Invitation or Inclusivity

 

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Alderville First Nations War Monument Restored in 2011

As citizens of Canada, where do we stand when it comes to acknowledging the indigenous peoples of Canada? As a nation we have gone through the healing process with the Truth and Reconcilliation Commission of Canada, having completed stage one of it’s work and having put forth 94 Calls to Action.

How will the Calls to Action change the general mindset of the average Canadian towards the indigenous peoples of Canada. The actions of government leaders often fall short of taking the 94 Calls to Action seriously.

Recalling a personal discussion

I spoke with an electrician who was transplanted to Fort MacMurray every two weeks. I asked him whether any aboriginal workers were part of the labour force with the Tar Sands project in northern Alberta. He told me that part of the contract is to have aboriginal workers make up ten percent of the work force. When I asked him if that was a reality he confirmed it.

He then went on to explain that while ten percent of the labour force is aboriginal, in his experience they were on the payroll but weren’t expected to work. In other words they were hired, got their pay cheque but they weren’t expected to be integrated into the work force.

The letter of the  contract had been met, but in reality it was a sham. I guess with the high profits it was not considered a hardship for the company to have ten percent of the workforce add zero percent to the productivity.

Moving to a public discussion

I was reminded of the above discussion during an interview on CBC January 21, 2019, The Next Chapter, with David Johnston former Governor General of Canada. Johnston made a distinction between inviting someone to the dance or dancing with someone at the party. The one is an invitation while the other is inclusivity.

It is only through inclusivity that we begin to understand another person. Given the enormous challenges that Canada’s indigenous people have faced due to colonialism, it is not enough for indigenous people to be invited to join the work force when contracts are set up. They need to be engaged, they need to enjoy a sense of inclusivity.

Taking personal steps

I realize I am looking at this from a distance, living three provinces away from Alberta. Though I live within 20 km of the Alderville First Nations, a local indigenous community where I occasionally buy cheaper gasoline. That hardly counts for interacting with my indigenous neighbours.

How do we develop and sense of inclusivity with our indigenous neighbours? What colonial attitudes are biasing our view of indigenous people? What colonial residue underlies our comments and attitudes?

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued a clear statement. Without a willingness to developing inclusivity we will simply perpetuate the colonial mindset and issue apologies as needed.

The promise of reconciliation, which seemed so imminent back in 2008 when the prime minister, on behalf of all Canadians, apologized to Survivors, has faded. (Truth and Reconciliation Commission Volume 6 pg 11)

Every new law or  policy that the federal and provincial governments of Canada introduce should move one step closer to a working relationship grounded in reconciliation. As Reverend Stan McCay of the United Church of Canada, himself a ‘survivor’ has stated, both perpetrators and survivors need healing. That healing can only happen in a posturing of humility and search for understanding.

Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people of Canada each carry their own responsibility to work towards reconciliation. How do we most effectively do that? What does that mean for me?

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Imagine Living on Sacred Land

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Had the opportunity for a scenic hike recently. The trail was near an aboriginal sacred site. The trail head had a sign that reminded hikers that Eagle’s Nest is an Algonquin sacred site. To preserve the integrity of the area and the environment hikers were asked to take only pictures and leave only footprints.

20180516_124640Hiking in the early spring means seeing many early spring flowers. They are visible because the undergrowth has not filled in the way it does later in the summer. What was also visible was garbage along the trail. By the time I had covered the 1.5 km I had collected three dollars worth of empty beverage container.

When the cans and bottles were tossed into the bush they might have been out of sight. But early spring, after the snow has melted all is revealed.

 

 

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One of a dozen stranded inukshuks

The short hike included an interesting side excursion. Some one or more likely several people over the years had decided to leave their mark. Out in the tundra these could have been life-saving direction markers. Here it was interesting to see the different creations made by earlier hikers.

 

 

 

 

The summit was truly worth the hike. At only 1.5 km I would have gladly hiked 15 km given the view that met our eyes. Not a cell tower on the horizon. Not a single hydro tower. No guard rails. No reminder signs to stay back from the edge. No motorized noises. Simply the wind sighing through the trees.

On a warm day one could sit here and enjoy the sounds of nature and the panoramic view for hours.

 

 

The hike back was downhill and went very quickly. We were back at the car before we realized it.

Unfortunately the dog walkers seem to not understand what it means to …leave just foot prints.  They could have taken their dog off the trail a few paces and buried the business when their pet had relieved themselves. It’s possible that many dog owners were doing that. There was clear evidence that there are plenty of dog walkers that thought ‘poop ‘n scoop’ was the responsible way to conduct themselves. That would be fine except for the fact that their trail etiquette left something to be desire.

Actually they left something others did not desire. All I could think of is, “Your mother is not here to pick up after you.” Not sure who they thought would clean up.

I don’t think extra signage would have made a difference. City parks have a clean up crew, the wilderness does not.

Take only pictures, leave only footprints.

Eagle’s Nest Sacred Site signage:

In HONOUR of ALL People, past, present and future, and ALL that Exists: please see that Eagle’s Nest Sacred Site remains forever a True Place of PEACE.  Thank you! Miigwetch!

The sign at the Sacred Site gives some explicit instructions:

PLEASE: Listen to your HEART and RESPECT the NATURE of this site. No garbage or bottles – All you bring in, please bring out. Signed: Tchi Miigwetch Kichi Manitou, Mother Earth and ALL Relations Everywhere.

 

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It’s not just wilderness areas. All land should be regarded as sacred. All land should be used in a manner that promotes peace and friendship.

We need to treat all land as sacred ground. How would that change the way we use the land? Finding beneficial uses without exploiting the land. Caring for it so it will benefit future generations. Using land in a way the promotes peace and harmony.

What do you do with the land you live on? How do you use the land to affirm that it is sacred land?

 

 

 

Was our Prayer Self-centered?

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Salt of the Earth – Chaplin, Saskatchewan

Recently I was recalling the Canadian prairies segment of the Sea to Sea cycling trip. We had been experiencing headwinds and crosswinds at a much greater rate than tailwinds.

Each morning the chaplain had prayed for favourable winds to help us reach our next campsite without encountering undo hardship. We had arrived the day before in Chaplin Saskatchewan having battled headwinds and crosswinds on what had been a long haul.

That evening we welcomed a lone, self-supported cyclist to join us for supper. He gladly accepted. Just one of his many pleasant surprises he had encountered after several years of enjoying life on the road.

The next morning our chaplain was ready to share a prayer with the 70 cyclists.  He paused for a moment to contemplate the situation. How was he going to pray for favourable winds. We were cycling east while our guest was going west. We had a long day ahead of us to get to our pre-book campground. So, what to pray? The chaplain shared his prayer as a general petition for favourable winds and said, “We’ll let God figure it out.”

As this prayer was offered I was squirming a bit and feeling uneasy. Praying for favourable winds felt like we were sending God a Santa Claus gift list. It’s bringing our narrow desires for the day before God. Our narrow desires when there are more significant matters to pray for.

Being in a group of 70 cyclists, it wasn’t essential to have a tailwind. Rather than trying to bias God to send us favourable winds, maybe we should be praying for the cyclists as a group. In praying for success for the cyclists let’s pray for a spirit of cooperation and teamwork.

As a group we had the opportunity to cycle in a pace line. By riding in a tight line of, for example, six cyclist each cyclists would pull for a minute or two and then have an easier time drafting while the other five cyclists took their turn at the front of the line.

On the other hand, the lone guest would be out on the road with simply his own means to reach his goal for the day. He did not have any team members who could work with him.

The other side

Then I come across the verse listed below.

23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

John 16:23-24New International Version (NIV)

So what does it mean to ‘ask in my name’ when praying? How does that create a context for what we ask for? Is anything too trivial to ask for in prayer?

I don’t have additional insight into those questions. Yet somehow, I think we need to consider whether our prayers are self-serving or whether we pray in such a way that the answers to those  prayers bring honour and glory to God.

In the end I think we should have prayed for the needs of the lone cyclist. However, did we know him well enough to determine his needs.?Maybe a headwind was fine because he hadn’t intended to go very far that day.

If nothing else, the chaplain’s prayer in Chaplin Saskatchewan did get me thinking about how we pray and what we pray for.

One Chilly Morning

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An unusual bed?

Every day when I arrived at work I would park my car near the newspaper recycle bin. I would take a minute or two to clean up stray papers that had missed their target namely the paper recycle dumpster.

One particular morning I nonchalantly opened the lid to throw some paper into the bin. Instead of seeing newsprint and bags of shredded paper I found myself looking at a body. A body with an ashen complexion. A body with disheveled clothing. My first thought was, “This is a crime scene or the unfortunate death of a street person death”.

A moment later I was startled to see the body move. Slowly a thirty-ish young man sat up. My puzzlement faded into relief. Relief that this was not a crime scene.

On second look I had the impression that the bags of shredded paper might actually be comfortable. Definitely more comfortable than many places I’ve seen street people spend the night.

I was rather disoriented and so the only words that came out of my mouth was, “You don’t need to hurry. If you want to sleep for a while, go ahead.”

Instead he quickly scrambled out of the bid and headed down the sidewalk hoping to avoid any extra attention.

I realized later that it would have been more appropriate to have offered him a cup of coffee or my lunch to take with him.

Journey Across My Canada

Start of this journey

I find it fitting that my goal of cycling across Canada which took just under four years to complete ended during the Canada 150 commemorations. In those four years I have experienced significant personal changes.

I started my ride across Canada on September 28 in 2013 in Victoria. Victoria is the starting point or end point of the Trans-Canada highway. That was a one day ride that I did with one of my colleagues.

On June 26 in 2017 I continued that journey with Sea to Sea. That part of my ride went on for 64 more days. This part included about 80 other cyclists who rode parts of the journey and about 50 other riders who rode all the way to Halifax.

On August 30, the day after arriving in Halifax, Nova Scotia I continued the journey for 5 more days. This part of the ride included 2 other cyclists who rode along to St.John’s, Newfoundland ending at Cape Spear, the most eastern point in Canada, on September 3, 2017.

Inclusivity

Finishing in Newfoundland was a fitting way to end the cross Canada journey through all ten provinces during the Canada 150 year. Even though Newfoundland came late, joining Confederation in 1949, this makes the cross Canada ride complete.

This is not meant to overlook the 3 territories, Yukon, North West and Nunavut. Cycling through them would be a whole new level of cycling. There isn’t a continuous road connecting the three territories.

Crossing Canada at some point from the southern border to the Arctic Ocean is possible now that the Yukon Territory has completed a highway to the north coast.

Tasting a thin slice

Having crossed Canada from West to east only represents a thin slice of an amazing country with such diversity in terrain and more significant a diversity in people.

As a country with two official languages, that simply doesn’t do justice to the multitude of languages spoken in Canada.

There are quite a number of different languages spoken by the various First Nations communities in Canada who have lived on this land from time immemorial (as one Nation in Nova Scotia identifies themselves). Only one province in Canada, namely New Brunswick has a beginning sense of inclusiveness by being officially bi-lingual. In my understanding, of the territories, Nunavut is the only territory that operates with two official languages.

My language experience in Newfoundland is even more unique in that they speak English but have unusual variations of it. The variation includes expressions that most people from away would simply not understand. Also, depending on which part of Newfoundland one is from words are spoken differently, adding letters or omitting letters when it is spoken.

Identity is key

Language gives a community a unifying identity. Language is a key factor in capturing a culture and a people.

My sense has always been that when people are comfortable with their identity they have a greater acceptance and appreciation of other groups, cultures and diversity of view points. Those are important qualities for people to be able to live at peace with each other.

Canada is a confederation. A confederation only works when people choose to work together and value what others have to offer.

Even though my journey across Canada has been a very thin slice it has raised my appreciation for this country I call home and want to see the diversity within unity thrive by learning from each other.

Stories breathe life

The most effective way we learn from each other is by listening to each other’s stories.

In my journey across Canada I heard an interesting comment about sharing stories.

Within one of the cultures in Canada, they do not want a story electronically recorded. The reason being that a story is something alive. You lose it when you try to capture it.

It is only in the telling that a story stays alive. Each time a story is shared the ambiance where it is shared, the mood of the group in receiving the story, the intent of the story teller in sharing it and many other factors is different each time a story is shared. With each telling the story comes alive.

I want to live in a country where each community, each ethnic group or nation is proud to keep their stories alive. They might be stories of celebrations or of pain. In sharing a story one is sharing a sense of hope for themselves, their community or their country. Sharing stories is what I believe would make the Canada 150 celebrations successful.

What stories will you share about the community you identify with?

My Almost Easter Story

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Bandit – Border Collie

Came home one day to our border collie, Bandit appearing agitated. He did not greet us in his usually excitable display of affection. He promptly led me to the chicken coop where the door stood wide open but no chickens in sight.

The wide open door was no surprise as we release the two dozen chickens each morning to roam and scratch their way into all corners of the yard. What was strange and unusual was the quiet absence of everyone of the laying hens that generously supply us with fresh eggs daily. All I could think of is that my flock of chickens were gone. Probably dead because there was no sign of them anywhere. What didn’t cross my mind at the time is that there were no carcasses lying around.

Bandit led me to some low shrubs where I found 3 chickens. Well that at least part of my flock. There they sat huddling and unwilling to venture out. Bandit followed me to the coop as I carried the three hens to their nesting area. Bandit then led me to a fence at the far end of the yard. There I found 2 more hens equally scared and quietly huddled.

Each time Bandit would show me another location where some hens were huddled. Each time he would follow me back to the coop. He would scan the hens in the coop and head out to another area of the yard. Bandit showed me two more hens, hidden under an out building 300 feet away, hidden behind some boards, completely out of sight.  After placing those two hens in the coop, Bandit looked over the flock of chickens, turned around and walked to the house and lay down in his favourite spot.

When I counted the hens, I noticed that Bandit had helped me retrieve every last one. All I could think of was the fact that my flock of chickens were all back. Not exactly a resurrection by almost.

The question I was left with was, “How did Bandit know he had found all 24 hens?” Was he able to count? If he wasn’t counting how else would he know he had them all.

I know that farmers with a small dairy herd have a name for each of their milking cows. They recognize each cow when they are grazing in the field. They know when a cow is in the wrong milking stall. Is it possible that Bandit had a name for each of the hens? Maybe. He never did tell me.

The Lord God had formed all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He had made all of them out of the ground. He brought them to the man to see what names he would give them. And the name the man gave each living creature became its name.

Genesis 2:19 (NIRV)

Irresistible Chicks

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Bandit the Border Collie

For several years, each summer, we raised a few dozen broilers. It was our way of filling our freezer with chickens that had been raised under humane conditions without hormones and antibiotics in the feed. You could call it urban farming with a purpose.

We had bought our broilers as cute fluffy yellow day old chicks. We had placed them in the coop with a heat lamp so they would be able to withstand the shock of the change in environment.

The first morning when I went to check on them to make sure they had enough feed and water, our faithful border collie Bandit wanted to come into the coop with me. In my attempt to protect the young chicks I decided to leave him sitting outside.

He refuse to patiently sit outside the door. Instead he put up a ruckus and made it clear to me that he  was eager to get inside the coop with the young chicks. By the third morning I relented and figured I would risk letting him into the coop, not really knowing the intent of his eagerness to get in. If he harmed one or two I could quickly lift him up and get him out of there.

When I let Bandit into the coop he made his trip around the perimeter of the coop with the young chicks scattering respectfully giving him space. Satisfied, he walked to the door and waited to be let out. Each morning he followed the same routine. Once the chicks became used to him they no longer scattered. When a chick did not move he would nudge the reluctant chick with his muzzle. The chick would then amble aside and let the dog pass.

One morning as Bandit made his way around the coop nudging the occasional chick, one of them did not respond. He nudged it a second time. He realized the chick was dead. Using his muzzle Bandit gathered up some of the bedding material and covering the dead chick. Once the chick was covered Bandit proceeded to finish his inspection of the flock. That action confirmed for me that he made the rounds as an inspector to ensure all the chick were well and accounted for.

I had started off wanting to protect the chicks from Bandit. In the end it was Bandit who took it upon himself to check on the well-being of each member of his flock, for indeed he had proudly adopted each one of the 5 dozen chicks.

How does a dog not only develop an appreciation for another species but make it their job to ensure their well-being?

18 “There are three things that are too amazing for me,
    four that I do not understand:
19 the way of an eagle in the sky,
    the way of a snake on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
    and the way of a man with a young woman.


Proverbs 30 (NIRV)