#MyCanada - Aaron

Aaron, facing east on Fraser Street

“My mom’s family is First Nations, from Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan, while my dad’s family is from St. Vincent in the Caribbean. I spent a lot of my childhood visiting my family’s house on the reserve with my great-grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I grew up in Edmonton, and each summer, my mom would take me on the local powwow circuit. We would hit up 10-15 powwows each summer, and I loved it. As a little kid, you would usually find me outside the dance circle, doing my best to keep up with the dancers with my own moves.

When people meet me, they have no idea that I am Indigenous because I am also Black. When they find out, it usually throws them off. I remember as a kid in public, like at the grocery store, people would get confused when I was with my mom. We looked so different that people didn’t think that she was my mom... This is not what an Indigenous person is supposed to look like, especially someone who grew up in the culture and has devoted his life to working on Indigenous issues... But, being Black is also part of my identity, something I am proud about. I remember my dad, growing up, taking me to get haircuts at the Black barber shops in Edmonton, or to Father’s Day events organized by his cultural community in town where I would be surrounded by other Black people. It really resonated with me, helped me figure out that aspect of who I am... The other day, I realized that this is my unique experience and everyone else has their own.

My Canadian identity is one of many unique stories of the people who make up this country. Our picture of Canada and who a Canadian is changes and evolves with each person. There’s no dominant or essential Canadian experience, and that accommodates an incredible range of diversity, allowing people like me to thrive despite challenges. I like to think we are all committed to that idea, a Canada where we all belong." — Aaron, Vancouver/ Coast Salish Territories