"Behold the candle...it weeps its life away drop by drop...to give forth its flame of light." - Payam Akhavan
|Vanessa (Left) sharing at the NI's hearing in Membertou, N.S|
Payam Akhavan, a professor of international Law at McGill University, shared this childhood prayer in the chapter 'On the knowledge of suffering.' He continues to reflect on the meaning of those words in his book, In search of a better world "...that like a candle, our light shines in the darkness only if we are willing to burn."
As I read these lines, my thoughts turned to that morning. Vanessa Margaret Brooks, a Mi'kmaq woman from Millbrook First Nation, invited me into Canada's backyard. Her sister, Tanya, was murdered in 2009 and dumped in a North End school yard trench. Her murder remains unsolved and part of the statistic in the growing MMIWG crisis in Canada. Vanessa testified in the National Inquiry's hearings in November in Nova Scotia. She, the candle, wept for our nation. She burned so that we could see. Last Monday, Dec. 11th, she spoke of and showed me her scars. Not for attention or validation, but because that's her reality. In three hours, I became dizzy with the flight of memories that spun in their childhood home, arrested at the echoes of lament from the pow wow grounds, sickened at the stories of violence against self and others in their community and shattered in spirit that this, dear friends, is in our backyard.
Vanessa burned bright for our nation. She, drop by drop, recounted pain. She, in between smokes, laughed at our cultural idiosyncrasies. She, the undaunted, had no filter. Just like her shirt proclaimed during the MMIWG hearings. I left feeling emptied, and all I did was listen.
One week later, I find myself still wondering how to respond to all this...