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A New Canadian's Perspective

This week’s #TeachingsTuesday is being offered by our friend, Giulia Lucchini. Our team first began interacting with Giulia back in July 2023, and from the very beginning it was easy to see that she deeply committed to the work of pursuing cultural humility and actively advancing the work of reconciliation. Now, our Mentors have the opportunity to interact with her and her team regularly, and we are deeply grateful for her friendship, and for allowing us the opportunity to grow together. Giulia, thank you for taking the time to compile your thoughts and words; we appreciate you very much.

In February 2024, I reached a truly meaningful milestone in my life which marked the culmination of a journey that encouraged me to re-examine my own beliefs and perspectives about what I thought I knew about history, equity and inclusion. This journey was towards becoming a Canadian citizen, a dream that turned into reality.

Today, I am incredibly thankful for the chance to reflect on my path to and within Canada and to share some insights and discoveries I’ve gained along the way.

Growing up in a tiny village in Italy, North America always sparkled in my dreams like a distant land of freedom, endless opportunities and vibrant cultures. The stories in the movies that filled my evenings painted an exciting picture of a place where dreams could actually come to life for people of all backgrounds and ambitions were embraced with open arms.

I left Italy when I was 18 years old and moved to London in the UK. The dream of North America was still alive, and, as I grew older, I found myself gravitating more towards the values embraced by Canada rather than those of the US. The emphasis on multiculturalism, diversity and the mosaic of cultures in Canada resonated deeply with me and my own values.

In December 2017, following a two-year journey of navigating job and immigration applications, my partner, our furry baby – miniature dachshund Aisling - and I were overjoyed to finally embark on our new adventure to Canada. Our destination? The ‘larger than life’ Yukon Territory.

Before our move to the Yukon, my understanding of Indigenous peoples, cultures and histories was not just extremely limited but also, as I soon discovered, fundamentally flawed and misinformed. Growing up, the history lessons I received often glorified colonialism and honoured the idea that European people, culture and religion were superior to all others. Looking back, it is with heavy heart that I realize I never once questioned these narratives: as a child, they were presented to me as historical facts and I absorbed them as such.

Starting to work in a post-secondary education organization in the Yukon that was deeply dedicated to decolonization and Indigenous education profoundly opened my eyes to what I knew, what I thought I knew and what I really knew.

I was challenged to confront the many misconceptions I had carried with me all my life. Through my work, every day, I had the privilege to be exposed to stories of heartbreak and resilience shared directly by Indigenous Elders at campfires or beading circles; through conversations with Indigenous colleagues, I had the opportunity to learn about new ways of knowing, being and doing; because of the organization’s mission to Indigenize its curriculum and practices, I had the chance to work alongside Indigenous leaders to co-develop new strategies, policies, and processes integrating Indigenous knowledge and co-creating innovative solutions.

Living in the Yukon was a transformative and humbling experience, one that brought the light to the importance of learning, unlearning and relearning and one that sparked a deep commitment in me to embrace these revelations.

After spending nearly three enriching years living on the traditional territories of the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council and the Kwanlin Dün First Nation, my journey took a new turn. We decided to relocate to the East Coast, setting our sights on Toronto.

Toronto was a totally new and amazing experience. It was the first time we lived in what one would call a typical North American city, surrounded by skyscrapers and delicious foods from every corner of the globe... especially Little Italy. The city was alive with energy and there was much new to learn and to discover.

As we got used to this new vibrant lifestyle, it didn't take long for me to notice a shift in perspective. Compared to my experiences in the Yukon, our new home felt like a different world in many aspects including my previous exposure to Indigenous cultures. For example, I was used to Land Acknowledgements at the start of meetings, holistic work approaches and efforts to weave Indigenous cultures and traditions into daily work practices. All of that was not really visible in Toronto and it seemed like my connection to Indigenous knowledge was fading into the backdrop. This made me realize even more how formative my first years in Canada had been.

Toronto's rich multicultural fabric provided a wonderful chance to meet people and immigrants from all around the world. Sharing stories about my time in the North sparked always curiosity about life in the territories, the freezing temperatures and the Northen lights. Through many interactions I came to realize that, due to my unique first work experience and location I was afforded a privilege not all immigrants have: the honour of being exposed immediately on arrival in Canada to the Truth and the opportunity to discover a deep desire to support meaningful Reconciliation efforts. It became clearer to me that many newcomers are not given the opportunity to be exposed to the teachings and wisdom of Indigenous peoples and that despite the commitments of the ​Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action 93 to 94​ there is still much work to be done to improve that.

Now living in beautiful Victoria, on the unceded Traditional Territories of the lək̓ʷəŋən peoples, and the Songhees, Esquimalt, and W̱SÁNEĆ First Nations I have once more the joy and privilege to be exposed to and learn from Indigenous Elders, colleagues, friends and committed allies.

As a new Canadian, I reflect back on my journey so far in Canada and feel grateful that all my experiences have contributed to my understanding of the world as a beautifully complex web of connections, where cultures, traditions, knowledge and actions are part of something much bigger. In an attempt to strengthen the connections of this beautiful interconnected web I started to send Orange Shirts to my friends in Europe. This is a small gesture in the hope of sharing stories and knowledge into Indigenous history, sparking conversations, and spreading understanding and awareness.

Two months have passed since I became a Canadian citizen and I came to understand that my initial dream of living in North America has evolved into a more purposeful mission: to contribute to a society that truly celebrates diversity, champions equal opportunities for all, and actively engages in Reconciliation and justice efforts that are accessible to all newcomers in Canada.

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