Hope and Reconciliation
As this semester wraps up, I am left feeling reminiscent. A lot has happened since we introduced ourselves months ago. Of course, there have been disappointing continuations of the status quo, but there have also been a lot of very positive steps that I believe have brought this country one step closer to reconciliation.
Annette Lake (Photo by Sarah Turcotte)
I took a class last semester that focused on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and Justice. On the first day of class, we were asked to rate, on a scale from 1 to 10, what our hope was for the future, and whether reconciliation was possible. My classmates predicted that the future was bleak. The class was not an easy one. Particularly upsetting was the time we spent discussing residential schools. It was not easy to hear, but I think discomfort in these situations is important. It ties back to the theme behind this blog: Truth Before Reconciliation. Before we can move forward in repairing relationships, society as a whole must be aware of the truth of everything that has taken place throughout Canada’s colonial history.
On the last day of my TRC class, we were asked, yet again, to provide our rating on our “hope scale” from 1 to 10. Many students, after hearing a semester’s worth of all of the bad that has happened, had lower ratings than the first day. I, on the other hand, maintained my hope. Listening to all of the negative throughout the semester was difficult; the residential school impacts, the child welfare system, environmental issues and the Canadian state’s unwavering attempts to stifle the sovereignty and power of Indigenous nations was a hard pill to swallow.
However, this year outside of the classroom, I also got to see all of the good that was happening. I developed friendships with some fellow Indigenous law students who are absolute powerhouses who I know are going to enter the legal field and shake things up. I also had the privilege of attending the 2022 Indigenous Bar Association Conference, where I got to hear from numerous leading Indigenous lawyers, scholars, and academics, many of whom are making strides in their respective fields.
More recently, the Métis Nation of Alberta ratified their constitution and signed an updated Métis Self-Government Agreement, which recognized the Métis Nation of Alberta as a “government.” This is a huge step toward the MNA getting the recognition that it deserves after a hundred years of activism. Just this past week, the Vatican officially repudiated the doctrine of discovery, which was a doctrine used to legitimize the theft of lands. We explored this doctrine and what the repudiation could mean back in September. To me, this act is more symbolic than anything, but it truly does represent a step in the right direction.
I hope by reading our posts on the blog this year you were able to learn some of the difficult truths behind the experiences of many Indigenous folks today and throughout history. I hope you have built upon your understanding of why and how our society is built in such a way to favour dominant groups, to the detriment of others.
It is important to realize that every single one of us has a role to play in reconciliation, and that these roles will be different depending on our individual strengths, abilities, and privilege (or lack thereof). Even if you aren’t doing drastic and groundbreaking actions, smaller actions can matter too. We all have work to do.
Thank you for coming on this journey with me.
Sarah Turcotte (née Johnson)
 “Canada and Métis Nation of Alberta Sign Updated Self-Government Agreement”, The Métis Nation of Alberta (24 February 2023), online: <albertametis.com/news/mna-and-canada-sign-self-government-recognition-and-implementation-agreement/>.  Nicole Winfield, “Indigenous leaders hope Vatican’s repudiation of oppressive colonial concepts leads to real change”, CBC News (30 March 2023), online: <www.cbc.ca/news/canada/vatican-reject-discovery-doctrine-indigenous-demands-1.6795728>.