourhood green at Strathcona Park. There was a colourful and dignified contingent of elders and others clothed in ceremonial garb marching alongside a lot of ordinary white folk. Drums made in traditional fashion with raw hides and carved frames in the hands of the many nations people set a firm beat for everyone. The park was set in many white pop-up tents with organizations sharing their materials, many craft people presenting charming original crafts, art, jewellery and clothing many of these using innovative first nations designs. A stage was set up on the southerly side with a very loud microphone for the usual official speeches and some fine musical offerings. Altogether it was a spirited and charming presentation with displays of projects focused on the idea of reconciling the past prejudice and government-sponsored atrocities especially brought upon Indian children and our present seemingly more enlightened ideas of inclusion and tolerance of native traditions, languages, art and cultures.
The old lady rolled around the whole area engaging with many interesting people there. My special attention was drawn to a large area across the grass planted with many hundreds of brightly painted stones each with a word or symbol. There had been a series of small events at schools and some churches where children spontaneously expressed their enthusiasm for reconciliation in colour, symbols and slogans painted on small stones.
I met a particularly lovely older Red Lodge lady who told me she was a survivor of an Indian school. We spontaneously embraced quietly in a deeply womans’ way to be together in heartful empathy which surely held the true meaning of what was being celebrated there that bright sunny afternoon. Blessed Be.
As I wheeled back up the streets to ‘home’ in the shelter, I began to contemplate some of the less obvious aspects of this idea of reconciliation. While I am thankful that our people in government have finally given long overdue importance to the very serious abuses of bigoted attitudes and policies of earlier British colonial governments, I believe, all of this passes over an altogether unnoticed stance affecting all Canadians both of the Red Lodge and our White Lodge.
For instance, how often have you encountered the deeply embedded attitude that the rules and regulations, the law and procedures are much more important than you are? Have you noticed that a signature of some official person on an equally official letterhead is to be taken as more truthful than your own personal statements? I can witness Service Canada on that one as I was working out with them for 22 months before I should be awarded a pension.
Another barely notable example showed up for me when the old lady went in her wheelchair to a local community centre to pedal on the stationary bicycle in the gym for about 30 minutes. No matter what my age or circumstance, I was told that I was prohibited without paying a fee, albeit small, before I was permitted the use of the equipment. The young man disciplining me saw no dissonance in the fact that the rules were more important than allowing a disabled homeless much older lady to exercise for 30 minutes. Impassively he reiterated what was the given in his mind: the fee was first.
I found it all only fascinating until I began to inventory many other instances that I had heard about especially from ladies in our emergency shelter.
As I dug a little deeper, I realized there is a great deal going on that is not disclosed, not discussed, not even noticed by the vast majority of our people, all of us ordinary folk, and all of the so-called official people in government from local to federal to the representatives of the crown. Are we still holding some kind of court on a person and an institution outside our borders which declares that Canada is not yet fully sovereign? What is really going on after all as it appears that only this ‘crowned’ person is ultimately responsible for our country, not you or me and not our duly elected official government?
My participation in this magazine is exposing me to the details of issues that affect all of our people every day. I learned that the justice system relating to drugs, using addicts, street traffic and the rest costs in rounded numbers a million dollars a day. It has proven evident in other countries that as soon as drugs are legalized, and when addicts are supported by medical care, the costs and the illegal profit potential of traffic are significantly reduced. People addicted can be rehabilitated in supported environments but not at all at the effect of the injustice system.
Let’s go a little further and check out an issue very close to my personal experience. I am in my 79th year and I am homeless living in an emergency shelter. Because of an influx of wealthy foreign buyers and our owners taking advantage of enormous windfalls of profit, housing is so scarce that this has been my living condition now for over two years. I am an expense that could be mitigated easily with a decent place for me to live as I am highly functioning elder now learning what I did not know I might have to learn about addicts, addictions and the management of emergency shelters before I might have a decent, spacious place to live.
Have you taken a moment yet to turn your head from the television’s mind-numbing diversions?
People come to me when they read the printed copies of our magazine or when they find our words on the website to tell me specifically that they like what I write. It is a writer’s finest hour when friends tell me they enjoy my work. So, since you are paying some kind of attention, please allow yourself some thought. My real service is to empower you, to remind you that yours is a unique voice, your point of view is singular and worthy to be heard. And that your first audience is your family and your neighbours. Have a conversation with them and discover together what you experience about your world and your city. What kind of a contribution could you care to make toward some significant change? Remember that lovely, sweet, smiling lady of our past: Margaret Mead: that old grandmother told us a truth many decades ago.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
well, if it isn’t me, who; if it isn’t now, when?