Dark clouds have risen once again over our nation’s sunny ways with the discovery of 215 unmarked children’s graves near a former Kamloops residential school, another reminder of the legacies of our colonial and imperial foundations—sometimes it seems that we are forever destined to be challenged when we look in the mirror.
Calls for the removal of statues commemorating our founding fathers, particularly Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, frequently reverberate through our national media and just this past week a statue of Egerton Ryerson, one of the principle architects of the residential school system, was toppled at Ryerson University. Some days it seems we will never be able to celebrate those individuals who laid the first foundation blocks of our nation.
Then, bursting through the clouds, comes a welcome ray of sunshine.
News that a new downtown Toronto park celebrating the memory and accomplishments of Whitefish River First Nation’s Lillian McGregor is under construction arrived on our desks this past week. Dr. McGregor’s life and accomplishments are truly worthy of celebration and something of which we can all be proud.
Towering legends of yesterday may have accomplished monumental tasks, but too often those accomplishments have been built upon a foundation mixed with the blood and suffering of countless nameless, faceless, victims.
While much of the work for which Dr. McGregor is being celebrated was necessitated by the ongoing and ofttimes racist legacies of the likes of Mr. Ryerson and Mr. Macdonald, hers were labours of love and encouragement, tempered with an unrelenting determination to make this world a better place.
Now that is a legacy that we as Canadians can get behind.
It is gratifying that the park celebrating Dr. McGregor’s legacy is located in the central downtown core of our nation’s greatest city, mere steps from the seat of provincial power and in the very epicentre of our nation’s economic heartland.
Better yet, the decision to memorialize Dr. McGregor with this most innovative of parks came about through a community consultation process taken in arguably the most multicultural of our urban centres.
So, even as the darkness seems to be closing in once again on our national identity, a brilliant beacon of hope shines through.
Thank you, Dr. McGregor, for providing us with your vision, your heart, determination and dignity—and for a legacy of which all Canadians can take pride—M’chi-miigwetch.