The Words of the Pople Family
Ottawa, Canada -- "Should Canada see itself as a welcoming family?" was the question asked by the annual UPF and Women's Federation for World Peace conference in Ottawa, Canada Oct. 5, 2013. Two women from First Nations, the aboriginal inhabitants of North America, opened with traditional chanting the day's discussions of educational, multi-ethnic, and Aboriginal concerns.
Dr. Ki Hoon Kim, Chair of UPF-North America, challenged the approximately 70 leaders in various fields of endeavor throughout Canada to honor the importance of family values. He noted that UPF Founders Father and Mother Moon traveled to Canada 18 times bringing the message that only true love can bring peace and heal the divisions in the divided human family.
"Women are searching for ways to contribute to the peaceful world that we all long for," said Mrs. Lilly Tadin, Chair of the Women's Federation for World Peace-Canada, and she described their work promoting human rights and women's dignity. Mr. Franco Famularo, Secretary General of UPF-Canada, paid tribute to the original inhabitants of Canada, who welcomed the initial Europeans who arrived. "Issues that are problems in one community affect us all," he said and went on to describe UPF's peace education and leadership conferences in Canada and around the world.
"When a child has a problem, it means that adults have a problem," said June Girvan, an educator with the organization Every Child Is Sacred. She read examples of commitments that adults can make to children so they feel themselves as "sacred beings, capable, loving, lovable, and strong."
"Before peace among nations, we need peace among people," stated Dr. Faisal Al-Rfouh, visiting professor at McGill University and previously a Minister of Culture, Administrative Development and Social Development of Jordan. Drawing on examples from both Canada and the Middle East, he encouraged education that emphasizes greater openness to others.
Dr. Thomas Walsh, President of UPF International, remarked that many of the same concerns in Canada are also faced in the US. Commending conference organizers for encouraging a holistic perspective, he traced the shifting balance between the realm of the state and the realm of the family in Western European culture, emphasizing the key importance of the family, school, and religion in cultivating loving people of good character, able to make a contribution to society.
A high-profile issue across Canada is Quebec's effort to prevent people in public roles from wearing religious symbols or devotional garb.
Mr. Errol Gibbs, an author and motivational speaker born in Trinidad and living in Toronto, described multiculturalism as a social experiment that encourages people from different traditions to coexist. Canada established a social contract that implies separate but equal, but the direction is separate and unequal. Tolerance is lauded only because of the lack of love in the human family. "We need a new direction and a new social contract with the government and within and among different ethnic and social groups," he concluded
Muslim author Ms. Zohra Zoberi reported that minorities still face prejudice, such as one Muslim woman's experience that when she gave up wearing a hijab salesmen in stores were willing to assist her. A Jewish friend told her that anti-Semitism is still alive, and a black teacher faces discrimination in her profession. "Full acceptance may not be possible," she concluded, "but respect and compassion would be helpful."
"I care deeply for this government its values," stated Hon. Don Meredith, a Canadian Senator from Ontario. "Canada is a welcoming family. I immigrated to this country [from Jamaica], and regardless of skin color it embraced me." A Christian minister, he is active in Toronto's Interfaith Alliance community service activities. He believes that what's on the inside matters more than outside appearances and people should be evaluated on the basis on their ability to embrace differences.
Reb Arie was dressed in Jewish garb and charmed the audience by demonstrating various ways to wear them. The Rector of the Metivta of Ottawa encouraged the audience to oppose the trends promoting a politics of identity.
As in any frank family discussion, uncomfortable issues can arise. A First Nations woman noted that prejudice is not just an issue of religious garb, saying that her people live with the memory of 100 million of them killed by Christians. The rabbi commented, "I sense hurt in the questions being asked. We must not be silent when people deliberately identifying themselves as religious deliberately inflict harm on others." The term multiculturalism evoked a range of emotions, with one person expressing the opinion that it was created by whites for their self-preservation and another person saying that seeing people in different religious garb may detract from the sense of the oneness of humanity.
The session ended with the appointment of new Ambassadors for Peace by Dr. Moonshik Kim, chair of UPF-Canada and a recent immigrant to Canada, and Dr. Peter Stockdale, a long-time Canadian who retains his native British accent.
The session following lunch raised additional troubling issues. Ms. Jackie Brennan, an Algonquin and Strategic Policy Analyst with Violence Prevention and Safety of the Native Women's Association of Canada discussed the 582 known cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. These cases come from every province and territory and half of them are under the age of 31. "Aboriginal women and girls are more likely to be killed by a stranger than non-Aboriginal women," she added, but noted the difficulties in getting authorities to pursue these cases.
Hon. David Kilgour, a former Secretary of State of Canada, called the First Nations people "early entrepreneurs in the global economy." South Africans say that their apartheid system was set up based on Canada's Reserve system, which isolated its First Nations people. He lamented the residential school system in which about 150,000 children were taken from their families.
The next speaker, Deacon Ron Boyer, is an Ojibwa and residential school survivor. "As an ordained deacon in the Roman Catholic Church I am aware of the struggle of the native people to find their place in the larger society," he said, noting with pride the first canonization of someone from the First Nations: Kateri Tekakwitha. Dedicated to the "Gospel message of healing and reconciliation," he ministers to Native people living in urban areas, who often feel cut off from their culture.
Other First Nations people voiced concern about the trafficking of Native women in the sex trade and the impact of the residential school system preventing parents from passing their values on to their children. After giving examples of the extreme poverty in which some of her people live, one woman said: "We helped the settlers. Our people fought in the First World War and Second World Wars but when they came back they were sent back without compensation to the reserves." In response to questions about information resources and ways to make a difference, speakers referred the audience to the online "Community Resources Guide" and described initiatives such as "Peace Healing Circles."
"I've been to many conferences and seminars, and today I learned things I never heard elsewhere," commented Dr. Kihoon Kim at the close of the session. "I hope that times when we gather like this can help communities make positive changes."
The conference closed with a keynote speech by Dr. Douglas Joseph Cardinal, an acclaimed architect who combines the values he gained from his German mother and Native father to create structures that show the contributions of Aboriginal people integrated into global civilization. Dr. Cardinal designed the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa/Gatineau and the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC USA.
Permit me first to address the specific topic of this panel ("The Cry of the Lost Aboriginal Sisters across Canada") with some points made last year in a talk by a University of Ottawa Ph.D. candidate, Cynthia Stirbys, about the effects of a range of legislation and policies applied by successive national governments and Parliaments to First Nations communities:
Canada's 1967 federal Human Rights Act, for example, specifically excluded from its terms persons subject to the Indian Act. How's that for legal equality for all Canadians?
The Indian Act of 1876 was intended to assimilate indigenous peoples. It denied self-government and segregated those subject to its provisions on apartheid style reserves. Patriarchal societies were intended to replace matriarchal ones. The 1884 Indian Advancement Act included Inuit communities, requiring their members to carry a tattoo on their necks.
Only in 1950 did Inuit women finally receive voting rights from the federal government of the day. It took another ten years before First Nations' women got the right to vote. In traditional cultures, they were powerful, but the Indian Act did its best to end this social reality.
Let me turn for a moment to probably the sorriest matter of all: residential schools. Here are some observations by Ms. Stirbys:
Fully 132 residential schools were funded by the federal government and later churches between the 1830s and the closing of the last one in 1996, with about 150,000 children being taken, often compulsorily, to them.
Among the psychological traumas experienced by the survivors were marginalization of girls and women, feelings of helplessness, witnessing violence to students, a continuous focus on European values, and a constant sense of shame, guilt and self-hate. Many said that their lives were never the same afterwards.
Tuberculosis, which I understand even today costs as little as 75 cents per patient to treat, took the lives of a number of students. Some of the victims' parents were not even informed how their children had perished at the schools.
In short, education for Aboriginals, who as First Nations, Metis, Inuit and many other peoples were the first founders of Canada, was mostly an exercise in imposing European norms on them. I should acknowledge here that Ottawa is built on unceded territory of the Algonquin People, who generously welcomed us to their land.
Some of you will be familiar with the newly-published book, Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life, by the Prairie academic, James Daschuk. The Globe and Mail reviewer, Aparna Sanyal, praises it strongly, but I'll offer only two of the review points:
Canada consistently ranks among the top ten nations in the U.N. Human Development Index, but if we were ranked inclusive only of the marginalized conditions that our Indigenous population endures, we would rank #63.
The book discusses the pre-European period for Aboriginals in Canada and then their experience after the annexation of Western Canada by the Dominion of Canada, portraying the transformation of First Nations from, in Sanyal's words, "entrepreneurs in a global economy to inmates in de facto concentration camps." He asks, for example, who was the "true Canadian, Big Bear (who refused to use violence against the government of Canada and settlers) or Sir John A." (who withheld rations in order to starve Big Bear and other Indians into submission and the miseries of reserve life)?
The Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) has documented nearly 600 cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women across our country. They account for a disproportionate number of missing and murdered Canadians, and NWAC has worked hard to achieve a national action plan to address the issue.
I congratulate the Green Party for joining organizations across the country to support the NWAC in their call for a national public inquiry into murdered and missing Aboriginal women and girls across Canada.
"We know Indigenous women are highly vulnerable because they are disproportionately impoverished. If we are going to effectively address this tragedy, we need information about the scope of the problem, a plan to address it, and adequate political, financial and human resources to support this work," said Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party.
Last summer, Canada's provincial and territorial premiers met with Aboriginal leaders and unanimously supported the call for a national public inquiry.
Every four years, the United Nations reviews the human rights records of all member states. The Canadian government history of consistently rejecting a series of recommendations and resolutions aimed at addressing Canada's treatment of Indigenous peoples has been continued by the current Harper government.
Having begun practising law as a prosecutor in Vancouver, I believe strongly that our criminal justice system must be essentially blind to cultural differences in victims. Each victim is entitled to the same protection as any other--and this includes having police and prosecutors go after criminals who violate the rights of any person, especially using violence, with equal vigour.
Victims in general are no longer supposed to be the forgotten key components of the justice system. The 600 cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women across our country is an excellent place to begin to create more equal justice for all across this land.
I begin with some thoughts about multiculturalism as I draw a contrast between two social ideals, but first: What is multiculturalism? Multiculturalism is fundamentally a social experiment that advocates and encourages peoples of different countries, ethnic groups, and religions in all areas of society to coexist as independent, rather than interdependent communities within the context of the greater community.
This is in contrast to a "melting pot," which is an attempt at integration communities into a seamless whole, underpinned by nationalism and patriotism (with subtle differences), a sort of implied social integration. This is the American ideal.
Although the "melting pot" is not fully achievable in practice, it offers a more progressive opportunity to foster a common consciousness of community, and a common ideal to strive for. Nonetheless, Americans have many challenges in their social experiment as well.
Their challenges are underpinned by (1) the formation of their Constitutional Democracy, steeped in violence and ideological positions, (2) by 19th century Black African slavery, and racism that followed into the 20th century, and (3) by legal and illegal immigration.
Canada, Australia, and Sweden on the other hand, in their efforts to form a sort of social contract with their ethnic minorities; experimented with multiculturalism. Multiculturalism reinforces and celebrates religious and cultural differences as the centerpiece of "cultural coexistence", with the occasional celebration of nationality.
It also implies separate but equal; noble in theory, but unachievable in practice. As a social experiment, multiculturalism goes against the philosophy it espouses (separate but equal). It also implies that "tolerance" would underpin multiculturalism. But the deeper and underlying concern is in the fact that there is not a clearly defined national strategy to foster, enable, and measure; empirically, the successes and challenges of multiculturalism in our "culturally dynamic" twenty-first century.
Although Canada is generally a placid society, as a family, she is rapidly growing separate and unequal in cultural and national identity. The reason for the imperfect nature of multiculturalism lies in the fact that there are insurmountable challenges within distinct cultures in accepting and tolerating each other. Religion, race, creed, and culture tend to be ideological concepts of human existence.
There is a "conflict of differences" in religion, social class, economic class, intellectual class, regional class, color stratification, language barriers, and even cultural heritage within distinct cultures. These internal barriers give rise to external barriers to cultural coexistence that we desire.
These ideological differences separate us rather than unite us as a human family, further giving rise to INTOLERANCE. Intolerance is an active condition, which throughout history has manifested in the most egregious persecutions and wars. It is not only the holding of a different opinion; it is the violent enforcement of that opinion, the suppression of dissension. This is neither the message of Christ, nor of the great prophets, nor of civil society.
TOLERANCE on the other hand, is a paradox. It is one of the most interesting concepts in our modern lexicon. The call for tolerance emerges from major religious institutions, from human rights organizations, workplaces, schools, and homes. We have made a virtue of tolerance. The idea seems noble, but what is Tolerance? Tolerance is inaction, acceptance, and permission. The concept is entirely passive yet has somehow been glorified as a positive, laudable course of conduct.
I put forward that it is only in the absence of love for the human family that tolerance should be lauded. Love for the human family informs tolerance, but tolerance does not essentially inform love of humanity. Tolerance is conditional with implicit limits. The answer lies in positive change, the shaping of our lives and our interactions to conform to God's will for human beings, to love each other, and not merely to tolerate each other.
The Golden Rule or "ethic" of "reciprocity" is a maxim, ethical code or morality that essentially states: Do to others as you would have them do to you (Luke 6:31, New International Version). Our twenty–first century can be a century of hope for the human family, anchored upon the foundation of the two great commandments, to love God and neighbor as ourselves, as a first imperative to enlighten and empower the human family (Matthew 22:37–40). "God's Law" has a greater capacity to inform the will of the human heart than "human laws."
Positively speaking, Canada has a golden opportunity to be a true "multicultural society" and the envy of the world for the following reasons: (1) Canada does not have a dominant culture; (2) she is not a nation polarized by division among world religions; (3) she is not overtly nationalistic and patriotic; and (4) she is not severely imbalanced socially and economically, "except", for the plight of its First Nations Peoples, Métis, and Inuit, lamentably. Canada is truly a pluralistic society in waiting.
Undeniably, most of us are aware that as we sail into the future, we carry with us the baggage of unsolved problems of the past, and complex and unsolved problems of the present. More importantly, we are manifestly unprepared to face new and emerging problems of the future as we disembark in the global village. The word, "global village" is a misnomer.
In closing, I affirm that tolerance is insufficient to nurture the family of humankind in Canada, and multiculturalism requires: (1) a new perspective, (2) a new definition, (3) a new strategic direction, and (4) a new social contract between government and its ethnic and religious groups.
More importantly, there is a need for a new social contract within distinct cultures, and between distinct cultures. Evidently, these recommendations are challenging to craft and implement, but they are essential for cultural coherence, and peace and harmony, as we sail in the unchartered waters of the twenty-first century and the new millennium.