/The primary narrative

The primary narrative

By Emily Stonehouse

I didn’t always feel cantankerous around Canada Day. Growing up, it was an opportunity to don your best white and red; a chance to watch fireworks and stay up late to drink syrupy slushies. 

As I grew up, my perspective began to shift. Celebrating is okay, but overlooking the actual brutal history of our country is something entirely different. 

The final icing on the canuck cake for me was the Canada 150 celebration, during which Ontario alone spent over seven million dollars on promoting and marketing. 

I don’t need to explain to anyone that Canada is significantly older than 150 years, right? And what we were actually celebrating – in our seven million dollars of gusto and glory – was an anniversary of genocide, colonization, and whitewashing, right?

This week I wrote a story on National Indigenous History Month. I sat down and spoke to a man who – just in his retirement – has discovered his true heritage; his Indigenous culture, traditions, and practices. And he is embracing it with pride. 

But for so long, his family stayed coveted about their own history, washed over the truth, hid it from family members in shame. For so long, for those 156 years now, it hasn’t been the primary narrative. 

The primary narrative is a concept I stumble across frequently in the news. I spend a lot of time reading other news sources; whether that be locally, internationally, or anything in between. Trying to always understand more, to ask questions, to think outside the box – because that is what adds colour to your context. 

Like so many around the world, this past week my eyes found news articles on the missing Titan submersible; a small underwater vessel on an adventure to explore the Titanic shipwreck. Onboard were five men. Each ticket to the ride was $250,000. 

The vessel went missing, and made international headlines. Coast guards from around the world offered their services to find the five missing men; sifting through thousands of ocean kilometres in a race against time. 

Within a few days, it was announced that the submersible had likely imploded within two hours of departure. Unfortunately, all members aboard are presumed deceased. 

While this is a tragedy that has captured hearts and minds around the world, it should be noted that while this was happening, a refugee boat carrying over 750 people capsized, and over 500 of those bodies are still missing. According to articles online, it is believed that even before the wreck, six people had died due to lack of water and poor conditions onboard. There is not a single surviving woman or child from the ship. 

But this story was never trending. 

It was never the primary narrative. 

So often, the primary narrative has a spotlight that favours those who carry the subjective advantages. People of privilege. People with money. People with more.

As we see the red and white scattered through the windows and the flags raised with pride, it’s important to remember that narrative. It’s important to ask questions. It’s important to colour outside the lines. 

Because there is absolutely nothing wrong with celebrating, but there are so many stories that soak our home on native land, and if those are forgotten, if those are erased, then really, what stories will we have left?