About a year ago, I participated in a Bright New Day Reconciliation Circle at the Squamish Lil’Wat Cultural Centre. These circles weave ceremony, storytelling, imagining a collaborative future, and taking action on reconciliation into an interactive two-day workshop.
One assignment was to draw what reconciliation means to you. It is an interesting process to take concepts or ideas and communicate them through imagery. We were asked to share our thoughts with the group.
I was particularly inspired by a young First Nations man who wrote and performed a spoken-word poem. The power of the arts to provoke ideas, emotions, thoughts and actions can be profound. It reminded me of a quote by author Toni Morrison: “(Art) is memory, it is perception, it is imagination, and it is knowledge. There is no combination more powerful than these four, and there is no void more dangerous to the human project than their loss. Certain kinds of trauma visited on peoples are so deep, so stupifyingly cruel, that – unlike money, unlike vengeance, even unlike justice, rights, or the goodwill of government – art alone can translate such trauma and turn sorrow into meaning, sharpening the moral imagination.”
Inspired by this young man and the learnings of the circle, I wrote a poem. I modified it to recite during Canada Day and Multicultural Day ceremonies on July 1. I’ve had a number of requests to share it since then.
Is more than an apology and deprecation,
a prayer to remove a stain upon our nation,
a shame rooted in colonial aspiration.
This failure of Christianity,
our arrogance and vanity,
is Canada’s unfortunate profanity.
Our era without sanity.
With complete disregard and without considerations,
deference and dignity, and with near surgical ablations,
we systematically cut the First Nations,
destroyed languages and cultures to the quick,
So it’s time to be introspective.
Not just to remember our history selective.
150 years we’ve been in denial
of this bias we must reconcile.
The art of the possible is what I choose,
It’s harmony that we should collectively infuse
to rectify this system of abuse.
A country’s consciousness to transfuse.
With prisms new and a sense of hope,
positive reflections viewed through a common kaleidoscope,
evolving patterns, transparent, rotating perspectives
engender a uniquely Canadian antidote.
We’re birds of a feather,
in the same canoe pulling together.
After all, humanism is Canada’s shared endeavour,
everyone’s welfare our promotion, our devotion…whatsoever
C’est notre raison d’être, it’s in our DNA.
And it’s why we’re here to celebrate Canada Day
We all need to hear what our first peoples have to say to usher in a bright new day.