A large maple tree provides shade at a cemetery in Port Alberni. The maple leaf is a symbol of Canada, but some portions of Canadian history have been overlooked. (Black Press file photo)

A large maple tree provides shade at a cemetery in Port Alberni. The maple leaf is a symbol of Canada, but some portions of Canadian history have been overlooked. (Black Press file photo)

COLUMN: Embracing conflict can lead to positive change

Conflict is important because conflict creates conversation

It needs to be said: July 1 can no longer be the day that commemorates the anniversary of the Constitution Act, an act that united three territories into the single nation of Canada.

Why? Because the truth – truths our Indigenous peoples have always known, endured, resisted, lived with – have reached the tipping point.

Canada has hidden so long in the shadow of the atrocities of others, but now, our true history is being unearthed.

I was in France and a French friend asked me about residential schools. I had no answers. I had to ask them for details.

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I’m ashamed to say it, but here I am saying it as a young person of English-French settler heritage: I didn’t know.

I truly didn’t know the true root of suffering plaguing our Indigenous communities since first contact with non-native settlers, my ancestors.

They didn’t teach it, it wasn’t discussed. It was all right before me, but I was ignorant, blinded by fireworks and fanfare.

I know I’m not the only one.

After living abroad for nearly as long as I had lived in Canada, I returned home last year.

What stood out to me the most during the process of reintegrating myself into Canadian society is this: Canadians avoid conflict.

And why wouldn’t we? We associate conflict as the precursor to violence, as the two are often presented to us hand-in-hand through mainstream media.

It’s the Hollywood narrative: Us vs. Them.

But I’m here to tell you that conflict can and does exist without violence. Conflict can exist in kindness.

Conflict is important because conflict creates conversation, it creates a moment where our facade is stripped back and we get to share the deepest parts of our beliefs, and more importantly, have them questioned, have them changed.

Conflict allows us to be vulnerable.

This is not me saying go out and start a yelling match with your neighbour. This is me saying be open to the idea that you may be challenged this Canada Day.

And I, as a fellow settler, am telling you that that’s OK. Let down your defenses and be open to the viewpoints and beliefs of others.

Invite that conflict in, sit down with it, and most importantly, listen.

During these conversations, we will make mistakes. We will say the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Unlearning isn’t easy. But contrary to popular belief, saying the wrong thing is better than saying nothing at all.

Tristan Joseph Boisvert is a Similkameen Country Chamber of Commerce director.

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