Reconciliation in Canada

30 Oct

Last week I attended the Canadian Race Relations Foundation Conference – Inclusive Canada, 2017 and Beyond. It was a thought-provoking and intense two days with a strong theme of Indigenous inclusion.

The opening keynote was by Chief Dr. Robert Joseph, Ambassador for Reconciliation Canada. He spoke passionately about reconciliation, and I’d like to share some of the thoughts that touched me the most in this blogpost.

Merriam-Webster defines reconciliation as “the act of causing two people or groups to become friendly again after an argument or disagreement.” It’s a noun; but it’s a noun with an action built in. And that action requires us to act.

While Colonization, residential schools, and the Sixties Scoop are hardly disagreements, reconciliation is still a powerful and poignant term to use. The Truth and Reconciliation process in Canada was an important process, and the subsequent report outlines 94 calls to action to move reconciliation forward.

Chief Dr. Robert Joseph talked about the importance of recognizing that there is much we don’t know, and he urged us to listen.

He then offered this (and I believe it was in reference to someone else’s thought, although sadly I have not recorded their name) that “reconciliation can be grand. But maybe it’s about a million other little things ordinary Canadians can do where we live. Maybe that is more profound. Everyone can contribute to reconciliation and transforming the country into something better.”

Powerful.

So, what can we all do to participate in reconciliation?
Some examples include:

– Learning; educate ourselves about the history and legacy of colonization, about Indigenous cultures, and about present conditions on reserves, about Indigenous cultures. For example: read the Truth and Reconciliation reports, and participate in local Indigenous festivals and events that are open to the public (and bring your children so that they learn, and are open from a young age).
– Writing; writing letters to the local newspaper or to our MPs letting them know that these conditions are not acceptable (for example, 25% of First Nations children live in poverty)
– Speaking up. When we see or hear discrimination towards Indigenous peoples, we must speak up and speak out against it.
– Listening; listening to the stories, voices and current concerns of our Indigenous brothers and sisters.
– Discussing; being open to the transforming power of dialogue and of hearing someone else’s truth about what it means to live in this country.
– Be aware; catch and challenge the bias and prejudice (conscious or unconscious) that we may have towards Indigenous people.

No matter what you do in your own way, Chief Dr. Robert Joseph urged everyone to have a “back pocket reconciliation plan” and to “adopt it as a core vale and as a continuous way of living”. That back pocket reconciliation plan is personal. We are meant to carry it with us and demonstrate it through our actions and thoughts every day. And it is meant to inform and change how we see each other, the conversations we have, what we expect from our country, how we create the future together, and the future we create.

He told us that this back pocket reconciliation plan “will change the way you see yourself and the world around you.”

If we are consciously about reconciliation, it will also change this country for the better, and with it the lives of Indigenous peoples – and all Canadians.

See more.

Copyright 2016 Annemarie Shrouder                                                                                          Speaker, Facilitator, and Consultant on issues of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion  www.annemarieshrouder.com

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