I was asked on this Canada Day to ponder a challenging question:

Do you think it’s a fair, and secondly, a useful comparison, to look at the parable of the Good Samaritan, and see First Nations people in the person of the man attacked, and our European ancestors as the attackers?

I have never thought of it before, but the first thing that occurs to me in response to this question is that, in his parable, Jesus never identifies the attackers. He simply states that the traveller abandoned in the ditch has suffered grievous harm.

Indigenous people have suffered egregious injustice at the hands of the original colonizers who displaced them from this land. And, to this day, those of us who benefit from the tragic actions of the first settlers continue to participate in a system that relegates Indigenous persons to the ditch beside the road.

There is plenty of guilt to go around. But in the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus does not appear to have been interested in handing out blame.

So, if the traveller in the ditch is the First Nations population of this land, and if we forget about trying to assign blame, where do we locate ourselves in the story?

Clearly, for far too long, we have been the priest and the Levite, crossing over to the other side of the road, averting our eyes and ignoring the victim in the ditch. If you find it hard to identify with the passerby refusing to see the victim suffering in the ditch, watch this Fifth Estate episode from two years ago (well actually watch it anyway): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ep7AW2K4Xww

Having watched this painful story, reflect for a moment on the motion brought to the Canadian House of Parliament less than a month ago and its impact… or lack of impact:

June 3, 2021: In light of the discovery of the remains of 215 children at Kamloops residential school, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh orders a motion calling for the government to end its litigation with survivors, including those of St. Anne’s. “What has become very clear is that symbolic gestures are not good enough,” Singh says. “We need concrete action.”

June 7, 2021: The vote on Singh’s motion is carried unanimously, 271 to zero. Liberal cabinet ministers — including Justice Minister David Lametti, Indigenous Services Canada Minister Marc Miller, and Bennett — and Trudeau abstain. The legally non-binding vote asks the government to create a progress report in 10 days and to sit down with the PKKA to find a resolution for the litigation.

June 17, 2021: As of publication time, 5:40 p.m., the federal government has not produced the progress report requested in the NDP motion. The litigation continues in the Ontario Superior Court under the supervision of Glustein.


It appears that, despite all our apologies, expressions of grief, flags flown at half-mast, and wearing of orange shirts, the lessons of truth-telling continue to elude us.

It is hard to know exactly what it might mean for the priest and the Levite to truly face and repent of their indifference; but this is the journey we must make. Or, more precisely, it is barely the beginning of the journey we must make. Having faced honestly our negligence towards the suffering of the First Peoples of this land, we must walk back down the road, sit with them in the ditch and ask, “How can we support you in the process of your healing journey?”

What we must not do is cast ourselves as the “Good Samaritan” in the story. We have tried too often to impose our “wise” solutions on the people we have harmed. We are not the ones who can fix this situation. We do not have the answers. It is the victim who must point the way forward.

It is time now to see the truth of the harm that continues to be perpetrated against Indigenous people, and then to listen carefully and respectfully to the victims. Perhaps, in this way, there is some hope we might move towards healing between the peoples who share this land.