Today is Canada’s 150th birthday! And the celebrations are being carried out on a grand scale. I do not object but I can not participate in the symbols of nation unreflectively. First peoples have set up camp on parliament hill. They have been allowed to do so after initial resistance from the RCMP and our dashing and generous PM has gracefully and photogenically paid his respects. What can I say… I am a recent immigrant living on unceded territory but power, if not justice, is on my side. Will I give up what is now mine in the the name of what is just … probably not without a struggle. But then it is as much a struggle, spiritually speaking, to occupy the place that my family and I have taken under the auspices of the Canadian state. The history is palpable all around us … in place markers, and in derelict lives as well as in proud ones. I feel it, and although I join in the celebrations, I do not do so without recognizing the genocidal legacy into which I am assimilating .
An enduring symbol of Canada is the uniform of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The Mounties who wear it are loved and respected by the mainstream of Canadian life but to those on the margins of this order, their symbol bears a different meaning. The RCMP are the front line in hegemonic Canada’s ongoing repression of both the abject dereliction and the proud resistance of Indigenous peoples. There are however a handful of native RCMP officers who operate at the very front of this frontline. It seems to me that they might be the bearers of the impossible burden of the paradox and the pain of being both native and Canadian in one human being. Corporal Ron Francis was one such mountie. His story is tragic, beginning with ideals, followed by 20 years of service and ending in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, medical marijuana, public protest, confiscation of beloved uniform and ultimately, suicide.