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Reconciliation: Everyone's Responsibility

Tansi Nîtôtemtik,

This Friday will mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation: a day to recognize the legacy of the residential school system, and to honour those who were taken and those who never returned home. It is a day for reflection, remembering, and reconciliation.

Reconciliation is a continuous process. The harms committed and the damage these harms have caused do not begin and end with residential schools. Reconciliation cannot be a quick fix. In fact, there is so much work to do for reconciliation, that it can feel difficult, overwhelming, or even impossible.

It may be easier to pretend that the atrocities committed against Indigenous peoples are far in the past, historical in nature, and committed by other people. That it was terrible and inexcusable, but not your fault. That reconciliation is an “Indigenous issue,” and should be left to Indigenous communities. Without acknowledging the effects of intergenerational trauma, it could seem like many of the issues Indigenous people are facing today are solely based on their choices: their own fault, so not your problem.

This type of thinking allows for the huge weight of reconciliation to feel like it’s not to fall on your shoulders. You aren’t the one who made racist and oppressive laws, you aren’t the one who stole land or stole children from their families, you didn’t guide the cultural genocide. You weren’t even born yet when so many of the wrongs were committed, so why should you have to do the hard work that is reconciliation? How can you be to blame?

But reconciliation isn't about blame, it’s about making a better Canada for all of us. It’s crucial to understand that harm done to the relationship between Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous Canadians is not just an issue of the past. Overincarceration, racial profiling, racist stereotypes, higher unemployment rates, and “the disproportionate apprehension of [Indigenous] children by child-welfare agencies” are just a few examples of how the relationship continues to be harmed today.[1]

Reconciliation is the current responsibility of every Canadian.

We all have to do our part to build better relationships and mutual respect for one another, and to create a future that we can be proud of. It can be hard to know where to start, and there are many barriers that can get in the way. We have to accept the horrible truths of Canadian history, let all of the emotions that come with those truths wash over us, and decide that these atrocities are not going to happen again. We have to make the effort to change things, and to overcome any misconceptions about Indigenous peoples that are still lurking.

Remember, that while we may not be directly responsible for the many wrongs committed against Indigenous peoples, we are responsible for the way we choose to engage with reconciliation. We have the opportunity to make a better future.

This year, on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, I hope we can all recognize our duty to advance reconciliation. It’s not something that can happen overnight, and it’s not something to only think about once a year on September 30th; but it’s a duty we all share, and one that is vital for Canada’s future.

Until next time,

Team Reconcili-ACTION YEG

[1] Honouring the Truth, Reconciling the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (Ottawa: Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2015) at 135.

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