All Canadians are victims of Indian Residential Schools. Whether you attended one, are a relative intergenerationally affected, a parent left behind or a non Aboriginal person in Canada who was fed a false history. It’s important to also acknowledge much of the 96% of Canada’s population that isn’t aboriginal have had their perceptions of Indigenous people and communities altered in a negative way by omitting to so many about the role their government played in killing the Indian in the child. The government that they learned about in school was a lot more mean spirited & malicious than many Canadians could ever imagine.
This weekend is the conclusion of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and has many people asking the question ‘what next?’. The spot light will be shined on the courage and resilience of IRS Survivors and I hope the rest of Canada is paying attention. When the TRC began, only 49% of Canadians knew about residential schools. Over six years later, I hope the hard work of the commission can be articulated with clear recommendations for community and for government to realize together. When I think of what our next collective step is I believe there are a few answers.
1.) there can be no reconciliation until our women and children are safe: this means we have to work together to address the normalized violence that has led to the astronomical number of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. The solutions must include the voices of our women. It also means addressing the alarming rate of kids in the care of Child and Family Services in Manitoba – over 10,000 kids need our help to get healthy or back to their family.
2.) Education Curriculum must change: as recommended by the Treaty Relations Commission we must ensure all children receive an accurate picture of history inclusive of the strengths and importance of Indigenous commuities in the founding of Canada as well as an acknowledgement that this country deliberately, systematically and in partnership with churches sought out to harm Indigenous and non indigenous children alike through misinformation. The damage was caused through education and the healing must come through education too.
3.) Sustained deliberate and voluntary actions that emphasize healing & the strengths of communities: this one includes indigenous and non indigenous folks to of their own will be an example for their relatives, peers & neighbours to follow. At this point it seems fitting to highlight Meet Me at the Bell Tower and the Christian Reform Church organization called the Indigenous Family Centre; we partner every week with leadership coming from indigenous young leaders and support coming from this faith based organization. It’s important to note the IFC believes in respecting indigenous teachings as well as practicing their own Christian faith together in the same space builds understanding and allows for healing to begin on all sides.
This is about Identity. For all of us. What does it mean to be Canadian? What does it mean to be indigenous? We are all affected by this legacy and it’s gonna take every Canadian to acknowledge that so we can heal and walk out of the darkness with heads held high, together.