National Day for Truth and Reconciliation: Part 3 of 3

learning reconciliation responsibility truth Sep 30, 2021

This is Part 3 of a 3 part series on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. You can view Part 1 and Part 2, HERE.

NATIONAL DAY FOR TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION:

How we can we do better?

When you hear the word reconciliation, what thoughts come to mind? The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada defines reconciliation as,

Establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in this country. In order for that to happen, there has to be awareness of the past, an acknowledgement of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes, and action to change behaviour.[1]

Many non-indigenous people consider reconciliation to be important, but also believe that it is someone elses responsibility. The truth is that reconciliation is all of our responsibility. It affects all of us. Watch Len Pierre's 5 Things You Need to Know About Truth and Reconciliation, HERE.

We’ve now discussed what the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is and why it is crucial, but now you might be wondering how we can move together towards reconciliation and create a better future relationship between Indigenous and non-indigenous people? There is no one answer fits all. Reconciliation is complex, continuous, and an ongoing process. However, for those looking to start the journey, the following are a few steps to take.

Let go of guilt, take on responsibility.

As a non-indigenous person considering the damages caused by residential school and colonization, it may be difficult to not feel a sense of guilt and shame. In the search for absolution, many will be quick to proclaim how horrible they feel, how incredibly sorry they are that this happened, and seek forgiveness in places where cuts are still fresh, and wounds still run deep. As much as you may feel you have to get it off your chest,” at the end of the day announcing your guilt will help very little. Reconciliation is not about guilt and blame, but rather an acknowledgment and commitment to do better than those before us.

It is imperative that when working towards reconciliation, we act from a place of responsibility rather than a place of guilt. The task of changing societal bigotry and prejudice is not the responsibility of those which colonial society has oppressed, but rather the responsibility of those who benefited and continue to benefit from a colonial society. When we accept responsibility for reconciliation, we accept that there are actions we can take in working towards a better future. We all have things we can improve, and it starts by listening. 

Listen, learn, educate.

As mentioned in the previous blog post, it is essential for non-indigenous people to listen to the residential school survivors who are willing to share. Take care not to further burden those healing from the trauma of residential schools by asking them to provide you with additional stories or advice. Instead, do your own research and find the stories that have already been shared. There are numerous first-hand accounts from survivors of these institutions, and countless resources for educating.

This also means being quick to educate those around you who have not yet taken the steps to educate themselves. Be firm in calling out harmful biases and stereotypes. Be clear of your convictions and set on your path as a forever learner. Reconciliation is not a box to be checked, but a process which might always be evolving. Be willing to learn with it.

The truth has been buried for far too long, it is time to uncover and acknowledge these stories and experiences as truth. There can be no denial, no argument, no hiding. It falls upon us to listen, learn, and educate ourselves.

Challenge the master narrative.

"Stand up to hypocrisy. If you don't, the hypocrites will teach. Stand up to ignorance, because if you don't, the ignorant will run free to spread ignorance like a disease. Stand up for truth. If you don't, then there is no truth to your existence. If you don't stand up for all that is right, then understand that you are part of the reason why there is so much wrong in the world."

— Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem

In the quote above, the importance of standing up to the master narrative is emphasized. To simply define it, the master narrative is “generally described as the colonially-derived story of events, emphasizing European perspectives.”[2] The master narrative often takes over media, politics, education, the economy, history, and so many other aspects of colonial society, as these systems have been designed to primarily benefit the master narrative. Challenging the master narrative can be done in a number of ways, such as putting emphasis on Indigenous voices; dismantling the systems which were built on oppression; doing research to learn more about the Indigenous peoples whose land you occupy; being mindful when voting in elections to vote for the candidate who seems to be the most concerned with the well-being of the land and of Indigenous communities (although politicians are not always honest about this); shopping locally, or at least trying to buy products that were ethically produced; and respectfully questioning authority when their motives seem to solely benefit the master narrative. It is the small, everyday actions of many that can cause a major societal shift.

As I said in the first blog article of this series, today is a day of remembrance: a day to reflect, to listen, and to learn. However, it is my sincerest plea that the active listening and learning does not stop on this day. As a mother to a young Indigenous boy, a child who is the direct descendant of residential school survivors, I am begging fellow non-indigenous people of Canada, primarily white non-indigenous people of Canada, to do the work. There is so much work that needs to be done, and we all have a part to play. It’s time to do better; it’s time to be better; it’s time for reconciliation.

To learn more about the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and to access mental health supports available, visit the Government of Canada’s webpage, HERE.


Author

Drew Murray - Program Coordinator, eLeadership Academy

I garnered a deeper understanding of reconciliation through a focus on Indigenous Studies in university, as well as lived experiences with my partner and son who are both Indigenous. With this connection, I hope to highlight the importance of reconciliation to non-indigenous people so we can work towards a better future. I would like to thank eLeadership Academy for using platform to focus our attention to importance of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. 

Sources:

[1] https://www.ictinc.ca/blog/what-reconciliation-is-and-what-it-is-not

[2] General definition of Master Narrative found on “Chegg Study.”

https://www.chegg.com/homework-help/questions-and-answers/master-narrative-generally-described-colonially-derived-story-events-emphasizing-european--q3304982