We cannot celebrate world water day and talk about how important the water we have access to is, without acknowledging who the water belongs to. Despite being a sought after commodity today, sold in tiny plastic bottles and pouring over kids at your nearest water park, water is and will always be especially precious to a specific group of people. Indigenous communities, especially the Native presence in Canada, has an incredible ownership over water and rights to be consulted about what is done with that water. These rights have been being ignored for all “150 years” of our country’s “birth”. When people are fighting against pipelines and other water pollutants — they are fighting in solidarity against the theft of Indigenous land and resources; against people who think they can take what is not theirs. I know in my Niagara region specifically, there is an incredible outreach from the Indigenous community against organizations that put a high economic value on water. This being said, water is not only an Indigenous issue — when there is a water crisis, it is an everyone issue. If you aren’t mad, you aren’t in the know. For example, Canadian government has for a long time approved a pipeline from western USA to Montreal, all along the watershed. This pipeline transports tar and oil. The catch is that it has 14,000 chances of leakage. They have fixed (I think) 2,000 potential spots. That still leaves tons of possibilities of pollution, not to mention that a lot of these possible pollution leakage spots are going through reserves or residential areas. Not to mention again that 20% of the entire world’s fresh water supplies comes from the Ontario lakes. What does this mean? The government, for economic purposes, is ignoring that they are at high risk of polluting 20% of the world’s fresh water supplies. Indigenous rights, Indigenous resources, but everyone’s problem. Feel free to correct me if I am wrong, and I genuinely want people to talk about these issues and events. And if you don’t know why World Water Day is so important, you need to start waking up and joining the conversation. Please make yourself aware about how important water is, where it comes from, and who it belongs to. Water is not renewable.
“So please ask yourself: What would I do if I weren’t afraid? And then go out and do it”
– Sheryl Sandberg
I was scrolling through twitter once when I saw the quote above in my newsfeed. I sat there for a second listing all the things in my head, and then I grabbed my laptop and starting writing this.
If I were not afraid, I would be travelling the world solo right now. I would have at least five different stamps on my passport from countries that I have always wanted to visit, and I would have a phone full of pictures from all sorts of adventures.
If I were not afraid, I would buy a car – like I have wanted to do for the past year and a half – and take off on a road trip to California, another travel dream of mine.
If I were not afraid, I would leave the current program I am in and start journaling (specifically travel – has anyone noticed a theme?).
If I were not afraid, I would write lyrics and post covers of original songs. I would stop second-guessing every word I write and go for it.
But I am afraid. I am afraid of getting lost, losing myself, losing people, spending all my money and having nothing left, not receiving approval. I am unsure of myself and the decisions I make. I am always asking for advice, for people to choose an option for me because I cannot fully trust that the decision I make will truly be satisfying.
If I were not afraid, I would be living the life that I constantly see on social media; instead of retweeting or favouriting or liking. Maybe it’s my time to start doing it.
So, now it’s your turn. What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
I realize I am a bit late in writing this because Treaties Recognition Week was the first week of November, but the ignorance I found in my ANTH*3670 Indigenous People’s discussion thread has pushed me to share my response on a larger platform. I wanted to share to Storyteller because I feel that people who read these submissions want to learn through other individual’s experiences. Myself, being of Indigenous background, have had to deal with classmates who do not understand Canadian’s history with its Indigenous population. This can sometimes be very frustrating to me, but I also realize the oppressed history of the Residential School System legacy is to blame. For this exact reason, this is why I believe education is extremely important.
Teacher Discussion Question: Are We Really Treaty People?
We Are Not The Product Of Treaties.
I would argue that the average Canadian is not the product of treaties so much as we are the natural conquerors. Indigenous people are the ones who abide by the limits treaties place. The average Canadian does not concern themselves with any particular treaty and if all treaties where suddenly destroyed it would not effect the life of the average Canadian but it would cause a crisis in the indigenous community in Canada. Treaties have been more of a way for Europeans to legitimize their conquering to new lands and the negotiate a system in which the indigenous peoples are essentially bought out so that they do not have to be conquered by force. Is this system the equal, no, but should it be, no. Indigenous peoples and Europeans where not at an equal balance of power historically or presently and it is only right that the more powerful decide the system of institution that will govern the lands. The treatment of indigenous peoples is not meant to be equal it is meant to be fair and many of the treaties have proven to be fair and those that where done through unfair means are resolved through the court system of the Canadian government, the dominant power, which is willing to accept its mistakes of unfair treatment if they have been fairly proven.
Without treaties the European settlement that it is today would have never happened, therefore I disagree that the average Canadian is not a product of treaties, but all Canadians ARE products of treaties. Without many of the numbered treaties, Europeans would not be allowed to develop through “Indian Territory”. For example, Treaty 3 allowed “the federal government access to Saulteaux lands in present-day northwestern Ontario and eastern Manitoba in exchange for various goods and Indigenous rights to hunting, fishing and natural resources on reserve lands” (Filice, 2015). Without this treaty, Europeans would not have access to these lands and the resources of this land, which helped with settlement. Without treaties Canadian families would not be comfortably settled where they currently are.
I will agree that language barriers and cultural barriers led to a misunderstanding of certain terms of treaties. The First Nations saw the treaties saw the payments as a gift for the settlers to use the land (aka rent) where as the British Government took it as a purchase. Although, this misunderstanding is what has led to the current Land Claim issues that the government is working on resolving. There is even a Treaties Recognition Week, during the first week of November, which comes out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the country’s lack of understanding of its Indigenous population. The government of Ontario has implemented this week to “recognize the importance of treaties and to bring awareness to the treaty relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in the province” (Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, 2016). David Zimmer, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs has stated “Treaties are the reason Canada and Ontario exist as we know them today. All Ontarians, especially students, need to gain a better understanding of treaties. Treaties Recognition Week will provide ongoing opportunities to learn about the treaties that have shaped the province” (Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, 2016). Just on this statement alone I can argue that all Canadians, including the average Canadian, is the product of treaties made between the British Crown and the Indigenous people. The land you are living on is because a treaty was made, if you take away the treaties (if they were suddenly destroyed) the Indigenous people would claim the land that was rightfully theirs before the treaties and European settlers would have to find somewhere else to live.
Filice, Michelle. “Treaty 3.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2016. Accessed February 8, 2017. http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/en/article/treaty-3/.
Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. “Ontario Proclaims First Week of November Treaties Recognition Week”. Ontario Newsroom, 2016. Accessed February 8, 2017 https://news.ontario.ca/mirr/en/2016/05/ontario-proclaims-first-week-of-november-treaties-recognition-week.html.
What I like about online discussions is the fact that we can build off of each other’s ideas, and respectfully state our own ideas. Although, when very under researched response to a historical topic, especially about my people, comes around I get a little offended. I felt so strongly about this that I felt I had to share.
The other day someone died outside of my school
The event had me spinning, man I felt like a fool
Cuz I remembered how I used to glorify using tools
A rebel without a cause, hittin’ blunts playing pool
The truth, is he bled where I usually hang
I was lucky to not have been there to be hearing them bangs
Doin my thang blessed, I was safe in my class
Til I hears someone say that they heard 15 blasts
I couldn’t believe it, it was just like a dream
I was lucky that I wasn’t outside with my team
The dudes lit him up, then jumped in a truck
I thanked god for saving us, praisin our luck
But the guy lay there, bloody and bruised
His soul went out, like it was a blown out fuse
It’s fucked that it happened so close to home
To the place where I learn, to the streets that I roam
I remember the day, when I heard Grimmie died
That shit broke my heart, man I’m not gonna lie
So young, so precious, wit a voice as a gift
liked to put on her songs cuz they gave me a lift
She was my age, born in the same year as me
I still think all the time, of what she could be
But she’s gone, and I can’t really turn back the clocks
Can’t knock away the gun that they all tried to block
The shit makes me wonder, about my own fate
Like if I might getting taken by somebody’s hate
Fans can be nuts, this has happened before
Like what happened to John Lennon, back in the days of yore
I often wonder, if musics the life I’m gon’ lead
If the stage is for me, or just for me to leave
I like to believe, peeps are inherently good
But those thoughts lay in the shadow, cloaked by my hood
“Have you ever been treated for an eating disorder?” My counsellor’s words were ringing in my ears as if she had screamed it. Moments before, I had inadvertently admitted I hadn’t eaten anything solid in four days. My mind began racing. An eating disorder? Me? ME?! Someone who is all about body love, acceptance, and health at any size, an eating disorder? Someone who had supported my friends through very real, painful bouts with eating issues? Sure, I could be a bit critical of myself at times, but who isn’t? I didn’t have an eating disorder. As I sat flailing for the words to reject her question, her eyes softened and she kindly suggested: “I think you’re suffering from anorexia and bulimia, and I think you’ve been self-harming for a very long time.”
I spent years in counselling (on and off) and I never seriously considered that I was struggling with intense body dysmorphia until that day. In retrospect, I suppose there’s a few reasons for that. First, I was very good at masking my bad eating behaviours. I never put myself in a situation where I would feel tempted to do it around others and because I was so open about my mental health struggles, most people never suspected I would even consider it. Second, and relatedly, I was even better at lying to myself. I wasn’t purging because I had an eating disorder; I was purging because sometimes you just get too full! I didn’t starve myself for beauty, I was just less hungry. I didn’t need breast implants because of societal expectations, I was just ugly.
But I think the main reason I was in such denial is because truthfully, I never considered an eating disorder as a form of self-harm. When I thought about eating disorders, I thought about them as distinct illnesses, directly related to body dysmorphia, intense and unrealistic beauty standards, and genetic makeup. Sometimes people are just predisposed to these issues, and for some people struggling with eating disorders, this is the case. However, eating disorders can also manifest in people with intense insecurity related to things like bullying and abuse. Abusing your body through unhealthy eating and modifications can be an outlet for pain. This is what my counsellor meant when they asked me.
See, when I was a child, I was placed into foster care and by the time I was 7, I had already experienced sexual violence. This continued on and off during my time in the system. When I eventually got out, I was old enough to begin understanding what had happened and it crushed me. I went from being a happy-go-lucky kid to being intensely distrustful of others. I no longer enjoyed hugs or other forms of intimate physical affection. Because of who my abusers were in care, I didn’t even trust my own parents to not hurt me. At the same time, I was intensely bullied for my physical appearance and for always being the new, former foster kid. I began to think my abuse was my own fault. Later, I would seek out relationships where the abuse was reinforced, an ex-boyfriend even going so far as to point to my self-loathing and say “You deserved it”.
I looked around me and saw (what I thought were) stereotypically beautiful, happy girls. When I was around 11, I remember thinking: they’re so wanted and accepted. I bet no one would ever hurt them. If only I was more beautiful, more normal, maybe then I would be worth something, too. This eventually manifested in the self-harming behaviours my counsellor sought to address years later. I didn’t like the idea of cutting myself, so instead I pulled, scratched, picked, and starved my body into submission. I spent hours looking at myself, imagining all the things I’d be able to change when I was older and had the money for a plastic surgeon. Any time I’d get rejected, I’d just binge and purge and pick and abuse a little more, reminding myself that one day it wouldn’t be so hard. One day I’d fix this broken body people only wanted to use. I was in so much pain and I thought by “fixing” the outside of me, the inside would heal, too. As I got older, it got worse. Compounded by other mental health-related issues, I began obsessively thinking of suicide as a viable option to end my pain.
As we all know, victims aren’t abused because they’re unattractive or worthless; they’re abused because other people are abusive. I spent years craving the love and respect never shown to me by my abusers while fearful of getting it. Yet hurting myself by reaching for an objective, non-existent physical perfection didn’t make me any happier; it only made me hate myself more. Each time I failed to achieve whatever unrealistic goal I had set for myself, another piece of what little self-love I had chipped away. What did make me happier was eventually going to counselling and being honest; talking with my friends; and letting the pain seep out in healthy ways.
In a few months, it will be four years since I began addressing the self-harming prison I built within the confines of my body. I still have days where I think my fat symbolizes someone unforgivable, stupid, and incapable. I still have days where I don’t like my skin or hair. But most days, I look in the mirror and like what I see. Because my body isn’t just an outlet for pain anymore; it’s an outlet for creativity, love, sorrow, anger, passion, and so many others things. I treat my body with good foods and I use fashion as a way to express all of those things because they’re all beautiful and real, unlike the expectations I allowed my self-harm to dictate.
I can finally say I love my body because as much as I will always be those people’s victims, I’ve made a choice to be my own survivor.
I hope one day you’re able to get the support you need to make that choice, too.
I grew up skeptical about religion because I have seen the harm it has done when encountered from a judgmental lens. I have seen the hate it spreads and the people it oppresses. I’ve seen anti-abortion protests on the streets of Toronto, shameful Christian signs about how the gays will go to Hell. I’ve seen it all. I was raised in a Roman Catholic household, and in return, placed in a Catholic school in which I was not proud to go to. Last year when I began a journey with my partner Caleb, who is a devoted and passionate Christian, I really took it upon myself to open up Christianity and to reflect about what identifying as Christian entails and if it was something I could be proud of. The only way to do this was to fully educate myself on the religion itself. I just wanted to share some of my thoughts in hopes to allow people to see that yes, there are people from all religions that hate and do harm — but that it should not reflect on the religion, but rather displaced as an improper reading of spirituality. With all religions being equal and incredibly close in morals, I will use the bible specifically to discuss this connection due to access and knowledge, as well as personal connection.
The first stigma I had about devoted Christians was that they were all homophobic, and that if I were to outwardly identify as Christian, that I’d be seen as harmful and hateful. Supporting human rights — by default outwardly and passionately supporting LGBTQ+ rights, I was scared to what I’d find out about what the bible says about this. What did I find out? The bible has probably one single line about homosexuality. That is less attention given that what the bible says about eating pork and beef. One line in a book that has around 8 million words in it. If there are people spreading hate about something so minor in the bible, forgetting the whole purpose of Jesus (to free us ALL from sin), then I feel like they may have missed something that takes up quite a larger sum of the bible… to not judge. In response to hateful people using Christianity to oppress rather than to spread peace… I will direct them to the passage James 1:26. “If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.” If you spread hate, if you speak hate, if you emulate hate, even God himself has said you are doing it all wrong. The purpose of Jesus’ messages — from his birth to death — was to bring good news to all. Not some random group or clique, but to all. Hate to preach, but if you turn to Colossians 3:11, it begins “In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are jew or gentile, circumsised or uncircumised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.” In religion, it is often stated that the ideal world is one free of hate and free of judgment. Jesus requested to the people to put down the stones they cast if they themselves can say they have not sinned. He wanted to welcome the sex workers, the orphans, the poor. The outcasts. Because Jesus himself came from one — the Virgin Mary. The O.G. outcast… there was no room in the inn for her the night of Jesus’ birth because she was socially and morally separated from having a baby out of marriage. God did not punish her. God’s plan was to free those from punishment. So, after seeing this side of religion… I decided if you are Christian AND hateful — then you aren’t really Christian. If you hate gays, you are not Christian. You are homophobic. Identify with that instead. Does the bible contain hateful things? Yes, without question. Can we ignore these hateful things? No, of course not. Can we look at the larger picture to contradict them and be hopeful, optimistic, loving, rather than shame, blame, point fingers, and look for reasons to say ‘my beliefs (or lack of beliefs) are better than those beliefs? We can, and we should. If you focus on a few google searched passages to back up your hate, then yes of course you will find them. They exist. But you are missing the other 99% of the religion. If we are going to be so specific, then we have a lot of other literature to look at it. Because God does not hate. The lengthy new testament that displays the “new life” clearly demonstrates that hateful ways are just old fashioned, and that peace is needed to save the world.
Another judgment I had about religion that really caused me to hesitate with associating myself with it was the notions of marriage. Don’t do this before marriage, don’t do that with this person, and so on. As a woman and a feminist, I believe I can do whatever I want with my body. Is this belief therefore not Christian? From a feminist standpoint, women likely love Jesus. He broke patriarchy and always spoke to the women first. He also preached about how men should treat women so properly and vise versa, for equal represent results in happiness and families.
Anyway, getting back to marriage points… I was worried that not being a virgin before marriage would make religion a write off for me. I thought I would seen as worthless and dirty. Researching more about Christianity, I realized that God does not care about my sexuality. If I was having sex within commitment, that is my decision to make. If people have sex outside of commitment, also their decision. The great thing is that it effects no one but the person doing it, and is therefore no one’s business. God asks for commitment. To do things with commitment in mind. That is all marriage was at the time, and the world of marriage has changed drastically in terms of weddings and marriage being a lengthy, expensive, legal process. To be honest, signing a piece of paper in order to have sex or live together actually is not anywhere in the bible. If you choose to do that, you are choosing for you — because God outwardly states that his words are not law, but advice to a life that will make you feel best. If you think women have zero agency with their bodies and connect their virginity to their worthiness, you are sexist. Not religious. Religion is not one thing, but something that each person can work to their individual means. If you can warp it to fit with your life, then why can’t anyone else?
Religion wants you to commit. To pray or take time to reflect. To be mindful, gentle, kind, and compassionate. Religion wants you to believe that there is more to life than this, and that you have power as an individual to lead the best life possible. Religion wants people to understand that we live strictly to serve others, and that a fulfilling life is one that does minimal harm to our environment, the people in it, the animals around us, and the spirits of people from ALL walks of earth. Religion wants you to stop judging — not to use it to perpetuate HATE. Or maybe, just maybe, that is just what religion is to me. But based on some research and reading, it’d be hard to convince me otherwise on what religion’s purpose is. And to me, this is what social justice is about. So if you use religion as a grounds to hurt people, oppress people, hate people, judge people, do harm to other living and non-living things, force violence, or start war — then should find another belief system to identify with. Colossians 3:14 states, that “Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us together in perfect harmony.” Love is all we need, and it’s all we have because it is the only thing does not do harm to your neighbor. Religion is about love. Social justice is about love too. The bible actually promotes good deeds and collective, supportive action – it reads “Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works” James 2:26. Go out and do good, with or without faith.
Note: I am not excusing any hateful events and oppression that religion has outwardly reinforced, nor am I saying that religion — especially Christianity — does not have questionable violence and awkward passages, and can be used to justly explain unexplained tragedies like why children die from cancer, people abuse animals, wars in developing countries, etc. The world is not a pretty place, and I get that. And Religion cannot explain what humanity does. This is simply a way to take the blame off a system of belief, and give the believers autonomy. It is also a way to allow people to use their religion to promote social justice, instead of use religion to work against peace. Social justice can be found almost anywhere. Please read with an open mind. Much love.