We Can Do This Together

Our country is in mourning. We are mourning for the past several weeks what indigenous people have been mourning for generations. Over and over indigenous people have told us their children were buried in unmarked graves at the sites of residential schools. These were not schools. They did not provide education, they did not strive to better children, to nurture them, to guide them, to help them be the best version of themselves. They did none of that. Can you imagine how it would feel to be unheard for generation after generation, to not know where your children were and what happened to them, to be judged harshly for your wounded spirit, for having been severed from your sense of self, to have no one with political power come forth to say how can I help? And today, can you imagine the healing power of a nation standing beside those who are mourning, to stand beside without looking away, to listen to the truth, to really hear it, and to extend a hand to ask how we might help. I played no role in establishing residential schools. You played no role in establishing residential schools. But we all play a role in healing. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s voice was not about blame, was not about revenge. The language is respectful, honest, and heartfelt. It is about hearing the truth and moving forward together, to stand for the principles we cling so tightly to, principles that must embrace each one of us who call Canada home. We are in this together.

Some feel that Canada Day should not be altered, that we have much to be proud of. We do. We can honour this country by demonstrating our humanity, our compassion and understanding. Instead of fireworks, I will light candles in memory, in honour of each child who has been recovered, and each child yet to be recovered. On Canada Day I will wear my orange t-shirt and I will reflect on the country I love, the country it wants to be and what role I will play to ensure my actions reflect that. I will write out with pen and paper the 94 Calls to Action from The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, reported in 2015, thirteen of which have been completed. You may find them at www.trc.ca/assets/pdf/Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf. I will study each Call to Action, to identify where and how I can participate in their implementation. I will continue reading the Summary of the Truth and Reconciliation Final Report. You may find it at www.trc.ca/assets/pdf/Honouring_the_Truth_Reconciling_for_the_Future_July_23_2015.pdf. The report is also available in book form (ISBN: 9781459410671). I won’t turn away from the wrongs and I will hold my hand up to be counted among those who want to do better, want to be better.

I am Metis, a member of the Canadian Metis Council of Canada. I hold my membership close to my heart, for no reason other than pride, in recognition of my Cree grandmother born in 1775 at Fort Prince of Wales at the mouth of the Churchill River. I call on her now to guide me. I listen for her voice speaking across the generations.

It is incumbent upon us to educate ourselves, to be informed. We would never ask someone whose legs had been broken to show us how to walk. There is a vast array of books available in both the fiction and non-fiction category to help us understand. One resource is CBC Books, providing details of indigenous writers and their work. David A Robertson is a Winnipeg writer of Cree descent. He has written extensively on his family’s experience with residential schools and with intergenerational trauma. He recently wrote in The Toronto Star about the children’s bodies recovered and those waiting to be recovered. “The best way to honour their memory is to fight for a better Canada because, in doing so, you are fighting for them,” he wrote. I am up for the task. I hope you are, too. We are capable of building and restoring something beautiful from the suffering. We can do this together.

wendistewart@live.ca