Upper Canada College initiated a “This I Believe” essay for stewards and other boys in the leaving class a number of years ago, and the students are then asked to share them in assembly.
The essays are narrowly focused on one principle or concept, and are expressed in the form of an affirming belief that’s often described through personal anecdotes or experiences. Dominick Peters delivered one of these speeches in assembly last week that touched on indigenous issues.
Here it is:
“Before I begin I’d like to acknowledge the people of the Mississauga of the New Credit, whose territory we are currently on.
“For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Dominick Peters. My mother is Japanese, my father is indigenous and I am proud to call myself a Canadian.
“In the past six years there have been 582 cases of missing and murdered indigenous women. I believe that the relationship of indigenous peoples and the rest of Canada needs to be better. One way we could do this is by having a day where we celebrate the unity of indigenous peoples and European settlers. Yes, we have Canada Day, but why would an individual that comes from indigenous descent want to celebrate the official day that their land got stolen from them?
“Don’t get me wrong, I love the festivities and the buzz around Canada Day. But every year I always have a gut feeling of ‘Should I be celebrating?’
“Now, this year you may have heard what happened in Kingston, Ontario on Canada Day, where several indigenous protesters burned a Canadian flag in downtown Kingston. Of course this was completely wrong and I instantly felt shame when I saw this popping up all over my social media feed.
“There have also been multiple cases of racial prejudice towards the indigenous community as well, whether it is in the media, in the justice system or perhaps even on the front of a professional sports team’s jersey (Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Chiefs, Washington Redskins, Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton Eskimos). I’m not saying all these team names offend me. Realistically only a couple of them I find super offensive (Indians and Redskins). But just because some of them may not seem offensive (Chiefs and Blackhawks), I still don’t like the fact that my people’s faces, bodies, attributes or weapons are used as a logo. It is a mockery.
“This is not the path we should be heading down in the case of unity as a nation. Indigenous peoples will always be scarred forever with the residential schools and there isn’t much that can be done.
“What can be done, though, is support. Yes, indigenous people will be stubborn and say that we don’t need help and support. But we truly do. Support isn’t sending loads of money and not knowing what it is being spent on. For all we know that money could be used to drink or smoke their sorrows away, which tends to be the harsh reality sometimes. Support is being there for your fellow Canadian. Support is to pick someone up when they are down. Support is to let someone know you are there for them and you have their back.
“It’s pretty sad how our society has come to this. After all, this is my people’s land, yet we are treated heavily as minorities. I understand there is now a greater population of other cultures and ethnicities compared to the indigenous peoples, but this does not mean you can forget about us and our history. Why is it that English and French are the national languages? Why can’t Mohawk, Ojibway, Cree or at least one of the 60 indigenous languages that are spoken in Canada be a national language as well?
“I believe that Canada is better than this. I’ve lived in this country my entire life. I know it is. I believe that once we come to the realization that we are one nation not two, we will strive for greatness as a country.”