VALLEY PULPIT: emotional turmoil in Canada


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The past few weeks have been an emotional roller coaster for those of us who love this country. I am writing this on the day of a historic event: the installation in Ottawa of Canada’s first Inuit Governor General, Mary Simon. It was a joy to see this seasoned diplomat take the oath and then deliver an inspiring speech that underlined, among other things, the reconciliation between our first peoples and the rest of Canada. It was wonderful to hear one of our native languages ​​spoken in the halls of government, and also to hear the valiant efforts to use our two official languages ​​by a lady who was criticized for her lack of French. As an Anglo-Quebecer, it did me good to hear her say that she will spend time in her other official residence – the Citadelle of Quebec – as well as at Rideau Hall, which she called “the People’s House ”. Not usually inclined to complement our current Prime Minister, I have to say that it looks like this time around Justin Trudeau picked a winner.

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Feelings of a different kind came over me when I saw an article about the additional damage to churches in the west. More recently, St Peter’s Catholic Church in New Westminster, British Columbia has been the target of vandals who sprayed “baby killers” and “you are guilty” on the doors with red paint. This is just the latest in a series of attacks that have included throwing stones through windows, spraying paint and, worse yet, burning down Aboriginal churches. I am not a Roman Catholic, but I will stand up for any group that is violently attacked or defamed.

The people behind the senseless slogans and the property damage have committed crimes. They also spark conflict at a time when what is desperately needed is peace and healing.

It pained me to hear a representative of a Polish Catholic Church say that the degradation of a statue of the late Pope John Paul II (who is revered as a saint, especially among people of Polish descent) was like a stab in the heart. Polish Catholics had nothing to do with residential schools, and John Paul II graciously contacted the Native people. But, then, the vandals (who, I guess, aren’t native) don’t really care about the facts of history.

Further evidence of the ignorance behind the destruction is the damage done to an African evangelical church and a Ukrainian Orthodox church – two groups with no connection whatsoever to residential schools.

What annoys is the disinformation, the savage speculation, the premature accusations. At one point, some spoke of bodies being thrown into a “mass grave”, but we know that there are only individual graves. Discussions of the “murder” have also surfaced as we have no idea at this point of the deaths of those buried near schools. People seem to forget that thousands of adults and children have died across Canada in the past 130 years from tuberculosis, the Spanish flu and other illnesses for which there was no cure. ‘era. The truth is, we know little about what happened to these people. Further research is needed.

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Some seem to have deduced from the fact that these graves are “unmarked” that something sinister is hidden. Again, a historical perspective would be helpful. Almost every cemetery has its anonymous graves. I know of an old cemetery where over 4000 bodies are buried in a “potter’s field” without markers – just tall grass. Sometimes the graves are marked with wooden crosses which subsequently deteriorate.

One of the Ten Commandments is “You shall not bear false witness” (which is actually an application of “Love your neighbor as yourself”). Let’s stop making sensational statements and divisive statements, and wait for more facts to emerge.

And let us seek the reconciliation and the unity that Marie Simon wants to see flourish.

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