Emilio, you were recently presented with the Imagine Canada award by the Governor General. Can you tell us about it?
I had taken part in a discussion group between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and mentioned the fact that I had written a song with my friend Joshua Salt that was about environmental issues and the importance of protecting water. That’s when someone told me about the Imagine Canada award and encouraged me to submit my song as Rideau Hall was looking for artistic work that depicted the youth’s hopes and dreams for the Canada of tomorrow.
What does this distinction mean to you?
I was surprised to get it since I had sent in my song at the last minute. They were giving out awards for each province and I won for Quebec. It was very gratifying and important for me to receive this award during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, though receiving it from the Governor General was going against all my beliefs and values given my family’s history, but it was a step in the right direction. I decided to talk about truth instead of reconciliation and in the end, this award recognizes my positions so I’m going to make it mine and use it as I see fit.
So how do you imagine Canada?
They say youth is the voice of the future. When I think about Canada, I start asking myself all sorts of questions. For example, what if all Canadians had to experience the same things Indigenous people did or what if there weren’t any reserves. We ought to ask ourselves these kinds of questions because they shine light on facts, on truth. It’s up to my generation to move things forward and to do so, we need to know and recognize our history, and accept the truth if we want to have solid ground to build on and good relations between nations can be the bricks and mortar of our society.
Listen to Emilio Wawatie and Joshua Salt’s song here: https://soundcloud.com/musiquenomade/emilio-wawatie-et-joshua-salt