The Ungrievable

“One way of posing the question of who ‘we’ are … is by asking whose lives are considered valuable, whose lives are mourned, and whose lives are considered ungrievable.”

~ Judith Butler, Frames of War: When is Life Grievable?

Photo by Johannes Plenio on

Both the Canadian government, and the Province of BC, have declared September 19, 2022 a one-time Day of Mourning to mark the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. The swift and unified response demonstrates the immense value that our elected officials place upon the monarch’s life and legacy. It also reveals the ongoing strength of colonial ties between Canada and Great Britain. What this day highlights for me how our country continues to devalue Indigenous lives and how we are failing to live up to our promises of meaningful reconciliation.

September 30, 2021 marked the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its final report, with 94 Calls to Action, in December 2015. It took almost six years for the federal government to respond to Action #80, which called upon the federal government, in collaboration with Indigenous Peoples, “to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour survivors, their families and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.” Six years. In that time, the remains of more than 1,000 people, mostly children, were discovered in unmarked graves on the grounds of three former residential schools in two Canadian provinces.

On the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, Prime Minister Trudeau chose to surf with his family in Tofino, rather than spend the day with survivors and their families. Conversely, the Prime Minister immediately flew to London, England to attend the Queen’s lying-in-state; and on the National Day of Mourning, he will attend her funeral. The respect and reverence that he shows for one day over the other speaks volumes.

On this Day of Mourning, I will respect its intention to honour the legacy of a woman who gave her life to public service; and I will equally reflect upon the violence that colonialism continues to inflict upon Indigenous lives. I will read the 94 Calls to Action, and the Calls for Justice, in the Final Report for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. I will think about how I can, as a Canadian, do my part to move forward the calls to action and honour the thousands of lives lost.

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