I hadn't intended to write a blog related to recent revelations about over 750 unmarked graves at former Canadian residential schools in Kamloops, BC and Marieval, SK. I know that this is only the beginning and we will learn of more graves for Indigenous children who were the victims of abuse at the hands of people who were meant to be caring for them. I feel compelled to do something, to say something, even though my actions and words are coming too late.
I say "too late" because I've known that unimaginable things happened to children who were taken from their family homes to live with strangers so many years ago. I've known that generations of people have been living and speaking of the impact that residential schools had on their lives. I've known that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) uncovered a legacy of abuse in residential schools and ongoing systemic racism culminating in the TRC Calls to Action. But I did not realize the extent of this tragedy. I am still learning about the truth of what happened. I did not know that people have lived with the memory of knowing that children around them were dying and being buried (sometimes by other children) in unmarked graves. I should have known. It was right there in front of me.
It makes me weep that there was ever such race-based violence against children. It makes me angry that it is still happening in some places in the world . Anger motivates me to action but I do not want to stay with anger. How can I act in a way that will make a positive, respectful difference? I know that many of us are feeling compelled to act but not knowing what to do.
To start, I will listen and learn to understand. I will commit to learning about indigenous history and current experiences to guide my actions. From there, I hope to connect with others who are on a similar journey and I will look for opportunities to make a positive difference. I don't know what that will look like but I do know that it will be guided by what I'm learning and by the wishes of Indigenous peoples.
This morning, I started the Indigenous Canada course offered through the University of Alberta. This "is a 12-lesson Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) that explores Indigenous histories and contemporary issues in Canada". The course is 100% online with flexible deadlines and the option of working toward a shareable certificate. Thankfully, I was automatically prompted to set achievable goals - it's in my calendar.
I know the path to reconciliation is long and we do not yet fully understand the truth of all that happened. As the TRC Calls to Action state: "reconciliation must create a more equitable and inclusive society by closing the gaps in social, health, and economic outcomes that exist between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians." I want to be part of creating that society.
Learning as we go, sharing what we know...
As I learn from the course, from talking with people with lived experience, and from talking with people who are travelling the same path, I will come back to this blog and share what I'm learning. I encourage you to find that first step that will work for you.
Cathie Scott, PhD, ACC, CEC