To be Young, Gifted and Indigenous
Jenn Jefferys on Carey Price and Eric Dicaire on Canada's role in destroying the planet.
CONTENT WARNING: this essay makes mention of Indian Residential Schools. Please know that it is okay to not be okay. The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available 24-hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress. Please do not hesitate to call if you need help: 1-800-721-0066
We’ve got a real treat for you today. A pair of essays by two brilliant, up and coming writers on two vastly different but crucial issues.
Jenn Jefferys gives us her take on Habs goalie Carey Price, mental health and Canada’s summer of reckoning. It’s a touching exploration of our role in navigating the ongoing legacy of residential schools and of the burden we place on young athletes.
As the COP26 climate conference draws to a close, Eric Dicaire asks whether we — as Canadians — are complicit in a climate crisis that’s taking lives and destroying habitats across the globe.
I know you’ll enjoy this and appreciate your support for independent journalism in these trying times.
To be Young, Gifted and Indigenous
It felt like the whole world stopped on October 7 when news broke that our stoic puck thwarter would be hanging up his skates to enter the NHL’s player assistance program.
Carey Price had just led the Montreal Canadiens on an improbable Stanley Cup run, playing with incredible resolve in the face of long odds, shepherding the Montreal Canadiens within arm’s length of victory. As Montreal staved off elimination, news surfaced that the remains of hundreds of little ones — some as young as three years old — had been discovered at Kamloops Indian Residential School.
Many more unmarked graves would be confirmed as the Habs advanced further in the postseason — offering clear and undeniable vindication for Indigenous Peoples whose blood, sweat and tears went largely unheard in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report: an historic, categorical documentation of these genocidal state and church-run institutions and the violent settler colonial impact they continue to inflict on Indigenous communities today.
Price, whose grandmother is a residential school survivor, had to navigate this traumatic moment while literally Carey-ing his NHL team. Overnight, it felt like the entire country was turning to this 33 year-old man for comment, advice, and unpaid emotional labour.
Fast forward three months, and Price had justifiably had enough. Angela Price — Carey’s beautiful wife, mother to their three young children, and a successful entrepreneur and social media influencer — released a powerful statement about her husband on Instagram:
“Part of the privilege of being in the position our family is in, is that we also get a public platform to show how there is and can be a path to light for anyone who is struggling,” she wrote. “No matter what is on the line, we hope we can communicate the importance of putting your mental health first not just by saying it, but by showing up and doing the work to get better. Carey’s showing up for himself and our family and making the absolute best decision possible for us.”
That same day the Habs’ general manager Marc Bergevin took questions from reporters. Bergevin’s voice was breaking as he spoke, and his eyes were swollen. It was clear he was struggling to maintain his composure. It was clear he was trying not to cry.
“It’s hard,” he said. “I think everyone wants these guys to come out if they need help. Because your kids, your family – that’s the most important thing. Carey’s story is something that should make us realize that these young kids, these players, they’re human beings. We want him to get all the support he needs, and hopefully we’ll have him back soon.”
There’s something behind Carey’s eyes that speaks volumes. He has an intensity about him. Something almost melancholy. And something many Canadians may not know about that “kid” Bergevin and millions more love and respect so dearly, is that he is Indigenous.
Price hails from a very small First Nations community of just 300 or so in Northern British Columbia called Ulkatcho.
It’s a place with dirt roads, a general store, beautiful clear lake water for fishing, and many warm, wonderful souls who beam with pride over Carey Price’s success.
Their local Chief also happens to be Carey’s mom, Lynda Price. Carey’s grandmother also happens to be a residential school survivor.
Price has spoken at length about how the residential school legacy has directly impacted his family, and the lives of the wider Indigenous community across Turtle Island and indeed around the world.
In July, during an interview with City News, Price spoke eloquently about intergenerational trauma and the legacy of colonialism:
“My grandmother went to a residential school. It’s challenging. It’s had a snowball effect, and I just think that we just need to do a better job of recognizing that this is part of our history.”
Seeing the best goalie in the NHL walk away to care for himself and his family this year was heartbreaking for those of us who love him and love the game. But seeing this strong young man, with his whole life ahead of him, make such a responsible decision at such a high point in his career, was also such a tremendous teaching moment for all of us.
In particular: for men and boys.
The pressures of professional sports are obvious. The demand to play and win during a deadly global pandemic though, when the NHL, CFL, and the Olympics are forcing their athletes back to work before the pandemic has even ended yet? Unimaginable.
It’s no surprise addiction and mental illness are rampant in sport. Wayne Gretzky spoke to this normally unspoken reality recently after news broke that Jimmy Hayes, a 31-year-old American hockey player for the Philadelphia Flyers, had died suddenly from a suspected drug overdose two days after his son’s birthday.
Unlike Hayes, whose young life was cut far too short, Carey Price took a step back to heal when he knew he needed to. Before it was too late.
He chose to honour his teachings as a Native man and as a father – as a descendant of warriors who call this precious land kin – to ensure that he is setting the best possible example for the next seven generations.
How many more young men can say the same?
Tara Slone, a rising star on Sportsnet and co-host of Rogers Hometown Hockey (who you might say is the perfect antithesis to the armchair Don Cherry boys’ club of days gone by) made a fantastic point about this recently.
Rather than sucking it up, or grinning and bearing it, or binge drinking or smoking or sniffing or screwing away the stress of stardom – why the hell don’t we just let players be human beings?
Why don’t we call out racism and sexism when it happens? Why don’t we let men cry on the ice? Why don’t we hold terrible people accountable for immoral or unethical behavior? Why do we expect men and boys in the NHL, or any national sports league for that matter, to just shut up and play?
Because, frankly, as Dave MacIntyre put it so perfectly: Carey Price doesn’t owe anyone shit.
About the author…
Jenn Jefferys is a Canadian freelance journalist, writer, producer, columnist, and creative digital storyteller. Her work has been published by Maclean's, The Hill Times, and The Tyee. Jenn co-hosts City and Nuuchimii podcast. Follow her @jennjefferys.
As Canadians, we are Complicit in the Crisis of Climate Change
We’re not just living in a climate crisis. It’s a moral crisis.
Flash floods are taking lives. Severe droughts are leaving people fighting over water. Oceans are rising, soon to wipe out entire island nations. And, right here at home, people are being evacuated because of fires fanned by climate change.
As a country, we are complicit in this moral crisis.
Why haven’t we reckoned with the scale of this moral failing? Maybe to look at the problem with any amount of honesty would leave us feeling ashamed and disgusted. How, we would have to ask, did we let it get this far?
I can only look at this through the warped lens of my own eco-anxiety. Over the past year I’ve studied as much as my mind could process during a global pandemic. I am not a climate scientist — and I truly hope I am wrong in my understanding of the facts — but the scale of suffering we’re walking into is numbing.
Climate change is not about economics or science. Lives are at stake. The ethics here are appalling.
As a twentysomething myself, it’s hard not to be angry at the people who came before me. How could they leave me on a planet that, because of our collective actions, will either ruin my life or kill me prematurely?
But, as I’ve come to realize, it’s wrong to be angry at our parents. It's not fair to put the weight of the world squarely on their shoulders. But powerful people have spent the last decades steering the world into oblivion.
We are witnessing the consequences, and it hurts to watch. Not only are we destroying the Earth, but we are collectively saying that humans are not worth saving.
This is it. This is all we have. There is nowhere else to go.
We should all feel saddled with the moral weight of preventing further damage to the planet. For everyone.
As moral creatures, we should own up to the fact that our society is built on principles of inequity. Indigenous communities have been highlighting this fact for years, and it took the discovery of dead Indigenous children to start believing it.
The unequal devastation of climate change is following that same philosophy, blown up to a global scale. Unless we act urgently and decisively, Canada continues to cede any moral ground it has left.
Climate is already impacting the most vulnerable on the planet. Now, as one of the world’s top emitters of CO2, Canada is complicit in their suffering.
Our leaders have been talking a good talk at the COP26 summit, but let’s be real: Canada hasn’t once met its emissions targets. This isn’t something we can kick down the road. Not anymore.
It’s time for Canada to get aggressive. We have brilliant people in this country who are begging for a seat at the table. Let’s do it. Let’s try things, fail fast, and move on until we have scalable solutions. We don’t have time for anything else.
For the past 100 years, we’ve lived in abundance without consequence. Personalized transport, lithium-powered cell phones, goods and services delivered right to your door. We have reached a point where we can’t morally defend our consumption unless we shift towards a more equal, compassionate, and just way of living.
Our systems need to be adapted for electric vehicles. We need better and greener inter-city transportation. We need more trees in our communities, and services within walking distance. We need to master synthetic meats. We need recycling programs that actually work.
The future can look a lot like today, only with less death and destruction.
In the meantime, we need to defend people from climate disasters. House the homeless. Make air-conditioning standard in all homes. Invest in air-purifiers to protect against forest fire smoke.
This is real. This is about people. It’s life or death, and it's time to start acting like it.
About the author…
Eric Dicaire is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared on CBC Montreal, in the The Pigeon, The Link, and The Concordian. He mostly writes about health, climate, and social justice.