Updated: Jul 7
I’d like to join some of my fellow delegates in sincerely thanking the First Peoples Group for their heartfelt, hard work in supporting our community during this period of conflict. I really appreciate this opportunity to speak.
I consider this ongoing debate about the Prime Minister’s path a conflict very intentionally, mainly because I know that word is misunderstood and scares a lot of residents in Wilmot. This isn’t the Wilmot we’re used to, some may say.
My name is Olivia Miller, and I am a resident in Wilmot, currently studying Peace and Conflict studies at the University of Waterloo. I am a queer, mentally ill individual. I’m unafraid of the word conflict because I experience it a lot in just being who I am in the Wilmot community.
I consider this ongoing decision-making surrounding the PM path a conflict because there are different interests at play. Interests and positions are at the core of any conflict.
It is clear that many community members would like to recognize Canada’s history, hence the proposal of this project. It is also clear that many community members would like to highlight the heartbreaking history of assimilation that occurred in our Country, and arguably continues to occur, in our country.
I haven’t been afraid of this conflict in Wilmot and that, I recognize, is a privilege. I am a white woman in Wilmot who doesn’t have to fear for their health and well-being today. Other residents may be fearful, however, because of how some community members continue to praise leaders who killed their ancestors.
I have grown up in Wilmot and I have never once doubted the passion and care that lives in this community. However, I do believe that pursuing these statues was a misguided attempt at expressing that care and passion.
As much as I study the dynamics of conflict in my degree, I also study the emotions involved in our interactions. And when I think of the Prime Ministers’ Path and its visibility in our community, located on stolen land and showcased to our Indigenous community members, my heart aches.
I believe we’re experiencing a sense of moral isolation in our community, in which COVID-19 and the speed of our society has kept us moving so quickly that we detach ourselves from others and don’t truly understand each other.
I believe that we don’t all feel this heart ache, and that’s okay. We’re all coming from extremely different places and that must be understood, especially in polarized issues.
However, our hearts all ache for something. I will never be able to understand the heart ache of these families who are reliving the trauma of their children never returning home.
But our hearts all ache at the same wavelength, that I believe. I believe in understanding that, if we are in touch with our own ache, we can respect the ache of others.
All of this to say, even if I did believe that the Prime Ministers Path statues should stay in Wilmot, I believe that I can feel the ache of the hearts of Indigenous community members in our township while the statues’ presence is so prominent.
I believe that we can all feel the ache if we get quiet enough. And that grief, that ache, is enough for me to say with most confidence that this project must be abandoned to end our prolonged role in harming the Indigenous communities within our stolen land.
I’m not saying that we can’t revisit and significantly adjust this idea in the future. I’m just saying that we can’t move past the hurt until we stop causing it.
Thank you again.