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Guilty Canadian Citizenship

During a casual conversation between my daughter and I on a field watching her younger brother in a soccer lesson, she asked me what my favourite sport was. My reply was, “cycling”, and I continued, “...because that’s the only one I was allowed to and encouraged to try when I was a kid.” She, a Canadian citizen, who at the tender age of eleven has already attended a variety of sport and leisure camps, didn’t understand my response. What I meant was that I grew up in a country and culture where children weren’t valued as individuals or seen as contributing citizens. What I also meant was that’s why so many families immigrated to Western countries.  Because we thought children had access to brighter opportunities without any gender bias. In my parent’s oppressed mindsets “the West” upheld the image of God in its children and Canada housed social and educational systems that trumped the U.A.E and India. Not to mention, we were convinced that racism didn’t exist in Canada. 

As I sat on that field with my little brown-bodied girl, in a flash of thoughts, I wondered about the tokenism and casual racism she would be forced to hold space for. I wrestled with knowing her freedom and privilege to ask me about my favourite sport had been granted by the unfathomable suffering of Indigenous girls her age and younger. My children’s privileges and mine as an immigrant Canadian were given to us by the thousands of innocent, unvalued, dehumanized little bodies discarded into graves across Canada. The land of opportunity for everyone built residential schools. My parents came here so we, their children, could have ‘a future’. Little did we know what access to ‘our future’ was built on.

The immigrants from Dubai wanted the chance to invest in land ownership. 

When I walk down Gottingen street in Ki’jipuktuk where I currently reside, the little shoes that outline a great length of the street from the Mi’kmaq child care center past the Friendship center, choke me with sorrow, shame, confusion and immigrant tension. The more I choose to know about Canada’s history as an Indo-Canadian, the more I am uncomfortably forced to reconcile with the polarity of my citizenship. We immigrated here so our children could have “better opportunities,” we wanted to be closer to whiteness because ‘we all know that’s just better,’ and the immigrants from Dubai wanted the chance to invest in land ownership. 

Canada gave us all that...because it was stolen from Indigenous peoples. 

In the words of Thomas King, “...don’t say in the years to come that you would have lived your life differently if only you had heard this story. You’ve heard it now” (King, 2003, p. 29).

I have. Now what? 

I start with lamenting knowing major parts of Canada's history now and not knowing before. I lament my own loss of culture and language because of the insidious colonial stronghold in my Goan family. I lament my Canadian citizenship stained with Indigenous blood. I lament the tension of “I get it” and “I’m part of it”. I lament my children’s future identity dissonance. 

I commit to not submitting to willful blindness as a Canadian because of my own experience of the effects of colonial violence. When I walk down Gottingen street, I'm reminded to commit to the journey of carrying collective sorrow and tension as my citizen duty towards reconciliation. As I write my thesis on the social issue of suicide among Indigenous children and youth, I am attempting to decolonize my research methodologies. When I reflect on my role as an English as an Additional Language teacher, I make sure to have the conversations with newcomers about reconciliation and make this knowledge accessible at all levels. Since the mass graves discoveries, I’ve been wondering about how to inspire immigrant communities into reconciliation. What does it mean to hold one of the ugly truths of our dreamland, Turtle Island, alongside the safety and freedoms its granted our immigrant communities?                                              

Photo by Globalnews/Halifax


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