Invisible North: The Search For Answers on a Troubled Reserve by Alexandra Shimo

I don’t even know how to start. I certainly know that there is no way I can write all that I want to say, and articulate all my feelings in one blog post. This relatively short, 171 page book has absolutely enraged me. As someone who has grown up in Canada, I always knew that the indigenous people of Canada have not been treated with respect… now I realize how much of an UNDERSTATEMENT that is.

A couple of posts ago, I talked about CBC’s Canada Reads 2017, of which the theme was “What is the one book Canadians need now”. Well, here is a book Canadians need. We need it desperately. Please, if you have not already read it, read Invisible North: The Search for Answered on a Troubled Reserve.

A quick synopsis: Alexandra Shimo, a freelance journalist, goes to the reserve of Kashechewan. In January 2007, there is a suicide crisis on the reserve and Shimo questions why “the reserve had emerged from obscurity to full-blown crisis and back again within just a couple of weeks. Such upsetting issues don’t just disappear” (pg. 19). Shimo is in Kashechewan for several months, and what she finds is outlined in this book. This book is powerful because it weaves together the facts and figures and the history of Canadian reserves with Shimo’s personal experiences in Kashechewan.

Invisible North is an important book because, as I mentioned in my post about The Break by Katherena Vermette, how can Canadians fight against issues we don’t understand, or even worse- don’t know about. Invisible North shows the reader:

1) How terribly the people of Kashechewan (and other indigenous communities) have been and continue to be treated by the government.

2) The many, many, MANY ways the people and leadership of Kashechewan have tried and tried and tried to improve their situation, only to literally be ignored. As Shimo mentions, indigenous communities are in a sickening “Catch-22” that prevents them from escaping the poverty they are in.

3) WAYS PEOPLE LIKE YOU AND ME CAN HELP!! Shimo brilliantly included a chapter titled “Getting Involved”. Awareness is extremely important, however, providing ways for readers to get involved provides opportunity for a step in the right direction. Some examples of organizations she highlights are: http://www.themfi.ca/ and http://www.rotaryhip.com/ .

Invisible North is not the type of book one reads and forgets about the next day. I will probably mention this book time and time again. I am going to tell as many people to read it as possible.

One thing that may be overlooked, is that by suppressing these cultures and these people, Canada is not only responsible for committing and perpetuating a huge social injustice, Canada is also missing out on so much opportunity, beauty, and wisdom. The “see-saw” is way out of balance, it’s embarrassing. Reconciliation is the biggest issue in Canada, and we cannot move towards it fast enough- as it is we are already far too late.

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