Know, respect Canadian culture

The city. It is a place where you can escape prejudice and just blend in. No one knows your ethnic background—and no one cares.
Even if you are a visible minority, people don’t care. They accept it or they ignore it. They have lived in close quarters with strangers all their lives and, as a result, they have become very tolerant and very good at blocking out everything but their cell phone.
However, some ethnicities are not found too often in the centre of a major metropolis like Toronto. One of these under-represented groups is aboriginal people.
I rarely see a native person as I walk down the street. It is rather strange for someone like me having come from Fort Frances, a town connected to a reserve, and having a status native for a dad.
I take for granted that I know native people, and I take for granted that through knowing some, I understand much of their culture and their history.
It is not like this in Toronto. Many people do not know a native, have never seen one, and, if they have, they have had a very poor sampling.
I say this because I witnessed something for the first time in my life—an actual scenario where people were throwing around really harmful stereotypes about natives as if it were all fact.
I was appalled with some of the things that were said during my Canadian criminal justice class that were so clearly untrue. Things that were said run to the effect of this:
“You know, there is native segregation in schools in Northern Ontario. They aren’t even allowed to share the same classrooms with other people.”
“They get everything paid for and they don’t even take advantage of it. I think it is because they are incapable.”
“My only encounter with natives is finding them drunk and passed out in front of the liquor store.”
Those comments are just a sampling of what I heard while in that classroom. I put up my hand promptly to correct their dire misinformation. However, I found I could not even finish my thoughts. My mind was reeling.
I knew they weren’t intending to hurt my feelings since they didn’t even know of my ethnic background; however, I still felt hurt and bashed.
As soon as I identified myself as a partial native, I received odd looks of disbelief and received multiple under-breath mutterings of “sorry,” as if I needed to be apologized to for being who I am.
I just cannot believe that people could say such hurtful things when they don’t think their target is around.
I understand their comments were ignorant and not grounded in any evidence, so I can partially forgive them.
However, it makes me wonder, if they have never encountered any natives in their lives, and if natives are not often shown in much popular culture, where do they get such negative views about the entire ethnic group?
Why is it such a misunderstood culture?
For being the first peoples here and for having such a prevalent role in our history books, why is it that no one knows two cents about them unless having met one?
The schools need to stop focusing so much on American history and should really brush up on Canadian history.
One of the other comments that came out of the discussion in class was, “Well, wasn’t there something, you know, back in the day, about a river, over there [pointing west], with a guy. Oh, what was his name, Louis something?”
The man who offered this comment was a Canadian, yet he could not even recall basic important details about the Métis revolution and Louis Riel’s contributions to our history.
Canada is so concerned with America’s history, their current politics, their entertainment—their everything—that we, as Canadians, forget to examine ourselves and forget that it is important to learn about our interesting past.
In that moment, as a Fort Frances citizen, I took for granted how much I knew. In that moment, as a person of native ancestry, I took for granted how much I knew.
And in that moment, as a Canadian, I was appalled at how little my nation understood.

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