That's What She Said: PM out of touch with real issues affecting youth
- Dawn Dumont | March 06, 2017
I would like to meet the First Nations youth who spoke to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about his and her canoe and paddle storage needs. Although it has been many moons since I was a teen with pimples the size of juicy blueberries, I cannot recall canoe storage as being of my main concerns.
Like all the First Nations people in Trudeau’s imagination, we had a canoe--or at least we had access to one. My Uncle Frank had it sitting next to his garage. My cousins and I used to carry it to the slough near our house and set it in the murky, waist high water. Then we would all pile in until it sunk to the bottom. Then we would push each other out until it could float again. After we had engaged in our traditional ways for a long enough time-or until mom was due home from grocery-shopping (because we were actually not allowed to play in the water), we would dump out the smelly slough water and carry it back to Uncle Frank’s. Then as we put it down,we would turn it upside down. Not because anyone told us to do that but because that was the obvious way to store a canoe.
Now I am just learning that canoes are supposed to be protected from the elements which seems strange considering that they go on the water, which is an element. They must be hung on the wall, on special hooks designed for canoes – if you’ve never seen such things I’m sure someone makes them on Etsy. And paddles must be stored inside of fur-lined waterproofed bags, like your dad’s golf clubs.
But Trudeau’s statements weren’t all wrong. He also said that First Nations youth want places to do their homework with internet access. When I was a teen, I did feel like tearing my hair out about that. I studied at the kitchen table bathed in the warm glow of cigarette smoke, while people walked in and out of the kitchen to make sandwiches and phone calls. In addition, there was an ongoing cacophony caused by visitors, babies, and cats jumping on the table, demanding my pen for their own cat use. I used to imagine the places that my non-Native classmates had at their disposal – their own rooms with desks. It sounded blissful. What I would have given for a quiet place to study and with access to the Internet. Although there wasn’t Internet in those days – yes I’m that old – and if you had tried to describe it to me, “It’s a place where you can literally watch a million hours of cat videos”, I would have passed out.
Our pretty little Prime Minister also implied that T.V.s in rec centres aren’t needed. Clearly he hasn’t watched a good movie with a dozen people recently. 50 per cent of my childhood was spent lying on our living room floor pointed at a T.V. with my uncles, cousins, aunts and neighbours. A shared TV can be a teaching tool and opportunity for healing; it was T.V. time that taught me about Martin Luther King, Ghandi, Nelson Mandela and of course, poltergeists. After watching those movies, I felt inspired to fight both racism and ghosts. In fact, when I went to Queen’s University, one of my favourite places was the Indigenous Student’s Centre, a little house on that campus, where all the Aboriginal students gathered together to eat bannock in peace. It was there that we all watched the Maori film, Once Were Warriors, together and discovered that we weren’t alone, that other Nations had been royally screwed over by colonialism as well.
The Centre also had study areas upstairs along with computers and internet access. But no canoe shed, oddly enough.
Trudeau’s comments also threw shade on First Nation leaders but since he followed it up with canoe storage, the only person who looked out of touch was him. But having a Prime Minister make such paternalistic statements is dangerous because the challenges facing First Nations youth are daunting and he needs to listen, for real. Our communities need discriminatory funding practises to stop – in health, in education and infrastructure. We need the Canadian government to undergo a fundamental shift in the way that it treats First Nation people. Once that is in place, then we’ll have time for canoe trips - but only if Trudeau agrees to go shirtless.
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Still I am glad that we have a Prime Minister who would even bother take questions from Canadian people. I’m not the sure that other guy ever peeked his head out to check on us. Except maybe once a year when he told us whether there would be another six weeks of winter.