Yeah, so I think it's really interesting, coming to land, like thinking about land, from a white perspective, because it is, there's so much innate entitlement and ignorance in your/my whole history of land. So they just shut off so much frames of reference, growing up. It's interesting, like, I was very obsessively, I came from it from the perspective of, you know, the white environmentalist perspective, “I'm going to help people care for the land better and have better relationships with the land”. Then I think in the past couple of years, it's interesting watching how that perspective, still kept being co-opted into this process of colonial land ownership. Then just seeing how the more I be gone the relationship and stepped outside of my white bubble, the more I was confronted with suddenly more layers of land.
So, it's interesting, this land that we're on right now, I live 100 meters away from where I was born, my family were the Mennonites, we've been here 200 years. There's a sense of like, this land, we've been building relationship with this land for a long time. But then recently, I've been looking into that. Our ancestral family farm is right at the corner of the Queen's Bush, where there was a thriving Black community that was kicked out by surveying. Its wild to think how much land is in my family, right? My cousin's land, they just told me recently that, they were farming on that land, they would consistently find pieces of pottery and arrowheads and whatnot. I'm like, How have we hidden this all this history from us all, are from ourselves, and just deluded ourselves into thinking, you know, because we've been here for 200 years, this land, we have some entitlement over this land. I started like, engaging in those conversations, it definitely shifted a whole lot for me. I lived in Wilmot for 15 years, and never really thought of Wilmot as land that had anything to do with social justice, Reconciliation, decolonization. It's not until folks, Indigenous folks come out and are like “Hey! the statues, the narrative of this community in Wilmot, needs to change”. As soon as I start engaging in that, all of a sudden, the white backlash in my family, within the community, was so intense, and I think that kind of further was like, Okay, we need to keep moving ourselves, moving our perspective, further along in this process, and start really asking ourselves about what is it means to be on this land.
As an urban planner, we think of land in terms of plans and constructs, it's very like taking this thing, and how do we construct it and divide it and control it for human interests. I think that makes it very clear just how everything you know, every street corner, every building, everything has been reinforcing this process of like segregating the land, taking the sacredness of the land, just dividing it up and controlling it. Because of that, I'm like, no longer a planner, because I think, you know, all this stuff, it's, it's been a very interesting couple of years of like really looking at land at a whole new level of ownership and control. Looking at the lands of my family and my community in a whole other way. I've been like trying to talk to my family about this and I’ve been in sermon series and talk to churches about their relationship to land. It made me realize, not only is there this whole planning legislative control of land, but it's like the psychological, the psychological impacts of that, and the spiritual impacts of that, how that has really fractured our own narratives as white people and has filled us with all this fear and anxiety and selfishness to try and like, control whatever little corner of this, plan surveyed land that we can. To try and unpack that, there's just so much resistance. I think that's kind of what it means right now, for me, is one about continuing to push myself out of this bubble and into relationship. Local indigenous folks are so, so clear about what needs to happen, whether it's like, you know, land transfer, or rental agreements, or development dance, it's like not hard stuff to follow through. The hard stuff is just the intense white resistance, and the intense psychological and spiritual trauma that white people have, and do not want to deal with. I'm hoping to continue in that journey of pushing.
Now I'm doing housing work and looking at affordability. Everyone’s talking about affordability, but you can't separate this conversation from affordability from our whole relationship with property and ownership. Then again, that spiritual anxiety that people have around land and how it shapes their sense of safety. I feel really blessed to build the relationships that I have over the past couple of years and to have been pushed. My family keeps talking about “Oh, David, things are so much more conflicting now and divided now”. I'm like is it more divided now that we're actually now having to engage with this, where before we had these walls up so strong, we wouldn't even talk about it. We wouldn't even talk about our family's relationship. We wouldn't even talk about our relationship because like colonization, and now we're talking about it, like to me that feels like things are shifting. I want to keep pushing that shift. I am very grateful for the opportunity to be a participant in that shift in my family, within the Mennonite community, within Waterloo Region. Yeah, so it's definitely been a lovely, messy, interesting journey, looking at this land, from statues in Wilmot, to my family's farm in Woolwich Township, to affordable housing policy in Kitchener. It feels like these things are all entwined in this spiritual wound that like surveying and colonization and planning have inflicted upon this world.