I have always enjoyed the positive characterization of Canadians as being polite and apologetic. It made me feel good; wholesome. I felt humbled with pride.
However, a recent Ecumenical Conference on Mining that I attended in early May greatly frustrated that image. I heard of the devastating environmental impact and the negative physical health consequence of mining. I learned that Canada is home to 75 per cent of the world’s mining and mineral exploration companies, and Canadian stock exchanges raise 40 per cent of all mineral exploration capital worldwide. I was startled to see images of local communities referring to Canada with disgust and disdain. I felt humbled with an unfamiliar shame.
The US government has often been characterized as global leaders in military activity. On behalf of the global Anabaptist family, I have often viewed Mennonite Church USA as having a particular global responsibility to be a witness and voice of peace to their government. Their geographical presence contained global responsibilities.
As I reflect on the percentage of global mining conducted by Canadian firms, I am left with an unsettling and growing question. On behalf of the global Anabaptist family, do we as Mennonite Church Canada bear a particular global responsibility to be a witness and voice of challenge to the political and economic powers that drive the resource extraction industry? Of course this cannot be done without also addressing our individual and collective lifestyles that support the industry. I am feeling humbled by a growing sense of accountability.
As I met with our global guests at the Ecumenical Mining Conference, I felt an overwhelming urge to apologize. But I didn’t. I knew that in light of such incriminating evidence a mere apology would be insulting. Instead I looked down in disgrace. The usual posture of an apologetic Canadian would be inadequate and unsatisfactory.