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  • Writer's pictureRyan Deneault

Opinion: Take Your First Step Towards Understanding Truth & Reconciliation

As I often do before I write, I smudged and sat with creator, the grandfathers, grandmothers, and my father. Being that I am dedicated to my own healing journey, and I am of Indigenous and British descent, this day is a complex one for me.

This is a National Day highlighting the need to be truthful about our past to recognize our individual roles in that Truth and to dedicate ourselves to seeking out the truth, as difficult as it may be to digest. From this place, we begin our journey individually, as a family and professionally on how we reconcile that within ourselves and the organizations we represent.

If you are reflecting on this day and this day alone, I commend you for starting this journey. You will find in time that this is not enough if you want to take what happened to Indigenous people in this country seriously to affect the relationship you have with the country and the Nations of Indigenous People that walk among you.

As you navigate your relationship with this day, keep in mind that our Canadian ancestors did everything they could to strip our Indigenous brothers and sisters of their spiritual, physical, emotional and intellectual well-being. Our government, church and police force took away land, ceremony, traditional teachings, language, cultural ways and then….

I want you to close your eyes for a moment, take a deep breath, and imagine you are four or five years old with parents who don’t speak English. Now imagine three figures coming to your door - A policeman, a priest, or a nun, and a government agent, to take you away from your family by train to a massive red brick building. You are kept away from any siblings, relatives or friends. You will not interact with any students of the opposite sex the entire time you are at the school. Your brothers and sisters are likely sent off to other residential schools. You have no one to lean on. Your clothes are taken off in front of these adults in black cloaks, with whom you’ve never met. They de-louse you with this burning white power wash, and scrub you, and put different clothing on you. You begin to call in agony as the nuns cut your hair. They don’t know or worse don’t care that cutting your hair is a ritual only performed when a parent has passed away. You are then given a bed with all the other “students” in a large, cold room. You’ve just experienced day one of a 12-year journey that will strip you of all that you know and replace it with colonial teachings; all the while beating it into you that your parents and community are savages, and you’re lucky to have the savage taken out of you.

Now that you can feel what that might be like, I ask you, who was the savage?

People ask me, “What can I do?”

I can't tell you what to do. That’s your journey.

What I can do is tell you a bit about what I’ve done. I have dedicated myself to seeking the truth about Canada’s past through an Indigenous lens. I talk openly about what I have found.

Recently, I discovered that the Tk'emlúps te Secwe̓pemc offers Residential School Tours for less than $20. So, I decided to visit the school. Once there, I was introduced to the fantastic literature available to access from their Culture and Language Department that can help expand one's understanding of the History of the Residential School.

Once I had a baseline understanding of the history, I changed my focus to understanding the Truth and Reconciliation Report and the 94 Calls to Action. This can be overwhelming. I am still working my way through this information. For me, the 94 calls to action form a framework to provide Indigenous People the right to:
· Decision-making on the land
· Decision-making on Child Welfare
· Traditional language and teaching
· Spiritual Practice, and
· Cultural Ways

Recently, the Federal and Provincial Governments have implemented the 47 articles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I have begun researching the United Nations’ path to these Articles.

This journey doesn’t happen one day a year. This day is a reminder that Canada has a heartbreaking past relationship with the Nations of Indigenous people on Turtle Island (Canada). It is a history that has finally been brought into light. We have an opportunity to acknowledge and support this very important healing journey.

Remember, there are a thousand ways to heal, and we heal when we walk together.
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