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Pope Francis comes to visit … and Canada loses its virginity

It’s being whispered in locker rooms all around the world. A good reputation gone bad. Canada – voted Miss Congeniality, and once thought to be pure as the driven white snow that covers it – has lost its innocence.

Everything ever touted about this cold country being racially tolerant, warm and welcoming,  happily multicultural, almost irritatingly polite and a peaceful place to live, is now debunked.

In the future, we must reap what we have sown and finally reckon with our sordid and troubled  past, especially as it relates to the misery and mistreatment of our Indigenous people.

Pope Francis extending an olive branch and an apology to Indigenous people on Canadian soil  is a helpful part of our rehabilitation. But tilling the earth and replanting ‘healing seeds’ in this present harsh Canadian climate will be very difficult – some would say, ‘impossible’.

Past cannot be prologue. We must learn from our mistakes and have the necessary tools at hand to cultivate real change, not just pay lip service about regret and repentance.

We need to retell, not rewrite, our history.

What went wrong? How did we lose our way? When did we start to stray so far off the ‘path of righteousness’? Were our missteps due to the growing pains of a young nation – or from our stretch marks as we grew too big, too fast?

Watching Global news coverage of the papal apology offered to Indigenous people gathered at a colourful, historical ceremony in Maskwacis, Alberta, was for me, rather like a cha cha dance.

One step forward with a heartfelt apology from Pope Francis. Two steps back with simultaneous news of the murder of some homeless people by a crazed gunman in Langley, B.C.

What a day for the history books.

His Holiness came bearing a precious gift; a  promised apology to Indigenous people who suffered grievous harm from mostly Catholic church run residential schools.

Then in ‘other news’. Vulnerable homeless people still being targeted for violence and discrimination in B.C. (and other provinces) because of who they are and how they live.

At Confederation, in 1867, Canada was like a  newborn baby with a whole future ahead of it. There was no blueprint to follow, just some founding fathers and the collective wisdom of the day – which we now know was deeply flawed in thought and deed.

Canada’s reputation today is badly damaged.  Our country’s coming of age has been fraught with regrettable mistakes, scarred with horrible blunders, and unthinkable crimes to its citizens.

We locked away ‘imperfect’ children with Down’s and other disorders in institutions. We sterilized women with mental illness. We sent young boys who misbehaved to ‘reform’ schools where they were often beaten, isolated, and sexually abused.

We subjected students attending public schools to being caned,  strapped, humiliated, and stuck in a corner with a dunce cap on their heads for minor infractions of rules such as lateness or failure to know the answers in class.

We shunned and sent far away young, unwed mothers for the duration of their pregnancies, ostracising them from any family and friends,  and exposing them to shaming and ridicule.

We made it a crime to be homosexual and we promoted fear mongering and misinformation around the AIDS virus, and we forced gays to hide in the closet in order to keep their jobs.

May God forgive us. We made many mistakes. And we’re likely going to spend the next 155 years trying to make amends for our misspent youth. But it is not my worry, I’m on my way out.

Too many people say that, for real. I said it for dramatic effect. But it is true that any resolution and restitution now rests with future generations. They inherit this debacle, thanks to us, and so it will be up to them to fix and finance it.

How I wish that I could live long enough to see a fully ‘woke’ population but I think maybe that is just too idealistic. So Truth and Reconciliation?

The truth is, throughout history there have been   good people and bad people. Some are simply misguided, others are cruel and corrupt. That will never change.

And any hope for a real reconciliation will come down to, let’s be honest, more money, and better motivation on the part of government to finally settle land claims, and address all First Nations’ past, present and future grievances.

Providing clean drinking water is a very good place to start.

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