Canada and integration. Synonymous? I think not, and perhaps that’s for the best.
These days I see Canada as somewhat a refuge. A place of peace, security, equality and possibility for those looking for a better life. Functional and safe. It is multicultural to the extent that Red Green can no longer portray my idea of Canadian, as there is no longer a stereotypical Canadian identity. Scrap the chainsaws and suspenders- it’s a complete mix now- don’t even try.
There are all us immigrants- the Vietnamese, Chinese, Portuguese, Scandinavian, German, Polish, Eastern European, African, Central and South American and countless more. All with long family histories of how they ended up here today. We all, in fact, have a story. It is worth just as much as the next.
Canada is a mix of the worlds seekers for a better life. It has been so for generations. Most of us who have been here a generation or two are of mixed cultural backgrounds. Love knows no bounds!
I see Canada as a place of understanding too. A place where one might not have a second thought at the person who never learned English or lost their accent. A place where a community can celebrate Hanukkah and the Vietnamese New Year in the same season. A place to learn of the back grounds, stories and teachings of the First Nations people and how it all relates to this area we call home.
And then we get onto First Nations people.
If we see this as a pendulum the extent of the division amongst communities and cultures swings just as far the other way to inclusion and progress.
Perhaps integration isn’t the right phrase for what should be strived for- as again- this is probably the safest and most accepting place on earth to celebrate and embrace ones culture and history.
Then again, that pendulum does swing both ways. Although we are rich in culture, there are still some regressive and stagnant situations going on today. All one must do is look at our schools and children. For, it is here that you will see daily, in almost every class, groups of young First Nations children sitting together. Perhaps each of their home lives, histories and upbringings too different to be able to connect with other cultures?
While growing up I knew there were still divisions as when I held parties, rooms would be segregated- First Nations and Non. I graduated in the early 2000’s and still see division in elementary schools.
Don’t integrate. Own and celebrate your differences and stories. But. But. Don’t be locked into a social standing or class.
The way I see it, we all have trauma and majestic beauty in our stories. All of us. White children were scarred from Catholic boarding schools too and children from reserves at Conrad school- who were forced to grow up too quickly- shared the violence with their peers. There was extreme poverty, language isolation, alcoholism, slavery, starvation, exploitation, physical and sexual abuse, war and violence from every culture and background there is.
Where I get caught up today is the benefits that First Nations people have access to. It is hard to get a lot of information on it- as one does not want to sound rude. I know I don’t have the full picture- and I know not every person with a status card has access to these. Though I wanted to make a full list of all I can think of.
I absolutely do not think that any of these privileges or benefits should be taken away. But I wonder where the money comes from. And I wonder if perhaps some day ALL Canadians could have access to such services? Had the government not sold off the rights to our oil and revenue from it- perhaps we could have all afforded some of this. #stopharper
Here we go:
Medical Services Plans ( doctor and hospital visits)
-I’ve always found it annoying that I couldn’t say yes when asked at the Optometrists if I had a status card. Would that mean my visit and glasses would be paid for if I got them off the band wall? Also, is it not inhumane that we charge one person $20,000 for chemotherapy drugs while others have it covered due to their race?
College and University
Access to specified scholarships and bursaries
Program acceptance as they might need or want to fill a quota?
-I know of young high school graduates who are now attending university and making a PROFIT from it. Imagine that. Tuition and books covered and a $1000 - $1500 per month living allowance. While most other friends are $40,000 - $80,000 in debt from student loans and all the expenses of city living.
Childcare coverage or help
Food Fishing and hunting (something I desperately believe all residence should be entitled to)
Help for people who want to start their own businesses
I wonder if there are EI benefits and tax write-off’s/exemptions too?
Money to renovate your home if you choose to live there a certain amount of time. ( 5 years?)
Do people get paid to live on reserves? Do they pay property taxes?
Okay- there’s a lot here.
-I get frustrated that although my family has lived here for generations, we don’t seem to have the same power or input that First Nations communities do in regards to political or industrial decisions. Our opinion is not being asked or considered. No benefit deals are coming our way ( not that we’d accept them either- but still).
-In regards to childcare, I know of a family where the woman quit her job because in the end they would save money due to the high cost of childcare. Is it free or subsidized for some bands?
-There are fishing licences and the right to food fish. Again, I’ve lived here my whole life and my family, generations before me. Yet we do not have the right to food fish. I believe there is a start up amount of a few thousand dollars given to First Nations Fishermen who will go out and food fish for their community. Perhaps around 25 salmon per person in each household? I could have the details wrong here- but also have reason to assume these are around the correct numbers.
There are some bands with seemingly impossible wealth. I walk in awe around reserves with paved roads and sidewalks, water and sewage treatment facilities, civic centres, pools, skateboard parks, transportation to and from- and yet for small non-native communities such luxuries would be unheard of- or they’d be scared of the tax increases.
All I can do is work on turning the jealousy or envy into inspiration and educate myself further. I can only hope that one day all Canadians can benefit from such humane and progressive government benefits equally.
I hope you’ve not found this degrading or insulting. Let me know how you see it! ( And let’s keep it as respectful, insightful and as progressive as possible?!)