Becoming Canadian Doesn't Mean Being Forced to Forget History

April 26, 2018
Article Source
The Tyee

From an opinion piece in The Tyee: Coming to Canada means forgetting old grievances -- it's a sensible-sounding claim that rolls off the tongue simply. It neatly packs away untidy issues.

And on radio talk shows and discussions, it's a claim heard once again about Indo-Canadians, and Sikhs in particular, in the aftermath of Justin Trudeau's disastrous India trip and in reaction to the election of federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, the first person of South Asian ancestry to lead a Canadian political party.

But it's a claim that never has been true. It never will be true. It never can be true. And never should be true.

Many of Canada's earliest settlers could never forget their experiences of religious intolerance, poverty, famine and class inequality. Indigenous people can never forget the injustice of colonialism. British loyalists did not forget the American revolution. Freed slaves from the U.S. could not forget their past. Canadians from Ukraine can never be asked to forget Communist Russia's domination. Jews can never be asked to give up their grievance with Nazi Germany. Canadians who came from Chile, Honduras, Sri Lanka, China, Afghanistan and so many other unfortunate histories can't forget -- and shouldn't be told to.

For each history, Canada gave freedom and democracy -- and in return was given loyalty and patriotism. Canada gave them what their old country couldn't.

Those strands have created Canada's core values. It's not remembering why our ancestors came here that should worry us -- it's forgetting.

On Oct. 31, 1984, India's Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two Sikh bodyguards. In retaliation, organized and armed mobs descended on Sikh neighbourhoods, particularly in Delhi, killing at least 3,000 Indian Sikhs over the next three days. For Sikhs everywhere, the violence was a deeply traumatic event."In 1984, Sikh Canadians were getting images of family members and friends [in India] who'd been tortured... it was a cry for help," says Amneet Singh Bali, a human rights advocate and masters in law student who has worked on a reconciliation plan to help Canadian Sikhs express their feelings about the violence. "We wanted to take that anger, which could be misplaced, and turn it into something positive."


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