Chapter 1 - Reconciliation is a gift

Chapter 1 - Reconciliation is a gift

Chapter 1 - Reconciliation is a gift

Chapter 1 - Reconciliation is a gift

Chapter One of this educational series explores the Indian Act ,and its 94 calls to action, including the story of the Jordan Principle and its implications for our communities, Truth and Reconciliation. Our speaker Kevin Lamoureux also shares what reconciliation is and how we can all see it as a gift.

Kevin Lamoureux

PRESENTER

Kevin Lamoureux

Professor and Associate Vice President, University of Winnipeg

 

PRESENTER

Kevin Lamoureux

Professor and Associate Vice President, University of Winnipeg

PRESENTER

Kevin Lamoureux

Professor and Associate Vice President, University of Winnipeg

PRESENTER

Kevin Lamoureux

Professor and Associate Vice President, University of Winnipeg

PRESENTER

Kevin Lamoureux

Professor and Associate Vice President, University of Winnipeg

Transcript

Bijou, Hello, Mino gigizheb, Good morning. I'm Kevin Lamoureux. I have the great pleasure of speaking to you today from here at the The Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre on traditional territory. And I wanted to talk to you today a little bit about reconciliation.

This is one of those topics that can be difficult to understand and difficult to unpack, but it's one that I enjoy talking about so very much. And before we get into anything too heavy or too weighty, I wanted to start with a little bit of a story if I may. And I wanted to share with you the story about one of the best days I've ever had in my life. If we were to talk about some of the best days of our life, we could come up with many, many examples. Perhaps the day we got married, perhaps the day our children were born. One of my best days actually was about a half a decade ago. I got to be in Ottawa, Ontario on June 2nd, 2015, for the release of the final report of the truth and reconciliation commission. On that day, I don't know if you remember, if you got to be there yourself, if you saw it on the television, but there was a reading in a hotel from the report and everyone had gathered together to be present for this.

But after the formalities, everybody went outside to a public square underneath the open sky. And there were just as many non-indigenous people there as there were indigenous, and it didn't matter. It didn't matter what background people came from, what language they spoke, what religion they followed. All that mattered was that Canadians had come together in the spirit of being a part of something good. And we got to hear presentations from Justice Murray Sinclair, that booming voice when he talked about Canada healing from its difficult history.

I got to listen to one of my fellow Manitobans, Mr. Wab Kinew, who spoke at that event for a full five minutes in fluent Ojibwe language. And at the end of that five minutes, he said to the folks that had gathered there, that he offered these words as a statement. That when Duncan Campbell Scott tried to kill our languages, he failed.

And I remember filling with a sense of pride and the sense of dignity. This sense of hope. I got to see people singing the old songs. I got to see people dancing to the sound of the drum. And I had this feeling come over me that my own grandparents, Mary and Eiji, who had both been survivors, long since passed away. I had this feeling that they were there with me almost like they were right over my shoulder. And they got to see these beautiful things and hear things they had never heard in their lives. It was one of the best days of my life. And what happened that day is that we were given a gift and I want to be crystal clear about who I mean when I say we. Each and every one of us as brothers and sisters, fellow Canadians, we were given a gift that day.

And the gift that we were given by my estimation were the 94 calls to action of the truth and reconciliation commission. These calls to action that I've been referring to ever since as our roadmap home. This is our way towards the country that should have been our birthright. This is our way towards the country that should have been here waiting for us if we came as newcomers to this beautiful land. It's certainly our way towards the country we would want to leave behind for our children. And so what I've been asking of all Canadians and what I would ask of you, if I may, is to simply read the 94 calls to action. It won't take you very long, but as you read through these calls to action, I'm going to ask you to think about two very simple questions. Now these are simple without being simplistic.

There's a lot going on here and you'll see what I mean, as soon as I share them with you, the first is this very simply, why is this being asked of us? And I think if we can answer that question for all 94, I think that that will serve as the truth part of truth and reconciliation. And if this is a typical audience listening to this presentation, I think for many of us, this may expose us to stories about Canada that we've never heard before. And if that's the case, I want you to understand that that is not your fault.

There's a very good reason why most of us have never had an opportunity to hear these stories. And we can talk about that. We can talk about what we're doing today to ensure that that doesn't happen to any other generations moving forward. But if this is the first time that you hear these stories, there may be many moments on this journey where you feel very sad or perhaps you'll feel very angry, but I want you to understand that acknowledging those feelings, processing those feelings, that's as much a part of truth and reconciliation as anything else. You deserve that. You are owed the opportunity to grieve some of the things you may hear on this journey.

Let me give you an example. One example I often share with folks is call to action number three, which reads like this, "We call upon all levels of government to fully implement Jordan's principle." Well, if we were to ask that question for that call to action, we would have to learn about Jordan's principle. And so we would hear the story of a child born in 1999 in Manitoba, a beautiful community called Norway House. If you know your Canadian history, you may recall that Norway House was the center of the fur trade for several hundred years, a beautiful community on the north side of Lake Winnipeg. And this child was born very, very ill. Jordan, this beautiful little boy, and was flown from that community to Winnipeg, to where I lived to the children's hospital. And he was stabilized to the point where he could return home. If he was to receive ongoing medical care in his community. I think we would acknowledge that for most of our children, that's a service that would be provided almost immediately.

But because Jordan was first nation living on a first nations community and because our first nations brothers and sisters are covered by a different healthcare system than you and I, of course, most of us will be provincial. They're federal. The governments couldn't decide on who was going to pay the bill to send this child home. The federal government said they weren't going to pay for it. Province of Manitoba said it wasn't their responsibility. Norway House could not afford to pay that bill.

And so this debate about who was going to pay to send this child home, to provide equal access to services and support went around and around and around for five years. For five years, this child lay in a hospital bed waiting to go home, ready to go home, watching children come in and out of that hospital who were allowed to go home simply because they were born a different race in Canada. I wish I was talking about the 1800s or sometime way long ago, but unfortunately I'm talking about 2000 to 2005, until he died. And he died in that hospital bed, never getting to see the family that couldn't afford to come and visit him, never getting to step foot on his traditional territory to put his feet into beautiful Lake Winnipeg.

And when he passed, every level of government looked at that in shame, as well they should. And they said, "We will never let that happen again." And they called that commitment, Jordan's Principle, a commitment to equal access to services. Except that if we followed that story further, we might discover that Canada has failed to live up to Jordan's Principle on almost every opportunity it's had to do so.

In fact, there's a beautiful community on the east coast called Pick Two Landing, a very famous story of Jeremy and his grandmother Beetle and a community that almost went bankrupt fighting for something that was already promised to them, the right to keep their child at home. And then we might learn that our federal government today spends more money litigating against first nations than any other groups on the face of the planet, including corporations that poison our water and destroy our land. If you had never heard that story before, you might feel very sad or you might feel very angry, but I think it's important for all of us to hear Jordan's story. Not because I want to overwhelm me with sadness. That is not the point. But so that we can be a part of change if we choose.

So I'm inviting us on a journey that may not necessarily always be comfortable, but I do hope it's empowering. That brings me to the second question, which again, simple, without being simplistic, would our community, where you live your province, this beautiful country, would we be better off for the fulfillment of these calls to action?

Obviously I have a bias in this regard. This video isn't about trying to shove opinions down your throat. Instead, I'm going to ask you to consider your own truth, because if you feel that we would be better for the fulfillment of these calls to action. Hey, if we never saw a child lay in a hospital bed again for five years, denied the right to go home because of his race, taking into account all the legislative changes, the budgetary consequences. If we would be a better society for that, then we have an opportunity.

Again, the opportunity that we have is, even though we didn't create the problem, and I need you to understand that no one watching this video is responsible for having created the problem. We get to be part of the solution. That's the incredible gift that's been given to us. That's reconciliation.

So let me say two things about this word reconciliation. Again, this is a word that can be very difficult to understand. There can be as many opinions as there are people offering an opinion. And so at the very least, I should explain where I'm coming from when I use this word. I also have to recognize that I have brothers and sisters, indigenous brothers and sisters who reject this term altogether. And I understand that there are people who feel that reconciliation is impossible. There are people that feel that reconciliation is dead.

We have to acknowledge that these calls to action were given to us before the murder of Colten Boushie was found not guilty and walked free. This was before Tina Fontaine, 14 year old child who was murdered before her killer was found, not guilty and walked free. This is before those fisheries on the east coast, where indigenous fishermen were attempting to make a living were set on fire. This is before RCMP officers pointed machine guns at protestors and Elsipogtog in New Brunswick for protesting the poisoning of their water. This is before the same thing happened again at Wetʼsuwetʼen in British Columbia. This is before our sister Joyce Echaquan died in a Quebec hospital listening to nurses say racist things about her as she passed into the spirit world. This is before 215 unmarked graves were discovered at Kamloops and now thousands across the country. I can appreciate the hurt. I continue to use the word. I continue to believe in reconciliation. So at the very least, I should explain why.

Two things I believe to be true. The first is this. I truly believe that we wouldn't have reconciliation at all. We wouldn't be talking about this. I wouldn't be making this video. We wouldn't be having these conversations nationally. Those little children would've never been found if it hadn't been for the courage and the strength and the dignity of residential school survivors. That's the first thing I believe to be true. This is a gift given to us by survivors. If it hadn't been for them, having the courage to share these stories, stories that sometimes had never been spoken aloud, stories their own families may have never heard, stories that come with so much pain.

If it hadn't been for that courage, I don't think we, socially, would've come around to having these conversations. I think this history would still be as invisible as it was 12 years ago or 15 years ago. And it's incredible to me and perhaps for any of us listening that identify as indigenous, that we get to acknowledge that we come from people who, as children, may have experienced some of the very worst that Canada has been guilty of. And yet, they grew to be the kind of people that could extend their hand in friendship back to that very same society.

Oh, to me, that's incredible. Yes. There are barriers to success in indigenous communities. There are factors acting against the vibrancy of our children. There is intergenerational traumas, but there is also intergenerational strength and intergenerational love and kindness. And that's as much a part of the story as anything else. To acknowledge that makes me feel good. It helps me raise my head with pride. So that's the first thing that I believe to be true, that we were given reconciliation as a gift by survivors.

The second thing about this term that I would like to share is perhaps a little bit more difficult to understand. Bear with me. I'm going to try to explain myself. But the second point is that I don't believe that reconciliation is something that we are doing. We, in this case, being Canada, society. It's not something that we are doing out of pity for indigenous people. I don't think that's accurate at all. In fact, I believe the opposite to be true. I think that reconciliation was given to us so that we could be a part of healing Canada. I think this is about Canada's journey to healing.

So what am I saying? Am I saying that Canada isn't a beautiful place? That's not what I'm saying. I'll often share with audiences when I have the opportunity to share, a little bit about myself. I come from mixed ancestry, meaning that my father's side of the family are Ojibwe. I already mentioned Mary and Eiji. My mother's side of the family are Ukrainian. And being Ukrainian. I'm told that my grandmother, when she was a very small child, fled Ukraine to escape the Soviet Union after World War I. I'm told that if she hadn't fled with her parents, they might have faced persecution and maybe death. This of course was before Holodomor and the Ukrainian Holocaust.

And so my family literally had the opportunity to survive and exist because of Canada. I will never be able to say enough good regarding what Canada did for my Ukrainian family. And yet, as beautiful as this country is, and as beautiful as this country has been for so many people, we haven't reached our full potentially yet. Have we? And nor can we, nor will we, when there are people living inside our borders under third world conditions. We can't be the country that we were meant to be when there are people within our borders living under conditions that other people flee countries to escape from. That's not our potential. That's not who we were meant to be. We can do better as a country.

And so I believe that reconciliation is a gift that was given to us by survivors so that we could be a part of healing this country, even though we didn't create the problem. We can choose to be a part of the solution.


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