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It's Canada Day today, but it's hard to celebrate

Jul 01, 2021

It’s Canada Day today. But it’s hard to celebrate.

The recent discoveries of unmarked graves and remains of hundreds of Indigenous children who died and were killed at Canada’s residential schools over the past century have been so hard on my heart. 

It is excruciating to imagine their lives, their suffering and their deaths. 

When I feel into the helpless rage of their parents, who didn’t get to hold their babies and give them comfort, who just had to live with not knowing how they died, or even whether they were still living, I can barely breathe. These lost children never came home.

How can anyone live with that?

I’ve always been proud to be Canadian. Grateful that my parents chose THIS country out of all the immigration possibilities they had. 

Despite being born, raised and schooled here, I did not learn about the policies of the Canadian government and the existence of these institutions until I took a Women’s Studies course as an elective at the University of Toronto when I was in my twenties! 

I remember feeling like I’d been shaken violently awake from a deep peaceful slumber of ignorance when I read of the experience of these founding inhabitants of Canada, the only “true” Canadians. 

I also learned of the internment of Japanese Canadians during the second world war and was appalled that this country that I love so much could have treated fellow human beings this way. 


Governments and the religious establishments that ran these residential and day schools need to take responsibility.

Apologies are essential to the collective healing process, even though they don’t change the past. 

Clear and decisive action must be taken to bring Indigenous communities to the same level of dignity and care that every other community in this country takes for granted: Clean drinking water readily flowing through the taps, housing and amenities that are safe and sound, affordable nutrient-dense food, abundantly available healthcare and social services and more.

This difficult and shameful history needs to be includedwithout whitewashing, in the education of every Canadian child.

But Healing... is not just up to the government and churches.

👉🏽 Here are three forward-facing things that you and I can do too:

🌿 Reconnect to Nature
Indigenous people have strong connections to the land, the Earth,  the celestial forces that act upon the Earth and more. I’m learning that this natural knowing was threatening to the colonizers who settled on Indigenous lands across the globe, throughout history. Their efforts to “civilize” Indigenous people (including removing children from their parents and forcing them to abandon their culture, their beliefs, their innate knowing) were partly grounded in a desire to remove the perceived threat. 

I’d like to invite you, therefore, to cultivate a connection or re-connection between yourself and the Earth. Perhaps if we could remember our own natural knowing, we wouldn’t be so quick to want to destroy it when we see it in others. 

You can start by going outside, placing your bare feet on the earth (perhaps walking without your Airpods in your ears), and learning to listen to nature.

If you want to learn how to deeply re-establish this connection, please hire and pay Indigenous people/organizations who offer such learning to teach and guide you. 

🤲 Learn to see yourself when you gaze upon an “other”.
My heart cannot fathom how one human being can actually kill another. But my head understands something about this: Only when you do not see the other person as human does it become possible to kill them. 

So our work then is to learn to see others as human. 

I know a lot about this. From experience as one who has been treated as though she is not human and because I have dedicated my life to guiding people to transform their relationships with others.

You can start by noticing what triggers you when you are with other people. 

Pay attention to what you tell yourself about them when this happens. 

Then ask yourself, “How am I just like that?” 

And if you don’t think you are at all like that, ask yourself, “If there was a sliver of truth that I can be like that too, am I willing to get to know that part of myself a bit better?”

👂🏽Seek, listen and receive the stories of Indigenous people. 
It’s all to easy to rush in with well-intentioned initiatives to help by doing something. In writing this I’m reminded of a group of coaches who started a program soon after the murder of George Floyd last year.

The goal was to train more people of colour to be coaches and I see they have put great numbers of people through. I love the spirit of this, because goodness knows there is a dearth of people of colour in my profession, but I also see that this is a perpetuation of the same blind privilege that got us here in the first place: I apply my worldview to your situation and assume I know best and apply my teachings to you. I would have preferred that these coaches seek out a coach or mentor of colour of their own.

To me that would be a transformational move, rather than a transactional action.

So find a way to hear the stories of Indigenous and other oppressed and marginalized people.
If you know people in those communities, be interested and curious to hear their/our stories and perspectives rather than jumping in with your own ideas and actions. (And respect too that right now many marginalized people are exhausted and just need to stay inside their own healing process. Timing is everything.)

I found this link that is broadcasting an “Amplifying Indigenous Voices” series on June 30, but perhaps there will be recordings available on Canada Day:


And if you are honoured with the opportunity to hear their/our stories, please suspend your need to defend, explain or justify. Just take in the story, commit to sitting with it to let it sink in and say, “Thank you” or “I hear you”. That would be enough. If you need to process your feelings, do so with your own coach or therapist.

Know that these are some suggestions, but this list is not, by any means, exhaustive.

If you want to learn how to do the deeper work that this seemingly easy invitation offers, please hire and work with me and my team to teach and guide you. I'm just an email away.

There are many paths we can take to heal, repair and move forward. None of them will bring those sweet children back. The hearts of their parents and loved ones are forever seared by the loss.

For now, let’s hold space for our Indigenous sisters and brothers who are grieving. 🙏🏽 🇨🇦

Thank you.
- Shahmeen

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