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Soul Mending

By Yvonne Zarowny


Canada has a rich history of diversity and relative tolerance

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another....”  — John13:34  

I have been enjoying the federally funded multi-ethnic advertisements acknowledging and encouraging us to celebrate the rich diversity and relatively tolerant society that is Canada today.

The stories shared in these advertisements reflect sensitivity to colour, age, gender, ethnicity and religious heritage.

For me — money well spent. We need to acknowledge and celebrate what we have achieved. That achievement is in large part due to a lot of work by a lot of people over the decades.

Most of those involved were members of faith communities who believed an essential aspect of their living faith was to be instruments through which the Divine co-created worlds so all had life with dignity — and love was at least as known as fear and hatred.  

The “150 spot” I particularly like is the one featuring Delhi 2 Dublin’s (D2D) Sanjay Seran.

Seran states there are few places is the world where young people from such diverse traditions could come together to “play” with their respective heritages, co-create something new, beautiful, fun . . . and it just be considered “normal.”

His experience is consistent with mine. Like Seran, I am grateful whenever I am back on Canadian ground — particularly if I have been to that increasingly unfriendly and intolerant giant to the south of us.

My last trip to the USA was pre-Trump but post-9/11. Upon disembarking at the Vancouver airport, I held back the impulse to kiss the ground. I also restrained myself from hugging the RCMP officers who were smiling and not packing rifles!

What joy! What sanity! We have much for which to be thankful and celebrate!

As Governor General David Johnson stated — we are a continuously evolving social experiment striving to make diversity work for us. However, we cannot rest on our laurels or forget the tragic chapters of our past.

Societies just as easily devolve as evolve . . . particularly when religious and ethnic intolerance is weaponized to obfuscate discriminatory economic policies.

Unfortunately, since about the mid-1990s, Canada has been devolving.

This came to a head when in the 2015 federal election, our ruling party of the day tried to use religious and ethnic intolerance to manipulate our hearts and minds to hold onto power.

Only 67.3 per cent of voting Canadians rejected this.

Unfortunately, our current ruling party seems to be more about “progressive posturing” than making the substantive changes promised in their campaign.

On my return from New Zealand this spring, I passed through Brisbane, Australia.

There — on a big screen displaying a continuous loop — was a spot with a portrait of the Turibal-Gubbi Elder Maroochy Barambah accompanied by the words: “In keeping with the spirit of reconciliation we respectfully acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which the Brisbane airport stands and pay respect to their Elders: past, present and emerging.”

So simple — yet so powerful!
In the spirit of reconciliation for the original sins on which the Canadian nation-state was founded and continues, to have something similar in all our major airports would be a tiny but substantive step in returning us to our pilgrimage toward right relationship.

To me, it would help rid Canadians of the erroneous notion we are only a nation of immigrants.

Kitkatla, a Tsimshean village on the northwest coast of B.C., has been continuously occupied for over 10,000 years. That is slightly longer than Jerusalem has been continuously occupied by anyone — including the Canaanites much less the Israelites!  

The ancestors of the various Inuit nations have been in their regions for over 30,000 years.

With the change in tone and progressive posturing of our current federal Liberals, we have slowed Canada’s devolution into a fear-filled nation where citizens’ righteous anger at a worsening economy is twisted into being bent on violence, revenge and scapegoating.

However, more of substance is needed if we want to ensure all our young are safe to return to prayer or to whatever else they want to do without fear of being beaten to death with a metal baseball bat. This happened to 17-year-old Nabra recently in Sterling, Virginia. 

To ensure that never again someone receive the unconscionable treatment meted out to Angela Cardinal, a Cree women in custody of Alberta’s legal institutions, these institutional cultures need to be transformed — federally and provincially. That could be done and done quickly without a huge outlay of monies. We know how to do it. Just needs to be a priority.

It has been over 2,000 years since Jesus came and told us to love one another and that love is “the way” to peace, true happiness and contentment.

As we celebrate Canada’s 150, are you prepared to take Jesus’s Love Commandment deep into the essence of your being?

Are you prepared to be a vessel through which the Divine works to transform Canada into a truly inclusive society where all God’s Creation has life with dignity for the full continuum?

A critical educator, writer and engaged citizen living in Qualicum Beach, B.C., Zarowny is also on the leadership team for her parish’s Justice and Life Ministry.