Hello readers and welcome to another year of your favourite blog, ReconciliACTION!
This year I am honoured to be able to join the ReconciliACTION YEG blog along with Sarah Johnson, Ajae Wilson, Siobhan Washburn, and Kate Latos. I look forward to joining the team in exploring reconciliation in Canada, and analysing progress (or lack thereof) made on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.
My name is Lauren Styles and I am a second-year law student at the University of Alberta, and a settler on Treaty 6 Territory. I am a third-generation Albertan and my family is of British, Italian, Ukrainian, Polish, and Bulgarian heritage.
I remember learning about Residential Schools in my grade ten IB Social Studies class. Although that was nineteen years ago, I still vividly remember the disgust I felt hearing that girls weren’t given sanitary products to deal with menstruation.
During my undergraduate degree at the University of Alberta, I felt disgust again hearing of the incredibly disproportionate number of Indigenous people involved in the legal system and incarcerated. While Indigenous people represent about 4% of the Canadian population, they are grossly overrepresented in the prison population. In 2021, about 37% of the male prison population was Indigenous men. As of May 2022, Indigenous women represented 50% of the women’s prison population. More crimes are not being committed by Indigenous people, but arrests and incarceration sentences are handed out more freely.
As more horrors have been revealed about residential schools in the past several years, the disgust intensified, and I found myself feeling disappointed. Disappointed with myself for not learning more, for not taking action sooner. Disappointed with the education system, for not teaching more about the legacy of residential schools and the lasting impacts on survivors and their families. Disappointed with the government, for taking so long to start the process of reconciliation. Disappointment with the church. Disappointment with the Crown.
Coming into law school, I see opportunities to harness my disgust and disappointment and turn them into action. My interest is in specialized courts (Indigenous courts, Mental Health Court, Drug Court) and the Restorative Justice program recently launched in Alberta. Our legal system can and should take an interdisciplinary approach, one that considers social, psychological, and environmental factors. To make a meaningful contribution to this in my legal career, I need to learn more.
Over the past several months, I have asked myself whether I should be a writer for this blog. I do not want to take up space or offer a voice when there is someone more suited for the role. I struggle with perfectionism, and the fear of making a mistake paralyzes me at times. Heading into this blog, I sometimes feel paralyzed that I may write something wrong.
This discomfort and this fear show me that I have more work to do. It is my hope that in writing this blog I will be able to share my thought process while working through what I need to do to be part of reconciliation, and perhaps that it may help others do the work that is needed to show up and take action too.
The Honourable Murray Sinclair, former senator, the first Indigenous judge in Manitoba and second in Canada, and notably the chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, stated that “for reconciliation to work, and for our relationship to be renewed, there must be awareness, acceptance, apology, atonement and action”. In my posts I will explore the TRC Calls to Action through the lens of these “5 As”- where we were, where we are at, and where we need to go.
I am eternally grateful for this opportunity and for the amazing people I will be working with on this blog.
Thank you for reading, and see you next week!
Team ReconciliAction YEG