Canada Day and Multiculturalism…
We must embrace our racist past
+ words of Chief Dan George
history of Canada – is not a nation of white people. Oh… the
white people tried to make it so by not allowing First Nations, and
Asian people the right to vote, or to be citizens. The white
forefathers of this country called Canada, tried to keep Asian people
from coming by using head tax (from China), restricting immigration to
direct passage only (from India), and by diplomatic means (asking Japan
to limit people emmigrating to Canada).
was before the White people learned about Multiculturalism, and that
all peoples really are people. We are all human beings under the
sun, and it was Canada that led the way at the United Nations with a
Charter of Rights, under Prime Minister Lester Pearson.
friend Lorna MacDonald (First Nations and Scottish ancestry) has
alerted me to the speech that Chief Dan George made on Canada Day, 1967
– Canada's Centennial. He said:
“How long have I known you, oh Canada? Two hundred years? Yes, a
hundred years. And many, many seelanum more. And today, when you
celebrate your one hundred years, oh Canada , I am sad for all the
Indian people throughout the land.
For I have known you
when your forests were mine; when they gave me my meat and my clothing.
I have known you in your streams and rivers where your fish flashed and
danced in the sun, where the waters said come, come and eat of my
abundance. I have known you in the freedom of your winds. And my
spirit, like the winds, once roamed your good lands.
in the long hundred years since the white man came, I have seen my
freedom disappear like the salmon going mysteriously out to sea. The
white man's strange customs which I could not understand, pressed down
upon me until I could no longer breathe.
When I fought to
protect my land, I was called a savage. When I neither understood nor
welcomed this way of life, I was called lazy. When I tried to rule my
people, I was stripped of my authority.
My nation was
ignored in your history books — they were little more important in the
history of Canada than the buffalo that ranged the plains. I was
ridiculed in your plays and motion pictures, when I drank your
fire-water, I got drunk — very, very drunk. And I forgot.
Canada , how can I celebrate this Centenary, this one hundred years?
Shall I thank you for the reserves that are left to me of my beautiful
forests? For the canned fish of my rivers? For the loss of my pride and
authority, even among my own people? For the lack of my will to fight
back? No! I must forget what's past and gone.
Oh God in
heaven! Give me back the courage of the olden chiefs. Let me wrestle
with my surroundings. Let me again, as in the days of old, dominate my
environment. Let me humbly accept this new culture and through it rise
up and go on.
Oh God! Like the Thunderbird of old, I shall
rise again out of the sea. I shall grab the instruments of the white
man's success — his education, his skills, and with these new tools I
shall build my race into the proudest segment of your society. Before I
follow the great chiefs who have gone before us, oh Canada , I shall
see these things come to pass.
I shall see our young
braves and our chiefs sitting in the houses of law and government,
ruling and being ruled by the knowledge and freedom of our great land.
So shall we shatter the barriers of our isolation. So shall the next
hundred years be the greatest in the proud history of our tribes and
Chief Dan George, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, born “Geswanouth Slahoot' (1899-1981)
time for all Canadian peoples to stand up and recognize the global
heritage of Canada's peoples. We can all celebrate and recognize
the contributions of First Nations, Scottish, Chinese, Japanese,
English, French, South Asian, African peoples.
also time for all Canadian peoples to stand up and denounce the words
of racists, bigots and anti-apologists for past racists actions in
Canada's history, such as Trevor Lautens in the North Shore News.
Canada must and will be healed…. in our hearts, our souls and our
minds. We are a family, and families do not leave family members
behind. For the racists… we embrace them, bless them, and help
them on their learning development, and we offer them “tough love.”
past year, I have been active as a director for The Canadian Club of
Vancouver, which is one of the oldest clubs in Canada. It was
founded to create an identity away from the “British traditions” of
Canada's early British pioneers. It was founded to create and
support a “Canadianess” that was unique and growing.
the people who are on the board. They have welcomed me.
They have welcomed my ideas. For this year's prestigious Order of
Canada luncheon, we featured writer Joy Kogawa. Last year the
club featured architect Bing Thom. Both are Order of Canada
evening of Canada Day…. a Sing Tao Daily reporter phoned me to
ask what I loved about Canada. I told him it was the acceptance
of Canadian people to embrace and learn about each other's
cultures. This is how we grow as a nation. This is how we
see beyond the flat world of monoculturalism, and look at how to evolve
Canadian culture – by incorporating the best of all cultures, while
recognizing what is specifically and historically Canadian.