KENORA REFLECTION: The road less travelled


30 March 2006

KENORA REFLECTION: The road less travelled

by Ben Fong

[Note: Fong was member of the 17-26 March 2006 delegation to Kenora and
Grassy Narrows, ON.]

When I have thought of joining CPT, my concerns related to pacifism,
inner-peace and my ability to live the teachings of Christ. "Getting in the
way" was a capacity I had developed during my youth, but the ability to
love one's enemy was something I wasn't sure I would be able to achieve.

That said, the personal struggles I've encountered during my time to Kenora,
were, as I discovered, far more deep rooted than I'd expected.

The red road and the white road.

I've heard this story spoken many times by members of the Anishinaabe
community. This sacred text describes the two possible paths for Anishinaabe
people. The red road represents traditional culture and values--the things
required for physical and emotional well-being. The white road is a foreign
path, with dissimilar values and culture. These roads also provide an
appropriate example of how our worldviews, though they share similarities,
are very distinct.

For the past twenty-nine years, I have walked both roads. As a person of
mixed origins (Anishinaabe, Chinese and French Canadian), growing up in
Northern Ontario, I had little choice. But one can choose how one
walks--proudly with firm steps or shamefully treading lightly to avoid
being noticed.

I had left no footprint.

The unlearning racism workshop we attended as a delegation--the exercises,
discussions and the film "The Colour of Fear" furthered my understanding of
systemic racism. Though I had chosen to be ashamed of my Anishinaabe
heritage, I was not solely complicit as I had first imagined. The negative
perception of the Anishinaabe held by many individuals in Northern Ontario
and my surrounding culture had an unnervingly strong influence on how I had
viewed and presented myself.

It was this workshop, hearing of accounts of residential schools and the
many Anishinaabe people I have encountered during my time here in Kenora,
Red Lake, and Grassy Narrows, that has allowed me to discover the strength,
courage and pride of the Anishinaabe.

The part of me I had worked to suppress and hide, I find myself yearning to
express and strengthen.