Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Happy Canada Day

So I have this friend, his name is Sonny Assu and he's one of those art stars you sometimes hear about. I went to Emily Carr with Sonny, we graduated in the same year and over the years, though our paths have gone in different directions, I've followed Sonny's career closely. I'm proud to know him. In some ways knowing Sonny has been an education in questioning questionable behavior and thinking about things on a social level as well as the personal.

Over the years I've accepted equality as the norm and I'm shocked when I'm reminded that my views aren't shared by others. In each cultural community there are people to look up to, people who living their lives on a day to day basis, people who are navigating through challenging circumstances and people who are stirring shit up either in a good way or in the bad. These are character traits that are found everywhere, regardless of skin colour, religious views or cultural background. I've come to question these identifiers when they pop up in the media and in personal interactions because I want to raise my daughter to question these things as well. I want her to love our country, I want her to live our reputation of cultural tolerance and not just parrot back the platitudes and buzz words that sound good but don't mean anything.

Yesterday Sonny's status on his facebook page was a passionate reminder of how great our country is, and how much greater we could be. As Sonny so eloquently stated, education and understanding are the building blocks towards that goal. Once again I'm grateful for the reminder. I asked Sonny if I could quote his status here and he was generous enough to give me his permission:

Canada Day is about remembering we are a nation built
on the soil of tolerance and welcoming of diversity.
Yet we ignore the fact that Canada Day is also the
remembrance of the decimation of Aboriginal culture,
my culture. We have lived through 142(+) years of
intolerance, oppression, stereotypes and hate to
rise above all expectations. We have come out stronger
and more able to adapt, yet able to retain our ways
that were once outlawed. However, some of my people
live in 3rd world conditions and we are part of the 4th
world. I have a faith in my country: That Canada will one
day live up to its reputation and rectify the wrongs of the
past, that still continue till this day. Education and
understanding is the key to my message in my life
and in my art. With that, I bid you a happy and safe
Canada day.

-Sonny Assu

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