I am sitting on a boat at Toronto Island looking at one of the most impressive skylines in the world. It is a long cry from my home in Attawapiskat, virtually in the middle of the wilderness. As a child living in a remote northern community, I learned about the big cities to the south and I hoped that some day I would visit them.
Like my cousin Ron says, “Those whitemen, they sure can build things,” and he is right. I am in awe at all the marvelous technology I see here. Take for instance the towering skyscrapers that seem to defy gravity and in steel and concrete reach for the sky. I think to myself why would anyone want to live or work way up there?
The intricate web of super highways and city streets overflows with every size, shape and colour of vehicle. There is a steady hum that is broken only from time to time by the sirens of police, ambulance and fire-fighting vehicles in a panic to save someone from something.
Everywhere I go there is an unending flow of people. I am thrilled to have an op-
portunity to see just about every culture the world has to offer walking the streets of Toronto. People seem to generally get along and a big common denominator seems to be food. There are so many different kinds of restaurants that offer up all the tastes the planet has to offer. Still, people don’t tend to relate to each other on the busy streets. Their eyes don’t meet as they scurry on their way. There seems to be this great haste and fast pace.
Despite the incredible skyscrapers, the fast-paced prosperity and what seems to be so much wealth, there is in fact a huge contradiction that takes away from the beauty of this mighty city. I am saddened to see so many people begging on the streets. They are young, they are old and they are men and women, who seem to come from all races and cultures. I see the hurt and pain in their eyes, they have a hollow look about them as though life has been a wrestling match in which they were dealt many hard blows. I wonder how they survive? Where do they take shelter and where do they eat? Do they have families? Where do they come from and where are they going? Who cares about them? Does anyone care about them? Are they not well?
Are they drug addicts or alcoholics?
In my tiny community, far from the outside world, there are many who have problems and who are not well. The difference is that we know each other and in our own way we manage to care for each other. No one goes without a roof over their head or without food and clothing. No matter how bad it gets we turn no one out into the cold. I’m not saying everything is rosy in remote Native communities but things are very different when it comes to taking care of one another.
All the money in the world, all the technology and all the concrete and steel can not make a community. How we relate to each other and how we nurture and care for each other should be the basis on which a community is founded. It makes me very proud, as an Aboriginal person, to see so many Native organizations in Toronto, working to care for those who have fallen through the cracks of this mighty system and it makes me appreciate the difference that people can make.
I hear the geese and the boat gently rock as the sun slips peacefully past the city.