My heart continually cries in pain for the increasing number of recovered remains of Indigenous children and youth who died in Canada’s residential schools. Along with millions of Canadians, I’m outraged and am calling for further searches of unmarked graves. Because of this, the more I embrace this land and stand in solidarity with her Indigenous Peoples. The more I respect my fellow Canadians who sincerely face this reality with truth, justice, and the pursuit of peace and reconciliation, as articulated in the art of Jennifer Adomeit and other artists. And because of this, the more I condemn the European empires’ greed for wealth and power through colonialism that led to acts of genocide and land stealing against the Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island.
I cry with Canada’s First Nations who are bearing the pains and the trauma because of the deaths of residential school students. As I’m writing this blog, my heart rends as I read a report that a “rising tally of these graves— more than 1,100 so far—has triggered a national reckoning over Canada’s legacy of residential schools… These government-funded boarding schools were part of policy to attempt to assimilate Indigenous children and destroy Indigenous cultures and languages.”
With sincerity and respect, I’m expressing my deep gratitude to the Indigenous Peoples who have been graciously hospitable to Settlers like us. Joji and I brought our young family to Canada in 1986 and gained citizenship after three years. Our young family were blessed to live in this beautiful land together until 2006. Joji and I moved back to the Philippines with our son, Daniel Byron in January 2006. Today, my two daughters—LéLé and L’nielle, their respective partners in life, and my 5 grandchildren are living under the generous hospitality of the Coast Salish peoples known as the Squamish, the Tsleil-waututh, and the Musqueam. They are peacefully welcomed within the traditional, unceded territory of these Coast Salish nations—now referred to by the colonial government as the ‘City of Vancouver, Canada.’ (My son, D.B. and his family now live as Settlers in Mindanao, graciously embraced by Indigenous Peoples and Bangsamoro.)
As one on a transformation journey since I was a young social activist, I resonate with the words of Randall Bear Barnetson, a Canadian Indigenous artist: “An Elder told me that ‘even when a being is fully transformed it still has remnants of its former self.’ I feel that as I’m growing artistically, culturally, personally, and spiritually and I will become more of the person that Creator intended. However I will always hold the scars heartbreaks of this life. That is why I chose depicted the Raven with human hands. As he ascends to the place of a Spirit being he still holds the scars of his former self.”
As a humble expression of deep solidarity, I signed the 215 Pledge. I invite my family and friends in Canada to sign as well: www.215pledge.ca.
Let us all—
- Deny the narrative that this was an isolated incident;
- Channel feelings of anger towards action;
- Uncover other undocumented children and youth throughout Canada’s residential schools;
- Reunite families with the remains of loved ones;
- Accept the truth of residential school survivors and Indigenous Peoples’ lived experience.
I pray for, and support, Land Back—a political movement that seeks to re-establish Indigenous People’s political and economic control over land that has historically belonged to them prior to colonization.
God MAKE our land, glorious and free. We don’t want to KEEP Canada as is.