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Broken Hearted Loyalty

I love my country. And I’m ashamed of it.

The ongoing discoveries of unmarked graves of indigenous children removed from their homes and forced into residential schools for the purpose of ending their cultures is a stark and painful reminder of one of the most insidious truths about Canada. While visiting our capital with my family last week we were silenced by the hundreds of children’s shoes placed in front of our parliament. Many more shoes, toys, and works of art surround the nearby Centennial Flame. The power of the message, pointedly framed with the Peace Tower and House of Commons, is immense.

People far better informed, far more impacted, and far more eloquent than myself have commented on the meaning of these horrific discoveries and the lasting impact of the evil done under the authority of church and state. 

Among the issues raised in some circles is the tension between loyalty to Canada and addressing the injustices perpetrated by it.

The thing about loyalty (as I’ve written before) is that it comes at the cost of trust and time, and must be earned, not imposed.

Loyalty to any country, cause, creed, organization, or individual should involve a degree of critical assessment, an unflinching reality check to see the best and worst of what it offers. Blind or compelled loyalty is at best idealistic and always dangerous.

In a couple weeks I will proudly wear Canada shirts and cheer loudly for athletes wearing the maple leaf at the Olympics (knowing there are a great many problems with the Olympic movement, including fair questions about the wisdom of these games proceeding). I will do so in the belief that at our best Canada can be a blessing and an example to the world. But I will also hold in my heart the shadow of knowing how terribly far from our ideals we have been, continue to be, and may always be if we fail to reckon with reality.

In different, but similar ways I must do the same with every organization I’m involved with: I celebrate what is good, believe in the potential of our ideals, and commit to seeing our failures and wrongdoing as clearly as I can. Only then can I offer the kind of loyalty that makes things better.

I have compassion for those who believe Canada, or any organization, is too corrupt to save. I am increasingly aware that my many privileges make it much easier for me to wait for incremental change rather than insisting on a radical push for justice now. I’m wrestling with what that all means and how to act in this awareness.

But I do know that Maya Angelou’s wisdom applies as we try to reconcile the best and worst of any entity:

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

One way to know better and do better is to read the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

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