Canada? The smell of tree resin in Arkady Fiedler’s books. The longing for the Green Gables, Anne Shirley, and Lucy Maud Montgomery’s books. The allure of Alice Munro’s exquisite narratives about women. The attraction of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid's Tale. The openness to others in The English Patient by Ceylon-born Michael Ondaatje. She was the coloured thought unfolding in the distant light of Émile Nelligan’s poetry – even when it was not all sugar and spice in Chelene Knight’s Dear Current Occupant. Indeed, it is hard not to agree with Katarzyna Wężyk, ‘Canada is the world’s favourite country’.
The First Nations? The planned process of their physical and moral degradation? The eradication of their culture and language in the name of Christian civilisation? The decades of denying and trampling upon human rights? Bullying and sexual abuse of children separated from their families and forced to live in Church-run boarding schools far away from their homes. Unlawful confinement in mental institutions, depriving of all hope in prisons... No, that was not the Canada we liked thinking about.
It could have happened – it actually did – in the US, in South America, in Australia, in New Zealand... even in Norway – but Canada?! Joanna Gierak-Onoszko in 27 śmierci Toby’ego Obedy pictures the unimaginable – it did happen in Canada, too.
The coming-of-age for a society and its government is when they are capable of taking responsibility for any harm done, remembering their victims, and showing them respect. Calling crime what it is. Admission of guilt. Respecting human rights – the laws, culture, language, and position of the native Canadians. The process is not easy but the movement is here to stay.
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