Posts tagged ‘Anishinabek’

Day 13: A First Nation Vision of Canada

Karen Mock (Liberal, Thornhill), Jack Heath, Deputy Mayor of Markham and Bob Goulais at the opening of the "Taking Back Thornhill" campaign office.

Those of you who know me well, know I have a great affinity for world religions.  I am a tremendous supporter of Israel and am fascinated with Judaism especially.

During my election campaign work, I’ve had the pleasure to work alongside some of Canada’s finest Jewish citizens – all dedicated to the cause of anti-racism, combating discrimination and antisemitism.  Those same people are also dedicated to ending racism and discrimination against First Nations people as well and will fight tooth-and-nail alongside our people.

This week, I had the pleasure of doing a welcome song for the opening of Karen Mock’s (Liberal, Thornhill) election campaign.  I’ve had the same pleasure for Anthony Rota (Liberal, Nipissing-Timiscaming) and The Right Hon. Paul Martin in 2004.

Karen respectfully and discretely presented me with a tobacco tie, as is our Anishinaabe custom.  I was happy to speak in support of Karen, the Liberal aboriginal platform and provide a song for the group of about 150 people.

The day also featured a number of multi-cultural blessings.  Shortly after the opening song, my new friend Rabbi Meir Gitlin, placed the mezzuzah on the doorpost of the campaign office.  This little scroll is a reminder of God’s presence as well as keeping God in our minds and in our hearts.

The day also welcomed a blessing from the Muslim faith and a blessing song from a supportive, local Hindu leader.

Rabbi Gitlin placing the mezzuzah.

Really, that’s my vision of Canada.  A tolerant, supportive multicultural community with equal opportunity and hope for all people.

Now why on earth would I have a “vision of Canada”?  After all… I’m NOT Canadian.

First and foremost, I am Anishinaabe.  Not necessarily “Canadian” – but a citizen of another nation within Canada.  When our ancestors signed the treaties, they did indeed state we would be a part of Canada and remain loyal to the Crown.  As recent as the Constitutional talks of the 1980s, our Anishinabek leaders affirmed that “we wish to remain within Canada, but within a revised constitutional framework.”

I choose to respect my ancestors and be loyal to the Crown.  As such, I choose to be a part of a multicultural Canada and I choose to fight for my vision of Canada.  That’s why I’m involved in the election campaign and why I volunteer each and every time.

Still many First Nations take the position that they are not a part of Canada.  Some feel we should vote or participate in another nation’s election.

We must remember that many of our ancestors and relatives fought long and hard for our right to become citizens of Canada and for our right to vote.  We shouldn’t besmirch their good work by staying home and not getting involved.

I’ll give you one more reason to vote on May 2.  We all know the consequences of a Harper majority on First Nations rights.

A Grinch-like View of the Holidays

Ahh, winter solstice.  The shortest day of the year.  Shouldn’t we turn our clock’s ahead or remove an hour or something?  Sometimes I wish it was the shortest week of the year, too.

Winter solstice is one of the two most prominent celestial days which is celebrated by many cultures around the world.  The other is summer solstice.

The early Julian calendar recognized December 25 as winter solstice, hence the reason to celebrate Christmas on this day.  Hark now hear:  Jesus was not born on Christmas day.  We celebrate Christmas because it’s the pagan day of new light.

Christian or not, it’s great to have the time off work.  However, this is the first time I’ve had to work through the holidays.  But at least I got the statutory holidays.

Did you know that Christmas is most commonly associated with seasonal depression?  More mental illness occurs during the holidays than any other time of the year.

And it’s no small wonder.  The TV specials and the music is so repetitive and annoying.  Heck!  I was sick and tired of Rudoph and The Grinch when I was a boy.  As for Christmas carols, even Rob Halford of Judas Priest has put out a Christmas album.  Still, I’m strangely fascinated by Andrea Bocelli’s renditions of Here Comes Santa Claus and Jingle Bells, which is sung with The Muppets.  I think it’s his accent.  Give me Death Metal Christmas, or Give me Death.

Most of the world doesn’t even celebrate the birth of Jesus.  I kinda feel sorry for my fellow Jewish people, as well as the Muslims, Buddhists, Sihks and Hindus having to put up with all the Christian hoopla at this time of the year.

Last week, I was riding the YRT bus and sat behind an older women who was reading a tattered Qu’ran prayerbook.  I was quite surprised when she put away her Qu’ran, proceeded to take out her Blackberry and began checking e-mail.  Curious, I looked to see what kind of e-mail she was responding to. 

I noticed that each e-mail she read was signed off “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.”

Not only was this Muslim woman being subject to a breach of her privacy (by me, reading over her shoulder), clearly she had a case of harassment, if not discrimination, repeatedly having to endure references to “Christmas”.

It is also the season of the biggest lie.

At this time of the year, we convince the people we Love the most, our children, of the existence of a mythical figure.  An overly friendly old man that watches them all day long (even when they are sleeping).  In some places, this man with the fake laugh, offers our children gifts and candy.  Despite their objections, even their cries for help, we place our children ON HIS LAP!  Then we allow other strangers to photograph our children in this compromising position.

How many times have we warned our children from consorting with strangers?  Talk about sending mixed messages.

Would you put your child on the lap of a priest if you seen him in the mall?

That’s a great segue back into the true meaning of Christmas.  A celebration of Christianity, right?  NO!  The Mall.  It’s consumerism all the way, baby!

Christmas is a necessary economic driver for many different industries around the world.  Retail, service, food services and travel.  The money made on the holiday of holidays has nothing to do with some guy named Jesus.

But all that buying and gift-giving has to do with the Spirit of Christmas, goodwill toward men and all that, right?  Well, not really.  The biggest shopping day of the year in Canada is the day AFTER Christmas.

Despite these Grinch-like observances, there are a few things I enjoy about Christmas.  Everyone is generally cheerful.  It is a great time to celebrate life and family.  I do enjoy getting together with my family.  The food is always good and plentiful. 

But most of all, Christmas time is for the children.  My children: pagan, Midewiwin Anishinaabeg – with their wannabe Jewish, Midewiwin dad.  They Love Christmas…  the carols, the TV specials, Christmas cards, the tree, the presents and even the mythical characters:  Santa and baby Jesus.  I do it all for them.

I’m not much for presents and consumerism myself.  But give me some chocolate Santas, Nutchos, pickled beets and multiple opportunities for free turkey, and I’ll quietly go with the flow.