We have just recently been through a Federal election and sure enough when the competition heated up we were treated to the politics of division - who is a real Canadian anyway – and that got me thinking.....
Because of course it is actually a complicated subject. Are we thinking of old families versus the newly arrived on our shores, or those with the right coloured skins, religions, languages or accents. Who is a Canadian? And what degrees of Canadian are there? These are the considerations we are encouraged to dwell on and evaluate our neighbours by. But Canada is a nation of immigrants. That is the real defining human category.
So what about the various nations that arrived on our shores ten thousand years ago or more and have more recently been swamped by new arrivals? Have they been here on this continent long enough to be proof against repatriation?
Before First Nations peoples arrived and spread throughout North and South America, who were the original inhabitants? Here is where things get interesting because that seems a non question. Before humans, who were the people? Because it was full of beings: animals, plains, tundra, mountains and plants. From a human perspective it was a larder waiting to be raided. That was the attraction then and still is today. We call it resource extraction and think in terms of minerals, oil, trees, but once it was woolly mammoth and other mega fauna. An immensity of resources. All vanishing, all being used up at an ever increasing pace.
We do make distinctions between people and other animals, between rocks and living things, the economics of division. That enormous open pit mine though, the clear-cut mountainside; perhaps some of us blench a little, as we should when the last of yet another species is hunted down or blotted out. The history of this continent is a steady decline in diversity since humans arrived. Hunting, chopping, digging, trapping. Roads, farms, cities, airports, railways. We call it progress.
What is genuinely Canadian? The cry of Loon, the splash of Beaver's tail, the call of Raven, the ramparts of the Rocky Mountains..................................................
I just finished writing this piece about what is Canadian and realized of course that it would also work for American ( & etc.) as well. It was the idea that we are able to place firm division between different brands of human beings, but never make the leap sideways and think of the rest of creation as beings too with their rights and personalities that was my leap of concept.
We can destroy what we place outside of our own circle. Minorities are always in danger of being classified, whether it is peoples, religions etc. or members of the greater natural world. Do mountains, forests and lakes have rights? Does Raven? When we destroy 'the other' are we not diminishing ourselves in the process?