Election Eve 2018

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As I write this it is just about 24 hours before the polls close on the 2018 White Rock municipal election and really no one knows who will be on the 2018 to 2022 council and those that don’t make it.

I would like to express many thanks.

First, of all to all the candidates who ran. For the most part, it was a fairly good campaign filled with respect. There was the odd clash, but really they are not worth dwelling on. But these are to be expected as six people compete for one mayor’s position and twenty-two people running for six council spots.

Second, I have to thank the residents of White Rock putting up with candidate after candidate vying for their attention through door knocking, being handed brochures on street corners, and seeing a myriad of signs dotting street ends and people’s front lawns.

Each candidate has a small team of volunteers and supporters who gave unwavering support. And to each of these incredible people, I say thanks. Not just my own, but every candidate’s team members. They get no glory of getting on the council, but they believe their person to get there.

There is family as well. I know my son and wife waited up late some nights as I was absent at a community event. Putting up with boxes of brochures all over our beach flat. And me being absent at a few important family events. I am sure this was shared by every candidate’s family.

While Elections BC has modernized the campaign rules to allow candidates to do a last minute brochure thrust as you walk to one of White Rock’s three polling stations tomorrow, I am a little old school.

For the past four to six weeks you’ve approached by different candidates. But to me, voting day is your day. It’s not my day to do one last appeal to get your vote.

Rather I view it as the day for you to cast your ballot for the future you want to have for White Rock.

And after the election, we are all still neighbours and friends.

Whoever the voters of White Rock elect to run our city for the next four years, I put my trust in the voters.

Thank you to each and every one of you for allowing a whole bunch of strangers and friends asking you to vote for us. It has been an honour to be a part of the campaign and to listen to you.

Trying to understand the First Nations experience

Tears came to my eyes as the stories were told. To listen of the pain and suffering of survivors of the 60s Sweep reminded me that Canadians have a long way to understanding the atrocities our governments have done to the indigenous people from sea to sea to sea.

To hear the story of one woman who was removed from her parents at 10 days old and taken from her culture to another one. Her parents did not consent to this, the powers that be just decided as a First Nations child she would better off in a white family. She spent the next year-and-a-half being transferred from one foster family to another.

This survivor is now in her early 50s and reconnected with her birth father only when she was 35. But the connection still isn’t one of dad and daughter. It is more adults who never knew each other before.

The exercise takes people through a two-hour journey of reading snippets of the succession Canadian governments’ treatment of First Nations. It’s called the Kairos Blanket Exercise

People stand on blankets representing the lands of the First Nations. As the history is told the blankets grow smaller. As the banning of speaking of native languages happens the blankets grow smaller. As dedicated reserves are removed by the Federal Government some blankets disappear.

For each one of participating in that room, the emotions came out. Each one of us had a different reflection on the Canadian experience for the First Nations across the land.

For me, it was the faces of so many First Nations people that have passed through my life.

I grew up a 15-minute walk from the Musqueam Reserve in Vancouver. In a way, the Musqueam Band was both a part and not a part of our neighbourhood. As a young kid, I would sometimes wander through the reserve. Seeing the cemetery, the homes, and the kids playing. I knew this was their land. But I didn’t know why. And it always seemed to an “us versus them” feeling. But I didn’t know why.

A few years passed and I was in Grade 9. Suddenly my high school had an influx of Musqueam kids. I didn’t know why they came a year late, but they did.

Many of my classmates treated very poorly often calling the boys gigolos and taunt them with racial slurs. One wound being my lab partner in Grade 9 science. Wayne and I would light the gas jets on fire and did other pranks rebellious teenagers might do.

Over in typing class, the teacher was an older man who always wore a cardigan and kind of reminded me of a military Mr Rogers. During touch typing if he caught you looking he’d rap a yardstick across your hands. One day he caught Leonard looking. Just after the yardstick hit Leonard’s hands he grabbed it and broke it. I didn’t understand why the anger.

The Musqueam boys all left high school when they could at age 16. They never graduated with the rest of us. And time passed.

Over the years I met many First Nations people but rarely got to know them. It was like two distinct worlds in one land.

A little over 25 years had passed and I hadn’t seen Wayne, Leonard, Ron or the others.

I keep going back to the nieghbourhood to visit my mom and my brothers. One day I went to the local Save-on Foods when I bumped into Ron. He remembered me and remembered him. We were doing that thing when you meet an old classmate of talking.

Suddenly Ron’s face winced in a bit of sorrow. He started telling me before he went to Point Grey all of them had been in residential schools. He didn’t say much but the tears in the corners of his eyes told me more than his voice might ever say.

Now I was able to understand what was going. I can’t live it, but I can listen to it.

Yesterday, the Kairos Blanket Exercise brought back all those faces and many more. It brought back to stories of lives and communities broken. It took me ever so briefly on a journey of hearing Canada’s story through their voices.

As a nation we have a long way to go on reconciliation with those nations and peoples who had their lands well before the first European arrived. It will be a journey for all of us and at times it will not be easy. It’s time that we work with the First Nations and listen to their hurt, the people they lost in an attempt to make them Canadian and “cultured”. Their languages, cultures are lost never to be replaced.

It is necessary to forge a new Canada where the people who were here before the explorers and settlers arrived are actually equal to all of us.