Today for the first time Canada is recognizing a national day of truth and reconciliation. The intent is to remember those children who lost their lives in Canada’s residential school system, as well as the survivors and their families.
Residential schools flourished for more than a century, with tens of thousands of indigenous children being torn from their families, taken away for “education.” Many died. Many more were traumatized by the experience, giving the schools a legacy that haunts generations.
There is so much I could say, but today is not the time. Today is a time for listening, to hear the stories of our indigenous neighbors and to share in their mourning. Once there has been time for grief, to acknowledge the sins of the past, then we can move forward.
Reconciling relationships is rarely easy. Especially when the hurts are deeply rooted. I had nothing to do with residential schools. Neither did my ancestors. But that does not remove the necessity for right action now on my part. I belong to a culture and society that sanctioned evil. Saying “I didn’t do it, I wasn’t even born,” doesn’t change that. It is too easy not to accept responsibility.
Like probably every Canadian, I have ideas of ways the relationship between the descendants of Canada’s first nations and the descendants of those who came later can move forward. Today is not the time to propose solutions, no matter how well intentioned. Today is a day for listening.
To that effect, at the top of this post there is a link to a lengthy interview with Chief Kenny Blacksmith, a Cree leader from northern Quebec. During my radio career I met Kenny several times and was always impressed by his willingness to forgive and his desire to being together all Canadians. Kenny does not speak for all indigenous Canadians – no-one does. But he does have a history of serving his community and bringing people together. I thought this message would be an appropriate listening choice on this solemn day, and even more so asw we look for ways to move forward as a nation..