On Canada

My wife and I are like a microcosm of Canada. Oh we don’t consider that about our relationship but when I stop and look at it I can see how much of the country is reflected in our togetherness. It’s not as hard to understand as you might think.

            We’re two separate people who have come together to form a union. Within that union there is equality, harmony, balance and respect. We don’t seek to become the other person, we only value and celebrate their identity. Sounds a lot like Canada to me.

            But what I really mean is how our stories come together. I’m an Ojibway from northern Ontario and my wife is a blend of white Australian and West Indian. The idea that two completely different backgrounds could come together and find a common purpose is wonderful.

Her story began when her ancestors were sent to Australia on a convict ship. It continued to the selling of her great-grandmother on a Fremantle dock. She was a slave who became her great-grandfather’s wife. So my wife carries a slave’s blood and the rebel genes of transported felons. It’s an amazing story.

            My story starts with residential schools. My entire family was forced to go there and the whole generation of adults when I was born was afflicted by the memory of those days. Eventually, they could not care for me and I was sent to foster homes and later adopted.

            We were both adopted actually. We were both removed from our histories and made to pretend that we belonged in someone else’s. We both suffered the emotional pain of separation. We both learned what it is like to be considered odd and out of place. Our stories of that experience are remarkable for their painful similarity.

            Both of us struggled to find our identity. Both of us hit the road when we were teenagers and fought hard to come to a place of purpose and expression. We went through a lot of hard lessons. By the time we met in our late forties we knew more about what we didn’t want than what we did.

            So how is that like Canada? Well, it’s the coming together of stories to create one great one. It’s the recognition that we are all individuals working together to create a community. It’s knowing that we need each other and that a shared strength is a greater strength.

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About Richard Wagamese

I am a published author with 13 titles published by major Canadian publishers. I am a First Nations person from the Ojibway Nation in Northwestern, Ontario, Canada. As a professional writer since 1979 I have written for newspaper, radio television, magazines and book publishing. I love the culture of books and the people who populate it. 2012 recipient of the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Media & Communications. View all posts by Richard Wagamese

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