Christmas is right around the corner. It is supposed to be a time of peace, love and good will to each other. Instead, I feel more or less heartbroken.
I thought that when Canada found out about my people in Attawapiskat and their housing crisis, they would respond in a positive way. I hoped that governments and the Canadian population would understand just how difficult life is for most Native people who are living on remote First Nations right across Canada.
Maybe I shouldn’t be shocked but I am. It is like somebody turned a switch on and said it is okay to hate Native people. The comments I have been seeing online in the media and in letters as well as from feedback from people I know has been terrible. It is all of the same old stuff I grew up with. In plain words, it is hate. Many Canadians are commenting that First Nation leadership is corrupt, we are not owed anything and our treaties are worthless. We are lazy and don’t work. We don’t have any pride of ownership and we shouldn’t have any benefits. We have too easy a life.
The sad part for me is that people I know and like think that it is okay to feel this way. One of my favourite topics is history so I understand that as imperfect humans we have always felt a need to look down on someone else. Many wars and conflicts have been fought with this as a root cause. It gets very scary when that is accepted by many people in the population.
Officially, people in mainstream media are careful what they say but in the online internet world where everyone can be anonymous, the hate is everywhere. The worst part is people think they are justified to make negative comments rather than help out. I am not saying that everyone is doing this as there are groups and individuals stepping forward to do fundraising and awareness campaigns to help my people. However, there are so many nasty and mean comments circulating around the internet. Maybe if everybody had to sign their name to have something appear online or in any media, they would feel less free about spreading hate.
I don’t have any answers to all the negativity I see. I have always felt like a second-class citizen but I have been feeling better about myself in recent years. I have tried to put behind me the fact that I have had to deal with so much intolerance and racism around me when I was growing up.
For the past week I have been very troubled and I am disheartened by so much anger and hate displayed by so many towards First Nation people.
If there was a location or a town in Canada where the people were living in the same destitute conditions of those on most First Nations, there would be such an outcry. As a matter of fact, that would never even happen. There would be an immediate response to help old people, children and the general population. So I am feeling very sad and confused.
If many Canadians think that First Nation people have it too good, I invite them to spend some time in a remote Native community. They will come away with a different way of thinking.
I am not saying that Native people are perfect as we still have a long way to go in terms of managing our communities. We need a whole new way of developing within this country. The only way that things are going to change for the better is if we all pitch in to help each other. It’s not just about giving money. It’s more about respect, healing and teaching.
As everyone gets ready to celebrate what is supposed to be a giving and loving time of the year, I hope and pray that so much of this hate is replaced by positive words, encouragement and heartfelt assistance. The best Christmas gift this year would be for governments and First Nations along with the rest of the Canadian population to decide to work together to make things better.