Today is Canada Day. I’m sincerely grateful for the privilege of raising my young family in Canada. I and my family experienced relative peace there compared to where I grew up. While being grateful, my consciousness about the historical injustices suffered by the Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island is growing. My awakening was prompted by my interaction with the Indigenous Peoples here in the Philippines. This reflection was sparked by the above painting of Kent Monkman.
While living in Canada for 20 years, my family benefited from it’s relative peace and order. We had plenty of food to eat. We lived in nice and comfortable homes. The ‘poorest’ experience of living in a home was during a couple of years when I was going through my master’s degree program living in an apartment complex with a swimming pool. My children walked to and from the school safely. We had weekly family days doing adventurous activities in safe and well-maintained parks. The universal health care system contributed a lot in the physical wellness of my family. When Joji and I entered into the competitive arena of career development, we both experienced level playing fields where our hard work and creativity were appreciated and rewarded well. We had regular vacations, crisscrossing the North American continent, including its natural wonders and even going to artificial adventures in highly commercialized theme parks that my now adult children barely remember.
Living in Canada was a blessing for my family. I also needed those 20 years to heal from the multiple trauma experienced during the dark and brutal years of Martial Law under Marcos’ dictatorship. Those two decades gave me a taste on how to survive and to thrive as a brown immigrant in a white dominated country. I felt good that I was given a privilege to serve God and people while building and advocating faith-based multicultural communities.
The suffering of the Indigenous Peoples continues. A whole generation of precious Indigenous lives destroyed by the residential schools are still crying for justice. Neglected Indigenous communities, deprived of clean water and other basic services are seen both in rural and urban contexts. And the colonial genocide doesn’t seem to stop.
Yet, I did not put much energy and resources to stand in solidarity with the Indigenous Peoples of Canada. I saw how they were discriminated by the dominant society and even by my fellow Filipinos. The best thing I did was to rebuke ourselves as a community to get rid of our discriminatory beliefs and attitudes. But we did nothing about seeking to change the systemic roots of injustices against the Indigenous Peoples. I had an excuse that made me feel comfortable: My purpose in Canada was to focus on helping new immigrants like us, especially the Filipinos and other Asians, get established in faith and in their new lives in Canada.
I should have been more embracing of the realities experienced by the Indigenous Peoples and should have educated myself more to stand in solidarity with them.
But I did not.
I repent of my sin of omission against the Indigenous Peoples while living in Canada.
The Creator is gracious and merciful. My heart and mind were opened and were transformed when I started listening to the Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines—especially the Talaandig, the Erumanen ne Menuvu, the Sumacher, the Banao, and the Bangsamoro. I saw local and global realities from their lenses as Indigenous Peoples and my sense of being grew deeper. My sense of identity with the whole of humanity is further enriched.
Now, I look at Canada—this great continent I embraced as my second home—and am seeing its history from the perspective of the Indigenous Peoples. My spirit cries with the spirits of Indigenous Peoples who suffered, and continue to suffer, under the colonized Turtle Island.
I pray that my children and grandchildren who are living in this beautiful Turtle Island would see and hear better than I did.
I pray that they will embrace the Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island with love, respect, gratefulness, and justice.
I pray that they would join other justice-oriented, peace-loving people and groups who are committed to stand in solidarity with the Indigenous Peoples.
I pray that my family in Canada would be a funnel of love and justice as they review the historical injustices committed against the Indigenous Peoples so that they can effectively speak truth to power.
I pray that my family, even the future generations of my family, would stand in solidarity with the Indigenous Peoples until they see all IPs experiencing their full right to self-determination, starting with the adoption and implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
I pray that all Canadians of all colors would respect the Indigenous Peoples as the Creator-Entrusted stewards of Turtle Island.
Thank you, Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island, for allowing my family to have a home in your native land.