As some municipalities in B.C. cancel formal Canada Day events, Skeena BC Liberal MLA Ellis Ross is speaking out in disagreement.
He says Canada Day should not be cancelled because the holiday gives people an opportunity to unite.
“The term reconciliation means to bring two parties back together and if you cancel these public events, there’s no opportunity to get the citizens back together. It’s a symbolic way for us to say, ‘Yes, there are issues that we had in the past, but together, we can go forward in the future.’”
Ross, former Haisla Nation chief councillor and a BC Liberal leadership candidate, says that some people use reconciliation to divide people in terms of the historic abuses of Indigenous people.
As the number of residential school grave sites being discovered increases across Canada, he says that there’s going to be a whole range of emotions that come out – “but there’s more to come.”
Ross is calling on leaders to be “responsible with their language” because it could lead to anger on both sides.
“I don’t want any acts of violence to be carried out on either side, to make up for what happened to Aboriginals, in the residential school system or the reserve system,” he said. “We don’t need anger, that leads to violence … I don’t think the real Aboriginal leaders in our communities want that either.”
Ross’ parents attended residential school in Port Alberni, and he said as a young man there was a time when he was “consumed by anger” at the historic mistreatment of his people. Despite that, Ross says he can’t “live in the past” which is a message he shares with Indigenous youth.
“You’ve got to go out there and build your future because your ancestors suffered too long for you to be you. So you’ve got to go and do something with your life,” he said.
According to Ross, who was a key player in the lead up to what is now the LNG Canada project in Kitimat, the way forward is by creating a stronger economy and jobs in the province. He said this could be a turning point in history“if we do the right thing.”
He offered the gathering that took place in his constituency on National Indigenous Peoples Day earlier this month as an example of citizens showing politicians the way to reconciliation.
Hundreds of people from several First Nations assembled in Terrace as a convoy of mostly non-Indigenous truckers arrived from Kitimat to honour the 215 children found in unmarked graves at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops.
“That was the first time that I’ve ever seen in public this raw emotion coming up from non-aboriginals that say, ‘we understand your pain and we want to help you,’ and that’s the whole meaning of reconciliation.”