Canada is not your utopia

Canada has once again become the poster child for decency — a pastoral, brave, beautiful and welcoming land

.. Voter turnout is low, typically under 70 percent and trending down despite a bump in 2015 on the strength of a competitive contest.

.. Governments are formed with about 40 percent of those who show up, which means that electoral support for the governing party reflects a fraction of the popular will, and thus so does policy.

.. Young people are regularly shut out of political life.

.. participation in government is rare and representative engagement and diversity in the legislature are low. They gave the country’s democracy a B-, up slightly from a C in 2015.

.. Canada’s institutions are generally fine, but they aren’t flourishing and are subject of abuse or hijacking by populist appeal, as soon-to-be Ontario Premier Doug Ford recently proved with his anti-elite “Ford Nation” campaign victory.

.. disgusting treatment of undocumented immigrants — which Trudeau has called “wrong” — but Canada has its own checkered past and troubling present.

.. despite being imagined as a multicultural haven, Canada has its own history and present of racial discrimination and violence, too. Extremist and racial violence is up.

.. systemic discrimination is a serious problem

.. Toronto, the practice of carding — checking identification on the street, which has been prone to racist abuse — is a blight on the city

..  country’s recent history with refugees, especially during the Syrian crisis, went from grudging to moderately welcoming but inadequate

.. For many indigenous peoples, the portrait of the country as a welcoming and inclusive land is not only untrue but also offensive.

.. indigenous peoples in Canada face high levels of incarceration, communities are suffering from suicide epidemics, and reserves throughout the land lack safe drinking water. Canada itself exists in part on unceded indigenous land. Colonialism in Canada is an ongoing injustice.

..  opioid crisis, homelessness, hunger, crushing levels of personal debt, pathetic levels of social spending or inadequate action on climate change.

.. The country fought for justice and human dignity during World War II and opted out of the reckless Vietnam War, choosing instead to act as a haven for Americans fleeing the draft.

 

Canada’s Hidden History, My Mother and Me

More than a century of Indian policy by the Canadian government included forced migration, segregation, limiting education, outlawing culture and separating children from their parents. As recently as the 1980s, indigenous women would lose their Indian status and rights if they married a non-indigenous person. We were not allowed full voting rights until 1960.

.. Residential schools were government-funded, church-run institutions found across Canada and the United States that put seven generations of indigenous children through their doors. Children were not allowed to speak their language or practice their culture; as young as 6 years old, they faced electric chairs for punishment, and siblings were separated. Many, including my relatives, faced physical, sexual and mental abuse. One report estimated at least 6,000 children perished of malnutrition and disease, or while attempting to escape.

.. Nor did we learn that MacDonald justified the schools this way: “When the school is on the reserve, the child lives with its parents, who are savages, and though he may learn to read and write, his habits and training, mode of thought are Indian. He is simply a savage who can read and write.” In residential schools, he added, “they will acquire the habits and modes of thought of white men.”

.. In order to expand Canada westward, the government displaced and confined my people — a stark contrast from the Canada so praised these days for welcoming refugees from Syria and other nations.

.. Learning about our past won’t change it, but mandating indigenous history in our school systems is a good start. Without an honest dialogue and recognition of this history, we will hide behind a comfortable ignorance. My hope is that on July 1, Canadians who raise their flag high in celebration will also take a minute to reflect on the loss many have faced along the way.