I watched the progress of seven intrepid young men on their epic walk from Whapmagoostui to Ottawa, much of it by snowshoe. At first I was sceptical, thinking that perhaps they might come to their senses and give up, but they didn’t. Their walk to express the need to come to terms with our people’s perils and obstacles, mishaps and downfalls was overcome after the first 1000 kilometres. Along the way, the seven morphed into 80, and then swelled into several hundred on the final leg to the journey.
I wasn’t the only one watching, as the rest of Canada gradually tuned into to see what this extraordinary trip was all about. I wondered what the other Canadians thought, so I checked online for any story that would have popped out from the mainstream media and on the Internet. What I saw was something a little paradoxical. On the one hand, there were accolades for these youth, and on the other hand, there were naysayers and outright racists.
It depended on where you looked. Comments on the CBC website were encouraging and the site showed the rest of the country the way our lives used to be. Our traditions and endurance, our customs and values were showcased for those who wanted to understand the true motivation behind this historic walk.
Then there were the comments on Yahoo.ca, which to my surprise, were nearly all racist and full of hatred for Aboriginals. How could so many people feel this way towards these fine young people? I didn’t hear those kinds of comments when others did basically the same thing, like Terry Fox and those inspired by him. No, these were outright racist comments. I read about how much these people – most likely all Canadians – couldn’t bear the thought of Aboriginals spreading messages of hope.
I felt terrible, since many of these young walkers are family members and friends. Then, the ultimate snub came from Harper himself, who couldn’t lose face with the Chinese and chose to meet with their pandas instead. I know that the Chinese are interested in our natural resources and that there is a price to pay for our lands and territories, but, hey they have enough money to buy Canada out. I wonder how long Aboriginals will be overlooked for the sake of a few bears.
When someone snubs my family like this, I take notice. It may seem that I take this personally, but it’s not the pandas’ fault that they have to be kept alive in a zoo forever. If people didn’t care, they would be extinct like many other species in this world. Maybe we will be next, the true Canadian who cares about their own people and their own lands and the multitude of cultures that are accepted here in this fine country of ours.
But where do we draw the line, how cute and cuddly do we have to be to earn the respect of our country’s leader? Perhaps Harper had to make a decision –to deal with inspired youth who chose to show the rest of the world where we come from and for what we represent or to deal with the matters of selling out Canada for some yuan. Yes, China is a rich country with many more millionaires than we could ever imagine, but hey, they still need our resources to survive. But at the end of the day, I would choose the youth over any bear.