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.