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Sunday Thomas -I am Canadian

Do you know what the irony is about memories? We don’t’ actually get to choose. There are some that are definite keepers, and there are some that are pure dumpers. As such, there are some experiences that are forever etched in your mind whether you like it or not.

On a Saturday afternoon in 1992 while still in high school, a childhood friend and I walked along a bustling sidewalk of Yonge Street in Downtown Toronto. As we crossed a busy intersection, we heard a loud click from the passenger side of a vehicle waiting for us to cross. This person locked their door as my friend and I passed along the busy street.

I was devastated. My immediate thoughts were that, “I had never committed a crime, and had never hurt anyone.” Yet, this person was so afraid of my presence, that they felt the need to lock their door as we passed. What was this person afraid of and what lead to this judgement call? My age? My race? My gender? A million questions went through my head.

This particular “point in time” experience played a role in my self identity. I was left on my own to figure out my feelings of anger, confusion and dissolution about what took place that day. The sad reality is that over the course of my lifetime, I have experienced numerous situations like this.

Today, I have 5 children; 4 boys and a girl. Two of my boys are young adults, and from experiences my children share with me, I am convinced that similar scenarios have played out in their lives as well.

Frankly, I worry about our youth and the world that we are sending them out into.

I wonder if society realizes how much these experiences rob people of colour, huge amounts of our human power, access to our feelings, confidence in our thinking and ability to act, and enjoyment of living.

Think of scenarios that play out in our schools, at the mall, work places, Government institutions, legal institutions, and on the street.

Over the years, I have continued to face the characteristic challenges that most people of colour face – many of which are forefront in the media today.

Yet, despite these challenges, I have managed to push through and persevere. Despite all the pain, I channeled my energies into succeeding despite what society had to say.

In 2004, my wife and I moved our family North East to Miramichi New Brunswick in pursuit of a career in government. And, in 2008 we moved to the Far North for the same reason. These moves have had their challenges, but I am lucky that I did not have to experience them alone. I have been blessed with a true life partner. I have held senior roles in Government and have been a director for more than 10 years.

Yet, I feel a sense of uneasiness about the future. The world is in so much turmoil these days. So much ignorance, and misunderstanding, and there is so much pain and suffering in the air. I am deeply concerned because too many people show timidity today; precisely when courage is demanded.

I recently performed an experiment on myself. I decided to read John Whyndam’s Chrysalids which is a book that was on my son’s high-school reading list; ironically I had to read the same book when I was in high school. I thought it would be interesting to see the difference in my understanding as an almost 50 year old, versus when I was 15.

For those who haven’t heard of Chrysalids, it is set in a fictional post apocalyptic world in which the dominant culture seeks to eradicate any deviation from the mental and physical norms of that society. This eradication included killing people, animals and destroying crops.

Let me tell you, the differences between what I remember reading as a teenager, versus today are stark. But, there is one line in the book that really stood out for me:

“Whether harsh intolerance and bitter rectitude are the armour worn over fear and disappointment, or whether they are the festival-dress of the sadist, they cover an enemy of the life force…. We have a new world to conquer: they have only a lost cause to lose.”

I guess in some way, I am glad that the issues are forefront and people are finally talking. I believe in the ideals of equality that are guaranteed in our Canadian charter of rights and freedoms.

I also believe that as citizens of this great country of ours; we’re all required to wade into those things that matter and in many ways affect us all.

We cannot in good conscience stand by and watch people suffer silently, as I did for years. This is simply not the Canadian way.

Our ideals are unparalleled the world over. We are a country of reconciliation, human values, freedom, and equality of life for all. What makes it all meaningful in the end is to devote ourselves to the common good. After all I am Canadian, and my experience is the Canadian experience; and the Canadian experience is after all your experience.

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