This past Thursday marked the first National Truth and Reconciliation Day in Canada. Part of the Truth and Reconciliation Comission recommendations was to establish this day for reflection on Canada’s past. So how did the first day go across the nation? Well for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, it was a fantastic day off in Tofino with the family.
This was a bad call on his part. And I’m being diplomatic in my words here. On this day of all others, he needed to be the Prime Minister of Canada and show leadership for the whole country. Thousands of communities coast to coast to coast gathered to commemorate the day, and continue to walk down the road towards reconciliation. First Nations communities were preparing for this day for sometime. They were there with open hands to begin the conversation that Canada should’ve been having centuries ago.
Who was missing? Our Prime Minister. This wasn’t a slight on his part or a bad decision. It was a failure of leadership. Not just an insult to the First Nations people of this land, but to the rest of us. The descendants of the settlers of Canada. Reconciliation is not a done deal. It is ongoing. It will continue to be ongoing for generations to come most likely.
The truth about what Canada has done to Indigenous people is finally being embraced by the rest of the country. While First Nations have known this for generations, the rest of us are waking up to this. And to put it mildly it is jarring. For most of our narrative of Canada, we were the good guys. We were on the side of good and righteousness. Only learn that it was a lie. Our governments enacted horrific policies on First Nations communities with catastrophic consequences, all in our names.
For many of us, those who enacted and engaged in these policies have long since passed away. We cannot bring them to justice. However, we are left to deal with their legacy. What do we do with this information now? That is where the part of reconciliation comes into play. For many of us, repairing the relationship between settler Canada and the First Nations of this land is a monumental task. Where do we begin the work? The systems and institutions many of us grew up to embrace as good are now brought into question. It is unclear if the wound in this country is even able to be healed.
This is where Justin Trudeau failed us all on Sept 30th. We needed him to be Prime Minister for all of us and show us the way of reconciliation. To take the first few steps on that path and prove to us that this mission to heal this country is possible. There are times to not stand in the spotlight. This was not it. We needed him to stand for all of us wanting to heal this relationship with our First Nations partners. He did not need to speak (in fact it probably would’ve been best that he did not). He just needed to listen.
Being Prime Minister means personal sacrifice. It is a necessary part of the job description. Family time after a long election campaign (which he called) has to be put aside for the national good. We needed our leadership to demonstrate the way forward on the path of reconciliation. We needed him to show us all that this was achievable. Sept 30th can’t be viewed as a Victoria Day holiday. It must be held in comparison with Remembrance Day. A day for sober reflection and commemoration. Treating it as a day to retreat to the cottage for one last long weekend does all of us a disservice. Trudeau needed to step up and show us how it’s to be done. He failed.