As usual, the missing piece to a project puzzle showed up, unannounced, comme un cheveux sur la soupe, as my mother would say (like a hair on your soup) on CBC while I was driving home from Regina on Saturday. Two weeks after we hosted the Social Justice in Motion Conference of the Archdiocese of Regina, I am mulling over possible next steps around Reconciliation for discussion with our Social Justice Committee.
Leaving the city on a preternaturally warm May late-afternoon, coffee at hand, I boost up the radio volume to hear Rosanna Deerchild, host of Unreserved, chatting about the very topic with Ry Moran, director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (a rebroadcast from October 22, 2017). This centre has morphed from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was established as part of the Residential School Settlement Agreement with a five-year mission to inform Canadians about what happened in residential schools and to collect and document those stories. The TRC finished its work in December, 2015.
Moran maintains that each person in Canada must own reconciliation and contribute to it. The Calls to Action are everyone’s responsiblity. "One of the most fundamental responsibilities that individuals have,” he says, “is to take that inner journey, that self-reflective journey.” He provides questions for all of us to answer in the depths of our hearts, to see what we really do know about indigenous people. Here are the questions:
· What really am I carrying around? What prejudices? What biases?
· Perhaps what racism am I carrying around?
• Do I know any Indigenous people? If not, why?
• Have I ever participated in ceremony? If not, why?
• Am I able to name the traditional territory I stand on? If not, why?
• Have I meaningfully engaged in deep conversation with Indigenous people? If not, why?
• Have I read an Indigenous author? If not, why?
I confess to ignorance on First Nations for most of my life. I have probably used insensitive, if not downright racist, language, without even being aware of it, for decades. When I was invited to facilitate Treaty workshops in French for teachers under the auspices of the Office of the Treaty Commissioner almost ten years ago, what started out as a service I could provide turned into the self-reflective journey Moran describes.
Since then, I have read extensively. During the workshops, I had the privilege of listening to many Elders and engaging with them on a host of subjects. As a result, I couldn’t help but analyze my own language and my worldview, and to realize that I had to make changes. Even more disturbing, my informed perspective colored mind movies from childhood experiences and echoes of conversations from my youth.
So, depending on the answers to those questions, we can take some steps, ourselves, toward reconciliation. Although governments, schools, and community organizations have their own responsibilities to act, we can’t rely on them to do the coordinating and organizing for us. Each of us must take a few small steps that will move our country closer to reconciliation. In my next post, I’ll list a few possibilities and provide links to more to make exploration manageable right away.
For now, though, the questions are enough to ponder. I thought about them all the way home. As you see, they are going to hang around for a while. They compel me to action. These posts number among my own small steps.