It’s now two months after the Reconciliation event in Strathcona Park September 23rd and as I am getting ready to write, I’m noticing there is more to consider than I first thought.. Certainly, it is critical that there is a renewal for all Canadians to participate in a reconciliation between our First Nations people and the rest of our population, English, French and all the assorted immigrant nations that now occupy our home and native land.
As I look around my smaller world here in the downtown eastside of Vancouver, my eyes are awake to a great deal more because the stresses that accompany poverty, addiction, violence and poor mental health are much more in our face and on the streets, you can say, up close and personal! In the uptown neighbourhoods the deeply afflicted people are much less obvious hidden in tiny apartments, perhaps cared for by their families. Our people here are littered in the streets with their pitiful bundles and shopping carts. Powell Street is a corridor of straight ahead people in their cars rushing to work uptown doing their best just not to notice. The police, fire people and ambulances announce their dedication to duty with screaming sirens and blinking red lights making their appearances around the clock sometimes saving the same life 3 or 4 or more times in a single day.
Even with all that, or if you do not live in my neighbourhood, I believe there is something personal in all this for a great many Canadians, yes, we might all be much involved in a rather larger idea called reconciliation. I believe that while we are all focused on our First Nations, now it is time for us to include everybody.
From October 2015 until June of 2017 Service?Canada did their bureaucratic dance over awarding me a pension. During that protracted time, I have been (and still am) homeless in an emergency shelter in Vancouver receiving BC’s piteous welfare of just enough to buy myself some decent food. Now the Revenue tentacle of the province wants that survival money returned.
I noticed a newspaper report that in round numbers, the justice system revolving around addiction, addicts and drug use costs us all a million dollars a day. After new systems were introduced in Great Britain and in northern Europe soon after the Second World War, it has been proven that legalizing drugs and providing proper medical care can erase the problem quite well. What is it that keeps ‘government’ from following these really good examples of reconciliation from elsewhere in the world to aid our own people? What is their excuse?
It was a lovely event at Strathcona Park on that warm sunny Saturday, September 23. There had been a march from the uptown library on Georgia led by many elders dressed in their ceremonial garb led by a phalanx of drummers marking the beat. At the park, a big crowd from all our nations milled around among the fantastic artistic displays. There was an air of great pride in a heartful, peaceful space.
A stage had been set up on the south side of the park where the mayor and various dignitaries made their fine greetings to all assembled making space eventually for some truly wonderful musical and dance entertainment.
One display of honour particularly attracted my attention: all over a gentle hillock across the lawn was planted hundreds of brightly coloured stones, the artistic expressions of our children who and here they were an array of sentiment unparalleled anywhere else in the park.
I was naturally drawn to a serenely beautiful older woman: we stopped together to talk as ladies will do. I asked her if she was a survivor of the old school system. She said yes. It was obvious that whatever had happened to her, and whatever she had witnessed had become reconciled within her no doubt through much spiritual ceremony of cleansing and forgiveness. We gently embraced each other simply witnessing a new kind of kinship.
I’m told there is a wider readership now that our magazine is online and so here we are folks. For me living in the downtown east side of a supposed world-class city, my friends and neighbours are those lowest of the low, the skid row bums including some who are ‘grandchildren’ out a job (if there are any paying a living wage) with nowhere to go. They are mixed in with the derelicts and addicts and the other homeless some of whom erect temporary shelter in Oppenheimer Park until constabulary and rangers clear them out to go another where! None of these people wears a clean shirt!
But this: if we focus only on our plight (surely there are some very dismal plights to see) we can easily lose sight of the true significance of who we are. We are all of us the national corporation that is called Canada, we are its people, and all of us are living the plights being visited upon us by our government who are the back end providers of the kinds of lives we lead. This truth is the same for every person even if they are high functioning and participating in what is considered a normal life, those many people who are more affluent, better housed, healthier, the capable ones who hold the jobs that take care of our world.
Then there are a fine few of us living here in the downtown east end of Vancouver. (There are others like us in other areas of this large country but we are the ones we are looking at.) Its time, don’t you think that we raise our esteem?
What is it that we have that really gives us an edge, that informs us differently and quite likely more compassionately accepting than some many who think they are above all this squalor.
I might be the first voice to proclaim this very large Truth, so listen up. Ok!
We are here to show our fellow citizens that there is something about our country that does not quite match all the flowery words in all that glossy international advertising, the proclaimed brash sentiments of our greatness, the made up pretty face that Canada presents to the rest of the world.
There is something right here in our backyard to take care of that is really much more important than selling billions worth of bombs and assorted war implements meant for killing others of our people in other parts of our world. There is something left to do before we join some kind of bogus accord for a concocted climate change purposed only to set up a marketplace for the trade of ‘carbon credits’ as another money game. There are a few tasks not complete that show the world that we just might not be ready for the prime time place Canada seeks.
Too many of our people are homeless and too many are addicted to drugs that some nameless faceless persons somewhere else in the world make a profit from. There are people living in dirty, broken hovels that certain other citizens make a profit from, some kind of truly shameful living from the suffering of their hapless fellows.
Are we a little guilty, my friends, of disdain and unconcern while rushing about rather mindlessly thumbing our databases?
What could be wrong with this picture, Canadians?
The much older Grandmother is writing this piece today to draw the picture more clearly, to bring our attention to those pieces of our society that need our compassionate and concerted attention, that need a healing. What could it be we are waiting for? I believe we are each the heroes we are waiting for and we each have a job to learn more and discover what we really can do to make a difference.
Remember that dear lady who became older just about like I have: Margaret Mead? Here’s what she famously has said: never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.
And finally just to remind every one of you what kind of power you have:
Well, if it isn’t me, who, and if it isn’t now, when?