On September 30th, Canada instituted a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This is a day for Canadians to acknowledge the truth of residential schools and the long-term impact on Indigenous children, families, and communities.
On September 8th, Queen Elizabeth II died, and a public holiday was also given on September 19 to acknowledge her death.
So in summary, we acknowledge colonialism on one day and then 10 days later, the impact that the monarchy, the government, and White people have played in the genocide of Indigenous people in Canada’s history.
Needless to say, the timing is interesting. The timing has given space for a variety of emotions to arise. I’ve had a variety of conversations about this topic, so I thought I’d attempt to write about it.
Often in therapy, there is a goal of being able to hold space for mixed emotions. Every person will hold a variety of emotions towards their parents and how they parented them. Often times, people get stuck in believing that we can only hold positive or negative emotions towards a parent, when in reality, we’re more complex than that.
On one end of the spectrum, children of abusive parents may have mixed emotions of anger and love towards an abusive parent. Often a person will feel shame that they have any love towards that parent.
On the other end of the spectrum, children who say the phrase, “I had a great childhood”, often minimize any conflictual emotions they experience towards a parent or are completely unaware of any. They may learn to not feel any negative emotions at all or feel shame about their negative emotions.
When we don’t acknowledge or we try to push away our negative emotions, it comes out sideways in our lives with anxiety, depression, and irritability, addiction and many other ways. It also impedes our ability to truly hold space for others who are feeling these emotions too.
How This Connects To The Queen
It is important to acknowledge the feelings of love and grief that you may have about the Queen’s passing. Many people have stories of meeting her, having a connection to their heritage, or to an aspect of her personal life. If you’ve watched the Crown, you may have some empathy and awe towards her as she navigates the responsibility of being Queen at such a young age. Your feelings of love and connection are valid and deserve your attention.
You also may have feelings of apathy or anger towards the Queen and the damage the monarchy has inflicted on so many people. I’ve watched season one of The Crown and it was painful to watch how she betrayed her sister, her husband, and ultimately herself. These feelings are also valid and deserve your attention.
The addition of having to swing from two opposing holidays of grieving the Queen to acknowledging the monarchy’s impact on the Indigenous community within a short time span can be a lot to absorb.
If you felt a lot of love for the Queen, you may not be able to switch to reflecting about the harm the monarchy has caused in the span of 10 days. So don’t. We are not emotional light bulbs that can switch to the relevant emotion of the day.
BUT, put some time in your calendar at some point to take the time to reflect on reconciliation with Indigenous people in Canada or whichever country you live in.
If you’re a White Canadian, when it comes to supporting Indigenous communities, we often fall into the trap of looking at our leaders in government and the monarchy and say a version of, “They were such great parents! They did their best in the time they lived with what they had”.
Or we can get defensive and say, “I had no idea these things were happening, so it’s not my fault”.
As a White Canadian, I have the privilege of being apathetic towards the government and the monarchy if I’d like to because racism isn’t a daily impact on my personal life.
My invitation to my White audience, is to consider opening the door to see if you can hold space to connect to what was happening while we live(d) our protected lives. Can we acknowledge the impact of what it must’ve been like for Indigenous people to be here in Canada for the past few centuries? Can we acknowledge the impact of residential schools that were here until 1996? Can we acknowledge the ongoing racism that still occurs in our communities?
Hamilton (The City)
If you live in Ontario, we have Municipal elections happening in October. This is a great place to explore looking at leaders that embody anti-racist platforms. In my city of Hamilton we have the Hamilton Anti-Racist Resource Centre – where you can learn about ways to support our community. The school boards have also been learning and trying to implement more anti-racist policies.
Where could you put more energy into being an anti-racist in your community? You don’t have to do it all, it’s about starting to make intentional change.
In the next few months I’ll be sharing a few anti-racist books that crossed my path that you may want to explore. If you have any books or resources that you love, please share!
As always – thanks for reading and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.