Thursday, July 1, 2021

The True North Strong and Free

Submitted by Mona D'Amours Regardless of whether we agree or disagree with the restrictions for the past sixteen months during the pandemic, the truth is that we have all been impacted. We lost our Canadian Rights and Freedoms, such as freedom of assembly, freedom of movement, freedom of worship, and countless other freedoms which we took for granted. The first image that reflects this reality is LOCKDOWN. It was a provocative emotionally charged image I entered for the National Salon competition 2021. This was my first time submitting since my accreditation in February 2020. I did not know how the judges would respond to it. They could have easily dismissed it without comment, and a result of “not accepted”. However, the image was judged three times for 12 minutes 33 seconds, and two of the five judges gave it a score of “excellence”. I also wrote the poem though it was not part of the image for adjudication. What impressed me with the judges is that they were thoughtful, honest, and open-minded to my message. I am sharing the judges critiques with you to understand how it reflected the loss we have all experienced. As a former psychology professor, the comments of the judges reminded me of the defence mechanisms we use during times of stress and anxiety such as denial, intellectualization, and rationalization.

I am sharing the image MASK MANDATE which is an image of the waning crescent of the moon, March 9, 2021. One of the defence mechanisms that worked for me during the pandemic was sublimation through photography and writing. It also helped me navigate through the five stages of grief of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross that I went through multiple times during the pandemic from denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I often repeated that if you weren’t bi-polar before the pandemic, you definitely were during the pandemic.

The final image I am sharing with you is the birth of my 4th grandchild April 10, 2020. I saw my grandson for the first time on my iPhone. It was a challenge to take the picture with my Sony camera in my right hand while holding my iPhone in my left hand. It was sad that I could not hold him in my arms for weeks.

His name, Saviano, also reflects the significance of his birth. “Sa Vie” means “His Life” en français to honour my French heritage. The “e” was dropped, but it was my daughter, Menina (“little girl” in Portuguese) who wanted to emphasize that this is his life. “Ano” Year em português is to honour my husband’s heritage. Saviano was born on his grandfather’s birthday, Desiderio Fortunato (desired fortune). I created a slide show which includes all three images called Dare to Live.

I created numerous slide shows during the pandemic, but the first one was on International Dance Day, April 29, 2020. As founder of 5678 Showtime, more than 10,000 children were registered to dance across Canada, but after March 15, 2020, they couldn't. The slide show has 106,000 views which speaks to the impact of the pandemic for children.

Today is July 1, Canada Day. We should be celebrating our rights and freedoms, and we are. Gradually. In British Columbia where I live, effective today, the provincial state of emergency will be lifted with the Stage 3 reopening plan. We are now able to gather, worship, travel, attend festivals, and breathe freely without a mask if we choose. This is the beginning of celebrating our Canadian Rights and Freedoms as we did before the pandemic.

However, this was not the case for everyone in Canada. Since the passing of the Indian Act of 1876, Indigenous people in Canada lost all their freedoms. We lost our freedoms during the pandemic for sixteen months, and possibly for a few more months. Imagine losing all your freedoms for 75 years until 1951 when the Indian Act was first amended.

Indigenous families lost their freedom of movement, and were forced to live on reserves. They could only leave the reserve if they received permission from the Indian agent. They were forbidden to speak their native language, and practice their traditional religion. Their gatherings in song and dance at the potlatch and cultural ceremonies were illegal from 1885 to 1951. Those children could not dance in their traditional costumes like other children in Canada.

The most tragic is an estimated 150,000 children were taken from their parents and sent to residential schools. Their names were changed to European names, and they were beaten if they spoke their native language. They were forced to shower together in large groups, and were not allowed to cry without being punished. I knew some of these survivors since I worked with band councils from 1982 – 1986 in Kelowna, Kamloops, Lillooet, Lytton, Merritt, Bella Coola, and more as a Program Officer for CEIC, Canada Employment and Immigration Commission.

The discovery of 215 children in a grave site at the Kamloops Residential School in British Columbia, and 871 children at the Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan are an example of the horrific colonial actions of our history. I would like to honour the sacred burial site of the 215 children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School that I visited with One Minute of Silence. The language of the Indigenous people as seen in the messages laid to rest to honour of the children in Kamloops are: love, courage, kind, peace, hope, respect, papa. Every child matters. We are holding a spot in our hearts. TK’EMLÚPS welcomes you. Kamloops is the English translation of the Shuswap word Tk’emlúps, meaning “where the rivers meet.” It is often said that you can understand people if you understand their language.

To celebrate Canada Day, take the time to understand the significance of Orange Shirt Day September 30, and listen to the message of Chief Dr. Robert Joseph that WE ARE ONE.

Canada has its scars. We’ve made mistakes, but Canada is ranked #1 as the best country in the world in 2021. Yes, it's true. The ranking measures the global performance of each country based on a variety of metrics – Adventure, Agility, Cultural Influence, Entrepreneurship, Heritage, Movers, Open for Business, Power, Social Purpose and Quality of Life.

Canada got full marks for Quality of Life – which reflects political and economic stability, public safety and a good job market – and Social Purpose, which looks at social justice, human and animal rights, racial equity, gender equality and religious freedom.

We have good reason to celebrate, yet reflect, on Canada Day 2021, the True North Strong and Free.

Submission by Mona D’Amours, New National Blog Chair who looks forward to your submissions for our News stories. She was accredited in the performing artists category in February 2020. She is also a third generation photographer. Her grandfather was a photojournalist, and her uncle was a portrait photographer. Discover more about WHO is this new PPOC member on her website




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