Sometimes when we talk about an issue, and when we are talking about the right things and using the right language, it’s easy to miss when the talk changes to just words.
That’s how I felt watching the video clip of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s response to activists “crashing” the Liberal Fundraiser last week.
The activists wanted to highlight Grassy Narrows – and the promises made and not followed through on. And the response was “Thank you for your donation,” as the activists with the banner were escorted out. Ugh.
This was followed by laughter.
All at once I felt like I was watching a little boy trying to gain favour with the big kids. It was the school yard all over again: someone gets raised up in esteem at someone else’s expense.
This happens at work, in families, everywhere… Sarcasm. Jokes. “Funny” comments.
I’ve been there. It can be easy to do, and the feeling of what we think of as acceptance in the moment (actually called negative bonding) is often fleeting.
When words lose their meaning…
After the laughter, I heard PM Trudeau say something about how Liberal party members have different opinions, and something about the importance of Reconciliation.
My first thought was “this is odd” but it was quickly followed by disgust.
How dare he use the word Reconciliation, I thought, and talk about it’s importance, as a second activist is ignored and talked over as he calls out questions like, ”What if it were your family? What if you were waiting 500 days?”
I had to shake my head. I felt saddened, and ashamed, and angry.
Upon reflection, what it says to me is how easily we can move from the right words and the right action into complacency as we think of our words as enough.
Reconciliation is a verb.
Reconciliation is not something we should just talk about (although it is easy to just talk about it), or a word we throw around in order to brush aside the issues that matter – the ignoring of which are killing Indigenous People in this country.
It’s something we each need to DO.
Every day, and in many ways.
In fact there is a list of 150 recommendations of things we can all do to be part of the change. You can find it here.
What about Grassy Narrows?
Education is on that list – and we can do is educate ourselves on the Grassy Narrows issue.
The people of Grassy Narrows have been living with mercury contamination for decades. DECADES!! You can read more about this here.
And so I have to ask:
How is it that this has been allowed to continue?
What if mercury poisoning were happening to another population in Canada?
Or in a different part of the country?
What if the people impacted looked/were different?
Would the situation have been addressed by now?
These are harsh questions perhaps, but they are real.
We live in different countries depending on who we are in Canada (like any country).
Our identities mean we are treated differently, seen differently, and that things that happen to us are taken up differently. Identities impact how or if something is taken seriously and addressed, and how much (if any) concern there is for the issue, or for the people it is happening to.
Grassy Narrows isn’t alone…there are thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls to consider in the light of this question, and many other examples.
How is this inequity and injustice allowed to continue?
Because we are lulled by the use of the right words…and words (sadly, and as we saw last week, for example) can become devoid of meaning and action.
What do your words stand for?