On June 21st, I headed up to Montreal for an introduction into my new Canadian heritage. Known for their reconciliation and apology stance, the Canadian government set up the National Indigenous Peoples Day as a holiday, seeking to advance reconciliation and renew relationship with Indigenous Peoples through recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership. As I walked to the central gathering place, I was intrigued by the crossroads of the European explorer towering over us, juxtaposed with the descendants of the first peoples of Canada. There are actually three main peoples, the First Nations, the Inuit and the Metis.
I had a wonderful chat with a Metis lady, who told me all about a man named Louis Riel, and how her people were not fully recognized by either the First Nations or European communities. I loved their symbol - the symbol for eternity, and was fascinated by her story and passion for full recognition of native rights.
There was also live music and opportunity to carve sculptures in soap stone. Stone carvings are close to home for me, having grown up in Zimbabwe. We have some of the most amazing sculptors, and there is even a sculpture park in Ontario, which is home to a selection of eclectic Zimbabwean pieces! I decided to give sculpting a go, and joined the local Montreal community in the hands-on carving experience. It's fun, but harder than it looks!
I was deeply saddened to see that many of the First Nations at this gathering were homeless. My host had actually pioneered a ministry for the homeless here in Montreal when he was in college and I wondered about the many issues facing the First Nations people. An estimated 40% of the homeless population in Montreal are of Inuit origins. With high rates of suicide and alcoholism, there is much need for healing still. Only God...