Reconciling our past, building our future – local perspectives on Indigenous life

Thursday, September 30, 2021 is the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada.
Image courtesy of Heritage Canada.

This day honours the lost children and Survivors of residential schools, their families and communities. Public commemoration of the tragic and painful history and ongoing impacts of residential schools is a vital component of the reconciliation process.

One of the things everyone can do is Wear Something Orange.

This day relates to the experience of Phyllis Webstad, a Northern Secwpemc (Shuswap) from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, on her first day of school, where she arrived dressed in a new orange shirt, which was taken from her. It is now a symbol of the stripping away of culture, freedom and self-esteem experienced by Indigenous children over generations.

For more information about the proclamation of this day by the federal government, and to learn more about what you can do, visit the Heritage Canada website.

This day offers a path to a brighter future — for all — but especially for Indigenous peoples here in our community and across the country. In recognition of this day, and its importance, Second Opinion QB offers three articles we published over the past year. Their messages, some celebratory, some revealing uncomfortable truths and some offering the reflections of the next generation, are timeless.

QB artist Jesse Recalma inspires students
Racial + gender violence & policing – the problem lives here too
Our reputation for tolerance deserved?

Jessie Recalma, Saatlam Arts, Qualicum First Nation.

QB artist Jessie Recalma inspires students

Carver. How cool would that be to have on your business card?

Like all cool jobs though, there are downsides. Like leaving QB at dawn to drive up-Island to Campbell River, then take two ferries, first, one to Quadra Island and then another over to Cortes Island — to begin what would be a 14-hour day. What was the draw? An opportunity to speak with young students.

Jessie Recalma is a young self-taught contemporary Coast Salish artist and a member of the Qualicum First Nation. He was invited by the Cortes Island School Parent Advisory Committee to participate in their annual Arts/Music program fundraiser, an artist talk series, earlier this year. His challenge was to imbue students ranging from 7 years of age to young teens with a broad understanding of indigenous art… [read more]

Racial + gender violence & policing — the problem lives here too

Memorial Avenue, Qualicum Beach, BC February 26, 2021

As I drove into Qualicum Beach along Memorial Avenue late last week, I was struck by the unusual sight of a red dress hanging in a tree on the boulevard. Then it registered — this is a symbol of the murdered and missing Indigenous women campaign. It was a jarring image. It seemed out of place, and too close to home. Yet, I was reminded of several local incidents of domestic and racial violence in the past year indicating that the problem lives here too.

Two days later, on February 27, 2021, the news broke that police had shot and killed an Indigenous man near Tofino. According to CHEK News, the RCMP said that two officers from the Tofino detachment had gone to the Opitsaht reserve on Meares Island “to locate a woman in distress,” reporting that “a call had come in about a woman allegedly being held against her will.”

One of the first things noted by the media across Canada, was that… [read more]

Our reputation for tolerance deserved?

We in Qualicum Beach take pride in attracting many visitors and new residents from across Canada and around the world, including international students who have attended Kwalikum High School from countries far afield. International students enrich our community, financially, socially and culturally. One of the reasons we attract such attention is our country’s reputation as a beacon of decency and fair play. We like to think of ourselves as “nice,” as welcoming and tolerant. Yet racism remains an undeniable stain on Canada’s reputation today, as explained in this essay by Kwalikum High School student Rachel Enns.

“If one was to rate countries based on how they treat their most disadvantaged citizens, Canada would not be number one.

Although from the outside, Canada appears to be a utopia of diversity and tolerance, by taking a deeper look into the past one can see that the media and the government have been very good at concealing a darker history of racism.

It has been so from the beginning when Europeans first arrived at the shores of the North American continent and laid “claim” to the land, to the opening of the first residential school, the Chinese head tax, and turning away at-risk immigrants trying to escape their war and deprivation in their home countries.

Today, one can see that Canada’s racial issues mimic those of the past, the bias in public schools against young coloured children who are seen as aggressive, still standing Chinatowns reflecting earlier racist attacks, and the gentrification of poor neighbourhoods that had been populated by people of colour. Objectively, Canada is a racist country that was built on stolen land… [read more]

Carving by Jessie Recalma,Saatlam Arts, Qualicum First Nation.

Commemorate the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada, Thursday, September 30, 2021.