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Our Children

20 May

Over the past few years, we’ve watched open-mouthed as young black men have been gunned down in the United States.  

One was an unarmed father of five, selling cigarettes.  One was trying to walk home from the store.  One was a 12 year old boy in a park. There are so many others.  It was heartbreaking to hear about again and again.  Canada, as a country, grieved with the parents.  

We grieved from afar but also patted ourselves on the back because that kind of awfulness just doesn’t happen in Canada.  

After all, our gun laws are stricter.  

After all, we’re just so darn nice here.  

After all, we embrace multiculturalism and diversity.

We say sorry if we bump into each other; we tell each other to have a nice day, eh!

But truthfully, we are no better.  Not really.  We proudly proclaim Canada as the epitome of human rights, while ignoring the very people who were here first.  

2017 marks Canada’s 150th birthday.  150 years as an official country.  To many that’s a major cause for celebration.  For others it’s a stark reminder of broken promises, residential schools, missing and murdered indigenous women, reserves with never ending boil-water advisories, and dead children.

The children.  Oh my heart just breaks thinking about what their parents and family members have gone through.  Are going through. 

The past decade in Thunder Bay has seen nine teens pulled from the same river.

These are their names: 

JETHRO ANDERSON

CURRAN STRANG

PAUL PANACHEESE

ROBYN HARPER

REGGIE BUSHIE

KYLE MORRISOW 

JORDAN WABASSE 

TAMMY KEEASH

JOSIAH BEGG

These names are important.  

These young people need to be remembered.

Nine young indigenous teens, ranging from 14 years to 18 years old.  All of them were in Thunder Bay for schooling (or appointments) and far from home.  They were away from their families.  They ended up in the river.

Why?  Why did these young people end up in the river?  Were they pushed?  Were they drinking?  Were they alone?  Did someone push them?  Was it accidental?  Suicide?  Murder?

I have no answers and no solutions.

What I can do, however, starts at home.  I have three white (perhaps) heterosexual sons.  

At this point in their lives, they barely understand the concepts of racism and bigotry.  We talk about it in age-appropriate ways and they have a basic understanding that some people are treated badly because of their skin colour or where they were born, what they believe, etc.  They think it’s unfair. 

Like any parent, I worry about my children.  One thing I don’t often think about though, is whether or not my sons will be shot by police officers.  Or whether or not they’ll end up in a river.  

I mean, it could happen, but it’s statistically improbable.  I just don’t spend time worrying that my sons will get shot by police officers or attacked because of their skin colour.  Nobody is going to call my sons derogatory names becsuse of their skin colour.

This is my privilege.  

I recognize it; I own it.

I don’t know what the future holds.  But today I’m telling my almost nine year old about the young boy who was pulled from the river, like the many before him.  

I’m talking to him about safety and personal responsibility.  Soon I’ll tell him that if he’s in a scary situation, he can ALWAYS call me or his dad or his Gramma. 

I don’t know what happened to Josiah and the others, but I do think about the what-ifs.  Was he alone? Was he with a friend?  Did he have a cell phone?  Was he unable to call anyone for help?  Did he call and nobody came?  Was he scared?  Did he know he was about to die?  Was he even aware of what was happening?  

That poor child.  His poor mother.  

It’s so easy to look at this situation and dismiss it outright because it happened to someone else.  But that someone else is still a person.  He’s a son and brother.  He had hopes and dreams.  He had friends.  

Josiah was Sunshine Winter’s child but really, he was our child.  A child of Canada, of Turtle Island.  All these children are our children.  This country is hurting and has been for centuries.  

We can’t change the past, but we can work towards a better future.

The children are the future, we can’t let them down.

Let’s do this.

***

Resources if you’re interested in an overview of the current situation:

Fifth Estate Segment discussing police activity in response to the deaths of these teens.

Article about the most recent deaths causing concern about police practices. 

An article about the inquest launched into the deaths over the last ten years.

Love like a child

4 Dec

Every generation has moments of tragedy that resonate nationally or even internationally. These are moments felt around the whole world and they stay with you forever.
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In 1912, my great grandfather was probably thanking God that all the Titanic tickets were sold out and he and his brothers had to take another boat. As a result, he probably always remembered what he was doing when he heard the unsinkable ship was indeed sunk.

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As a soldier in WWII, my grandfather probably always remembered where he was when the war was officially declared over.

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People around my mom’s age remember where they were when JFK was shot. Jason remembers where he was and what he was doing when John Lennon was shot and, then again, remembers what he was doing 14 years later when he heard that Kurt Cobain was dead.

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I remember what I was doing when the twin towers fell (watching the news in my grade 12 history class) and others of my generation might remember where they were when they heard about the Columbine high school shooting or the Christmas time tsunami in 2004 or what was going on in their lives when Hurricane Katrina destroyed most of New Orleans.

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Tragedies are continually happening all around us on smaller scales and every so often (too often) something will happen to make most of, if not the whole, world stop in their tracks and watch in shock.

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In the past year alone, there have been over 350 mass shootings in the United States. There hasn’t been a single week that’s passed without something horrible making headlines all over the news, including the horrible events of Friday November 13th.

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My children are too young to really be aware of what goes on in the news and what they do know, is usually what I tell them in age appropriate ways. Soon our city will be welcoming refugee families and soon I’ll be gathering up bags of clothes and household items to donate. And, as they always do when I start filling bags, the boys will ask where it’s all going. And then I will tell them, in an age appropriate way, what happened in Paris. And Beirut.  

*

  
Will they remember? Will it impact them? Maybe. But there will be plenty more tragedies in the years to come; there will be something that sticks with them. They’ll be able to ask each other, “Do you remember when…?” and they’ll nod knowingly and exchange memories of where they were and what they were doing. 

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And how privileged am I to be picking the time when I will reveal various world events to my boys? And how privileged are they to be able to shrug off the news if they want? It really doesn’t affect their day-to-day lives. There are millions of children all over the world who should be so privileged.

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But there is hope.

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While lying in bed a few nights ago, cuddling and chatting with R2 as he slowly drifted off to sleep, his eyes popped open and he said, “Do you want to know what I’m thinking about, Mommy?” I said, what, and he said, “I’m thinking about the whole world and how much I love everybody!” Then he closed his eyes and went to sleep.

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Wow.

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If only we could all see the world the same way that a four year old can.

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Hope for humanity lies in love like a child. Even Jesus said it, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Yup, right there in the bible: Matthew 18.

Shoebox 

11 Nov

Last year on R1’s birthday we asked attendees to bring a card and a monetary gift.  The plan was to add the money together and buy one larger set of Lego and donate a portion to a charity of R1’s choosing (of course, I helped him with that choice by telling him about different options).

Last year, R1 donated a portion of his birthday money to the Breakfast Club of Canada to help out the thousands of kids who go to school hungry every morning.

This year, R1 wanted to fill a shoebox!  I’ve been filling a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child ever since I was a kid so I’m happy that he’s taking an interest.

On my old blog, I wrote about making a shoebox and, surprisingly, received several comments about Operation Christmas Child being a bad organization because they’re simply proselytizing to vulnerable and impoverished children under the guise of providing Christmas joy.

To that I say who cares and so what!!

Yes, OCC is a Christian organization but nobody has to say the sinner’s prayer or renounce their own faith in order to be gifted with a shoebox.  It’s a wonderful way to spread love and joy, especially for families on a limited income.  

Of course, this year we used R1’s birthday money!

   
    
 
If you’re interested in making a shoebox you can visit the website to find out your local drop-off location.  If you’re in Thunder Bay, drop off here between November 16-22nd:  

 

A New Government

22 Oct

On Monday the 19th, Canada elected a new government.  Stephen Harper and his Conservatives are out; Justin Trudeau and the Liberals are in! 

Canada’s new Prime Minister and First Lady

 

Thunder Bay North and surrounding areas will now be represented by Patty Hajdu:   

 

Bonus image: Patty with PM Trudeau

 
Thunder Bay South and surrounding areas will now be represented by Don Rusnak:  

 
Now, I am not a political savant, nor am I skilled in debate and argument, but I’m thrilled with this new government.

I’m not delusional in thinking that new politicians will solve all our country’s problems.  Nor will any government be able to please all its citizens, but change is good.  Especially after a decade of Conservative leadership.  

I truly believe Harper was ruining the country and cared only about the elite and big business.  I voted for the NDP because I agree with most, if not all, of their ideals.  But I’m not disappointed in the outcome.  Far from it.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been talking to the boys about the election.  They’ve been seeing the signs all over the city and asking questions and I’ve been answering them as age appropriately and simply as possible.  

They asked me many times why I didn’t want to vote for the “blue” party (Conservatives) and I tried to explain it without saying things like, “Because Harper is a megalomaniac bent on destroying everything we hold dear!”  I told them that mommy and daddy were sad about the harmful rules and laws enacted that damage the environment, endanger science and knowledge, hurt women’s health, universal healthcare, the fate of our veteran soldiers, and the disregard for the First Nations of Turtle Island.  

(For lengthy and detailed information about the damage done by Harper’s government, check out www.shd.ca and www.whynotharper.ca Or even a simple google search.)

Before long, both boys were trying to kick down the blue signs they saw around the neighbourhood and I had to explain to them that people are allowed to have their own choice even if we believe it to be the wrong choice; we have to respect our neighbours.

The night after the results were in and we learned about our new government, R1 was in the tub and I heard him say to Jason, “Daddy, did you know that we are now represented by a woman and an Ojibwe man?  This is a day that will be written in the history books!”

I tell you, my heart nearly burst when I heard that.  My eyes welled up and I felt incredibly proud.  And he’s right, we’ve made history by being represented by both a woman and a person of colour and I can’t help but hope that this is the start of a revolution.

I do realize the irony of a rich white man being the leader of a revolution, but in addition to Don Rusnak, there are nine other First Nations representatives around the country and numerous women.  Things are changing, bit by bit!  I also realize that the Canadian government has been going back and forth between Liberal and Conservative for decades and that the Liberals have endorsed some problematic bills, but I am still trying to stay positive.

I want my boys to grow up in a world where they can have dreams and work hard to achieve those dreams.  But I believe it’s just as important for them to see women and minority groups in positions of power.  I’m very excited to see what Patty and Don can do as they lead our area alongside Mr Trudeau.

The new Prime Minister has been making some pretty amazing promises and is a self proclaimed feminist.  I know he’s a politician and he can’t possibly keep all his promises, but like I said, I have hope.  Trudeau has committed to having a large portion of women as cabinet ministers and has promised to call an inquest into the missing and murdered indigenous women of Canada.  He is also pro-choice and I believe it’s vital for government to keep rules and regulations to a bare minimum when it comes to reproductive health.  

It’s so important for children, both boys and girls, to have upstanding men in their life who model respect and decency to women and people of colour.  For instance,  my three boys have a wonderful father and will grow up seeing how he treats women as equals.  This will impact how they will act as adults.  Jason also tries to treat all people with respect and kindness and the boys are watching.  May they grow up to be kind and decent men extending respect to people of all backgrounds, be they Ojibwe, Metis, Inuit, Muslim, or Hispanic.  Be they able bodied or not, be they women or men or transgendered, be the gay or straight or somewhere in between.

And now, with my boys and the rest of the country watching our new leader, I have such hope for the future.  I know that’s a lot to put on your shoulders, Mr Trudeau, but I think you’re up to the task.  

Much love and respect to your family as you begin moving into your new home and your new roles as the first family of Canada.

Ps: my boys loved the light sabers!