Starbucks, Chinatown, And Aboriginals: A Story Not as Dark as My Coffee!
by sophiaroseglt on May 15, 2014 - 11:18am
On a sunny afternoon sitting in a Starbucks drinking the darkest coffee I asked myself why did I chose to get mobilized for the Aboriginals? The answer is as simple as the question: because if I don’t care then we have to assume nobody will!
When I was in high school I’ve witnessed an Aboriginal Chief tell to a full audience at Mc Gill university that the one thing he hated the most (even worse than the Canadian government) was when a white person pronounced the words Aboriginals, Amerindian, First Nations, Metis, and Inuit. When asked what we should call them he answered “Nothing. Nothing at all! Don’t call me. Don’t even try to interfere because when you people do something, you destroy everything.” On the way back home I discuss it with my sister because my young self automatically thought “Wow! How rude is this man! We aren’t like we were 100 years ago! Get over it!” My sister who had brought me to that conference (and who was ashamed of my reaction) explained that it wasn’t 100 years ago, neither 50 nor 30 but rather 18 years ago. I was alive (not very old… or conscious for that matter) but I was there. I had took my first breath, first laugh, I most probably spoke and I walked the earth while the aboriginals were still being forced into residential schools where they were mentally, physically, and sexually abused. I’m not saying this so you can have the same reaction as I did the first time. It goes to show the pain, the aboriginal communities have gone through. Please understand the depth of the mental agony this man has faced to have come to where he was. And this is why we must help because it is our duties to help especially when it is our westernized ways that continues this oppression.
Throughout the semester I have concentrated my efforts on aboriginal rights and when the issue appeared in the news. As one might imagine finding such news story came very rarely but it did! The most influential piece was in objection of the Education Act the government of Canada was trying to impose. Other post were about organizations that I had the honor to protest along their sides such as Idle No More in a fight against the Enbridge 9. This protest was not publicised (obviously) but you will find attached pictures that i took of the 11th of April 2014 protest. The community sense was present that day as we were combining our efforts to fight against the injustices imposed by the government of Canada.
For this class I have decided that I would much more rather go volunteer in an organization but which one? My partner and I found a shelter for homeless Aboriginals in Montreal that would gladly accept two college students as volunteers for a few visits. The non-profit organisation named the Project Autochthone du Quebec (PAQ) in Chinatown allowed me to submerge myself in my field of study but also to see the reality of the homeless in Montreal. When I thought of homelessness I thought of despair, hopeless, pitiful people that had nothing and that had fallen in the cracks of our society. Therefore, I was expecting a dark and gloomy atmosphere but when we arrived to the PAQ I found a community that was funny, acceptant, well-educated and most of all cheerful. They were happy with having people around them, of being accepted and being part of something. But by our second visit we were told they were asked when would be the next time we would come again. Let’s say the atmosphere was more of a chai latte then a black coffee as I was expecting!
Furthermore, after talking with the coordinator and director of the PAQ (Chinatown) I now have a better understanding of the deplorable realities the aboriginals went through, are going through, and the ones they will have to face in a near future. Mostly the volunteer work helped me see the intergenerational trauma that lives on today and the effects it has on people just like it had on the Chief that gave the conference at Mc Gill underwent. It is something to suffer but once your whole community has and will suffer then you cannot do otherwise but be infuriated at the society that has oppressed you for many years. Fortunately, I believe there is hope. It is with initiatives as volunteering but mostly by educating ourselves that a solution will be found. Maybe one day we will see the situation change but it is with our help and dedication. I dream of the day every Canadian would help put a bit of milk in their coffee to relieve the bitterness.