Andreae Prozesky on Marie Wadden’s new book, Where the Pavement Ends.
Aboriginals in Canada have suffered immeasurably at the hands of the Canadian government. The legacy of colonialism and residential schooling, loss of language, loss of tradition and land, and generations of physical and sexual abuse have left communities shattered, and people without direction. While, according to the UN, Canada ranks fourth in the world in terms of standard of living, many Aboriginal people here live in conditions similar to that in the developing world.
But with the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission on the horizon, journalist and author Marie Wadden explains, Canadians are in a position to take real action and support First Nations, Inuit and Metis people as they define what their communities need in order to turn things around.
“The federal government has been pushed to an edge,” Wadden says. “It’s a moment that Canadians have to seize.”
In her new book, Where the Pavement Ends, Wadden says a massive shift is both essential and possible for the future of Aboriginal communities.
In the book, Wadden says the most impressive and effective work is being done by individuals in First Nations, Inuit, and Metis communities, rather than by government. The community leaders Wadden profiles are dedicated and capable, driven by cultural pride and by immense strength of will, but the resources given them are almost universally paltry. They are, Wadden says, “pushing a huge boulder uphill.”
The book’s subtitle, Canada’s Aboriginal Recovery Movement and the Urgent Need for Reconciliation, sums up her stance well. Something must change now if First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities are to survive the problems that plague them. Top-down attempts to solve the problems have done little, if anything, to help.
Friendships with people in the Innu community of Sheshatshiu were what inspired Wadden to begin the book. “I had been watching the situation there over the last twenty years.” The “situation” was a dire one, and one which came to a head when a handful of young people were airlifted from Sheshatshiu and Davis Inlet to undergo treatment for acute solvent abuse in the 1990s. These desperate young people, some of them suicidal, were among, as Wadden puts it, “the most hurting people in Canada.”
The last pages of Wadden’s book outline twelve recommendations to government based on her discussions with leaders in First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities. For the rest of us, Wadden encourages intercultural learning, youth exchange programs and putting in place culturally accurate courses to prepare non-Aboriginals who plan to work in Aboriginal communities. Native Friendship Centres provide an excellent resource for urban Canadians to learn more about Aboriginal communities and the state that their citizens would like to see them in.
“Read the stories behind the issues; don’t expect that the media will give you the full picture,” Wadden says.
Reading Where the Pavement Ends is certainly an excellent start. In each chapter a bigger picture emerges, one which gives historical context for each media image of despair, as well as a future picture of how things can be if Canadians get behind Aboriginal efforts to heal themselves and their communities.
Where the Pavement Ends—The Aboriginal Recovery Movement and the Urgent Need for Reconciliation by Marie Wadden w/ speakers, tea & bannock, Monday, May 26. 7pm-9pm, free, Native Friendship Centre, 716 Water St.
There will also be a book signing on Thursday, May 29 at 7pm at Chapters on Kenmount Rd.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission: www.tinyurl.com/5l4y8p
St. John’s Native Friendship Centre: www.friendshipcentre.nf.net
Aboriginal Solidarity Breakfast May 30 (National Aboriginal Day of Action) at Bitters Pub, 7:30am – 9am. Facebook: www.tinyurl.com/6lrx3v