By Professor David Divine
Photos David Divine Jr.
Three years ago an agreement was reached and signed between the Province of Nova Scotia and Mi’kmaw chiefs to embed knowledge and understanding of the Mi’kmaw, one of the founding nations of Canada, into the mainstream education curriculum in Nova Scotia. The agreement was renewed and extended to 2020, earlier this year. Wagmatcook First Nation Chief Norman Bernard, in respect of extending opportunities for very young Mi’kwaw to learn their own language, through a $383,000 initiative from the provincial and federal government, likens this ability to learn one’s own language and culture of origin, to watering the roots. ‘If we lose our language, we can’t go somewhere else in the world and learn it’ (1)
The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, in a speech in London, UK, on November 15th 2015, on Diversity is our Strength, stated that ‘Canada has learned to be strong not in spite of our differences but because of them, and going forward, that capacity will be at the heart of both our success, and of what we offer the world.’ Diversity and inclusion is our strength, culturally, politically and economically.
Pathways to such an aspirational goal are fraught with difficulties to overcome and our history is littered with such examples. Our Indigenous Peoples illustrating our past and still current inequities in the provision and defence of basic human rights. ‘We need to acknowledge that our history includes darker moments: the Chinese head tax, the internment of Ukrainian, Japanese, Italian Canadians during the First and Second World Wars, our turning away boats of Jewish or Punjabi refugees, our own history of slavery.’ (Prime Minister Justin Trudeau). That series of lapses in our intention must also be contrasted with those successes where our aspiration has- and still does, bear fruit.
Continuing to water our soil sufficiently to reach our roots of strength in diversity and inclusion, even at times of drought, must be a continuing commitment to one another. We owe that to each other. This reaching out to one another must however for it to be sustainable, be within an embrace of sound economic, political, cultural policies that encourage such practical realities of working and living together in ways that are respectful, harmonious and mutually beneficial. We need to see for ourselves, in ways we can individually understand, that our footprints in the sands of the pathways towards the goal of success is the result of our differences and how we chose to use them for the benefit of us all in Canada and beyond.
Re-Imagining. Thinking differently. Not because we are forced to but because we wish to, based upon a desire to view everybody else around us as like ourselves, worthy of acknowledgement in spite of our diversity, difference. Worthy of respect, being seen as of limitless value and potential, rightly commanding of our love, support, encouragement, understanding and being seen as a partner and contributor of equal value. This sums up Canada for me. A country and a set of diverse peoples and cultures, histories, religions, languages, ways of seeing and understanding, but what links us all together, is a belief in one another, that we are all on the same pathway with a shared vision.
We are in a privileged position to spearhead the further creation and dissemination of ways of seeing, working and living with individuals, who appear different to us. We endeavour to do this in a manner that acknowledges their uniqueness, upholds their humanity, celebrates their contribution to society, and to further strengthening of themselves and ourselves.