25 years ago historian Francis Fukuyama wrote a book called “The End of History.” In it he suggested that with the advent of Western liberal democracy, we had all that was needed to ensure sustained prosperity, peace and good government for the entire world forever and a day. We had reached, as the author puts it: “…the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”

History has shown that those who feel with utter confidence that a final understanding has been reached on any weighty matter are inevitably proved wrong. The world and how humans live on it continue to present endlessly confounding and marvellous new challenges, and – dare I say it – I have no doubt will continue to do so as long as we strut and fret upon this stage.

Canada is a young country. Confederated in 1867, we are a jurisdictional baby in global terms, but our geological and human history stretch back far, far longer than the 150th anniversary we are celebrating this year. Though “founded by two peoples”, Canada was initially essentially a British country, governed by the British North American Act and ruled in the image of Westminster. The Quiet Revolution in the 1960s and 70s had a profound impact on the Canadian federation, when those empowered and emboldened by the rise of Quebec separatism shone a light on the accepted notion of “two founding nations”, and as Quebec asserted itself, our understanding of what Canada is changed dramatically.

Today another community in Canada is finally starting to fully assert itself, and the question is, are we at a similarly seismic moment in Canadian history, this time recognizing that the story of Canada involves more than two peoples? With the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action, and a renewed commitment from our federal government, are we finally going to Re-Confederate Canada to include all Indigenous Peoples and recognize their rightful place on this land?

I believe we stand at a turning point in how we understand our history and our future. I see this turning point in the response of ordinary Canadians to the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; I see it in the ambivalence expressed by many during our recent Canada 150 celebrations; and I see it in the vigorous and sometimes divisive debates over how history should be commemorated.  When the Prime Minister speaks of a new nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples, I feel hope. And when elders share traditional knowledge on caring for the environment, the importance of community, and the spiritual connection that all Creation has with Mother Earth, I realize we must learn from the wisdom of people who successfully lived on this land for millennia.

If I try to identify the source of this turning point, I would say it is a longing for reconciliation: a deep yearning to recognize the harms of the past, support the need to mourn and heal, and build the foundations for a new relationship between Indigenous peoples and settler peoples. I won’t pretend that reconciliation will be easy: we cannot simply wipe the slate clean and start over again. We will need to question many of our assumptions about the Western world-view and recognize that we must not only respect other worldviews, but also be willing to learn from and adapt to their wisdom.

We are at the beginning of our journey and have taken only a few small steps on the road to reconciliation. This will be a new and hard path for many of us, as we learn new ways of understanding this nation and our place in it. I hope it is a journey that we can all take together; that we can all share in a better future and fulfill the potential and promise of this great land.

-Peter

 

4 Comments

  1. Bill Kays 24 August 2017 at 2:54 pm

    Just keep the original treaties with the indigenous peoples. Is it any wonder people are confused? The Liberal party now runs on a conservative minded platform while the conservatives run on a liberal minded platform. There is nothing new about the new democratic party and the green party are a bunch of hippocrites. As for the country of Canada’s ill felt guilt over the indigenous people situation, I refuse to pay for the sins of my father, and I am here to tell you liberal minded asses that justice must be sure but it must also be swift. Where does it end? Are we to pay reparations to France because we, as past Brits rampaged them during the crusades, etc? How far back do you want to go? Again, I refuse to pay for the sins of my father.

     
  2. W.Wilkins 24 August 2017 at 3:24 pm

    As a white man, I feel neither guilt nor shame – but I do feel loss. Perhaps I’m selfish, but what I want from reconciliation is an opportunity, a reinstatement of shared values, ideas, stories . . . you know, anything that may help navigate the madness.

    My contact with indigenous peoples isn’t deep, but it’s been deep enough to know I know too little. Participating in a sweat ritual helps; almost anybody is welcome to that experience. And for myself. spending time with and listening to Cherokee elders in North Carolina talk about The Trail of Tears opened my eyes a tad. I’d say it didn’t hurt, but to be honest – it wasn’t easy either.

    So, yeah, what I feel is loss; and in my world, anything that mitigates that loss is welcome.

     
  3. Debbie Carruthers 24 August 2017 at 3:26 pm

    Thank you for your wisdom and honesty, Peter. Much appreciated. #indigenous

     
  4. William Burden 24 August 2017 at 5:03 pm

    As always Peter, you present food for thought. I have always been uncomfortable with the notion of 2 founding peoples and nation to nation talk. Honouring land-claims is divisive and means that one group is being treated differently than the rest. As a homeowner I do not own the land I pay taxes on. My goal as well as anyone else should be to be a good steward of the land I reside on or have control of. There is no real ownership. Culture is a potpourri. I don’t readily identify with any culture as I claim ancestry from England, Scotland, and France, but I resent being called a white-man or as a member of les anglais. I identify as a Canadian by birth but a Citizen of planet Earth by choice. There is no future in divisive language, only unity of thought and mind as a spiritual human being. Addressing re-dress by one Group always seems to ignore another group seeking reparation so I think the only sensible solution is to provide support only to level the playing field so we can collectively achieve our potential as citizens.

     

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