The Families Issue Is Out Now!
Illustration: Mallory CK Taylor
Acts of Family
Content note: colonial violence, genocide
I am writing this on May 30th, the night before sending this issue to print. Three days ago, a mass grave was uncovered by the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc people, at the Kamloops Indian Residential School; 215 Indigenous children had been buried on the site.
I am a Tamil migrant settler on Treaty 13 land. My own history with colonialism and displacement is inextricably entwined in complex ways with Indigenous peoples here. In part, because the colonial project was templated and refined over centuries (with iterations on my own people), and in part because our inevitable displacement put us in the positions of settlers in an illegitimate state. I navigate with these tensions and contradictions and continue to try and work in solidarity to untangle the knots and find ways forward.
But, the past few days have been a lot. I have spent them in grief, and in rage, and I have been thinking a lot about the ways the concept of family has, and continues to be, a site of political violence: from the forcible removal of Indigenous children from their families, to the recent attacks on Asian elders, to the ongoing separation of domestic workers from their families of origin, colonialism, white supremacy, and capitalism have always known that the deepest wound is one that disrupts and destabilizes us in ways that we are still striving to heal from.
I made several drafts of this letter: one that talked about how COVID regulations here in Ontario last year allowed us space to think critically about the concept as family as we defined our “pods” or found our people (and how this year, that dialogue has been absent as the provincial government has fallen back into the idea that your family and your household are interchangeable terms). Another draft talked about the concept of family (both chosen and of origin), and the ties (both uplifting and painful) that exist across both time and space. A third draft was an intergenerational love letter that my ancestors never got to write (but perhaps my daughter will one day read). Each of these pieces expressed pain, grief, hope and bits of joy—messy messy threads that knot together in different parts of my own body when I think about how deeply we live, breathe and act on our different understandings of family.
In reading this issue of Shameless as a whole, I want to highlight the ways in which our writers have unpacked the concept of family as a set of intentional acts: acts of reflection (p.15), acts of honouring (p. 24), acts of creating (p. 24). Acts of care (p. 8), acts of nourishment (p. 29), acts of reclamation (p. 34). In the same way the concept of family has been and continues to be a site of violence, has been, and continues to be a site of radical transformation — from creating your own definition of family, to reclaiming ancestral ones.
The Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS) has an Emergency Crisis Line available 24/7 for people who may need counselling and support in response to the announcement about the Kamloops Indian Residential School. Their 24-hour crisis line can be reached at 1-866-925-4419.
If you do not require support, and have the means, please donate directly to the IRSSS by visiting https://www.irsss.ca/donate. You can also write to your Member of Parliament to ask them about what their plans are to deliver on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to actions. You can do this regardless of whether or not you are eligible to vote (ie. regardless of age or immigration status). You can write again and again until you receive a response, and then you can write some more if you are not satisfied by that response.