When people contemplate the issue of a winter day shelter for this season, they should reflect on the history of this City and Territory. It is a young history. It is so young it is still actually the present. And we need to be responsible and aware in the present.
The intersection where the Aurora building sits was established just after World War II. We have people on the streets and suffering who are that old. Local hunters still wore caribou hide suits and travelled by dog-teams. Yellowknife and its business community — our economy — is only that old. The businesses here, new or original, still directly owe their existence to and thrive in that first economic topsoil that was sloppily layered over the existing landscape and peoples.
And that economy — our business community now — was built on the government’s illegal colonial breach of Aboriginal treaties in order to open the land for mining. And with that followed the problems and difficulties we face now just a few decades later. This didn’t start in 1492, 1670, 1763, 1867, or 1921. This just started. Our grandfathers and grandmothers started it.
The difficulties faced by some of our residents are the direct fallout and blowback and cost of growing this economy. This is a current story, not an old problem. This is a current responsibility, not a tired and unfortunate problem for someone else.
This is a responsibility of the now. A now in which people in threat will soon face ambush by sub-arctic winter in the steel-walled canyon of the colonially-dubbed Franklin Avenue. Are there really those who would rather continue to resist the GNWT plan at this late hour; or worse, paradoxically watch people fend off the freeze on the sidewalks in front of this same building?
This building is where once there was a full-on Legion Hall. The Legion is an organization that understands what it means to take care of those who have been injured and suffered, bearing their wounds so our society could grow strong and rich while they have sacrificed or fallen behind. What site could be much more appropriate?
Exception was taken by some to Health Minister Julie Green raising reconciliation as part of the equation. But she is in no way wrong to do so. City Councillor Niels Konge likened the struggle of businesses, and the supposed threat of this location and the people it would serve, as somehow comparable to the injustices suffered by native people in Canada. That couldn’t be more off-base.
Many of the people we need to help are the direct victims, not just historically but presently in our times, of our relentless pace of economic development and colonial occupation. And others of these people are just like some of our brothers and sisters anywhere, native or of other ancestry, who find themselves down and out.
Let’s remember our very real, very present history when we consider what to do in this matter. Let’s be responsible, present, and aware. This is not unfortunate past history that merely aggravates and remains unreconciled, this is our now and it demands our complete acceptance of responsibility. It demands what reconciliation is founded on — truth and reparation.