Understanding our Truth

I am a lifelong learner. I constantly seek out knowledge to further understand the world around me and my place in it. I also question the information I easily have access to and challenging myself to find other perspectives on current events. However, what happens when points of view are intentionally kept hidden or are not easily accessible? This was the challenge with understanding a dark part of our Canadian history: Indian Residential Schools.

On December 15, 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada publicly released their final report – a six-volume culmination of more than six years of research. This included stories and personal testimonies from the past that were hidden for many years. In the last year, it has been made available for the public to read online, purchase from a bookstore, or borrow from the library. You can even listen to other Canadians read the Executive Summary to you via short videos on YouTube. This information is now easily accessible to all Canadians and there is no longer a reason to not know about this part of our history.

Since the TRC report has been shared, I have committed to learning more and helping others learn by offering what I know. As part of RISE, Reconciliation In Solidarity Edmonton, I helped to organize a monthly reading club where a group of us read the full report together in 2016. Our group met monthly to process what we were learning, share our knowledge and learning resources, and strengthen our own personal commitments to knowing more about our collective past. I am also currently leading a TRC discussion group at MacEwan University with faculty and staff to learn more about this history and how it might inform their work in the education sector. All of these are small steps to furthering our common understanding of Canada.

Along with the TRC Final Report, the Commission released 94 Calls to Action – a roadmap to reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. The Calls to Action affect every part of Canadian society and there is a space for each of us to see ourselves reflected in the work that needs to be done. I am trying to integrate this broader understanding of Canada and our history into all aspects of my life and work and am encouraging others to find ways to do the same. The relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in our country has been damaged and we have a responsibility to repair it. The first step is by getting to know one another, find ways to connect with each other, and learn from our differences and similarities.

As we approach the holiday season, I want to recommit to better relations. For me, this starts with continuing to learn about our city’s past and the people who now call Edmonton home. I want to know more about the my ancestors of Amiskwaciwâskahikan (a-misk-wa-chee-wa-ska-he-khan), Beaver Hills House in Cree – the place now known as Edmonton. I want to learn more about the settlers, descendants of settlers, and newcomers who now make this place their home and our nearby Treaty neighbours. Ultimately, I want to learn more about how all of us can live together more peacefully and respectfully.

With 2016 drawing to a close and a new year around the corner, will you join me on this learning journey? I look forward to more opportunities in 2017 to share what I know and learn from others in Ward 5. Together, we can help each other to grow, understand, and connect in the hopes of a stronger, more inclusive city.

If you would like to learn more about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s work or Indian Residential Schools, here are a few resources that you may find useful:

  • A video overview of the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, shared as part of the closing events in 2015.
  • The Survivors Speak, a collection of direct testimony from people who shared their experiences as part of Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
  • In This Together: Fifteen Stories of Truth and Reconciliation, a collection of personal essays by Indigenous and non-Indigenous writers.
  • Suggested reading lists from CBC to learn more about reconciliation and residential schools, one for adults and one for children.

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