Truth & Reconciliation
For the child taken,
For the parent left behind.
Definition of RECONCILIATION
1: the action of reconciling : the state of being reconciled
2: the Roman Catholic sacrament of penance
reconciling: to restore friendship or harmony
On my birthday in 2008, PM Stephen Harper stood before all of Canada and issued a public apology. He apologized to the former students of residential schools and their families for the treatment of the children, and the aftermath that it wrought.
The effects of which are still being felt today.
Growing up, I remember so many kids from town asking “Why don’t your people just stop drinking?” Or “Alcohol was introduced to your culture over a hundred years ago, why aren’t they like us? It’s just a part of every day life now, not like … drunk all the time.”
I remember feeling so much rage and yet, not fully understanding the real issues and the truth. My parents hid a lot of what happened to them and their friends and families and their parents from us. I know they were trying to protect us, but keeping the truth from us, keeping a means of defense from us, was the same as lying.
And you know what? We may as well have been doing the same to the rest of the country. But it wasn’t just us, it is the lack of education for everyone. And therefore, a lack of understanding.
Then again, for a lot of people, it wasn’t just a matter of protecting their children from the truth and harm, it was self-protection as well. So many years of being afraid to tell the truth, of being thought of as victims, or liars, or weak.
If anyone thought that of these people, these survivors … remember … they were children taken from their mothers and fathers and grandparents, placed in these schools and separated from their brothers and sisters. They were kept apart from their families as much as possible. Even when the residential school was in the community, families were not allowed to see their own children except for three or four times a year, if they were lucky.
Imagine being in that family. Having your children taken from you. Having no loving arms to comfort you when you wake from a bad dream. And then being forced to speak a foreign language, and smacked when you speak your own. Being forced to pray in another’s religion and beaten for praying in your own. That was their reality. For years.
And then add physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Some got lucky and were spared. But not everyone.
The Truth & Reconciliation Commission has undertaken to record and, hopefully, aide in the healing process of as many survivors as possible. Survivors have come to the events in communities and told their stories, shared their pain.
Mind you, not everyone. I know of a few who still refuse to talk to anyone. They’d rather forget and pretend it never happened.
The crazy thing is, this continued well into the 70s. And then a First Nation-run residential school continued to run until the 90s. Unfortunately, when you have a residential school run by victims of abuse, the cycle is a bit perpetuating.
Back in June of this year, I attended the TRC event in Saskatoon. It was a great event. Seeing so many survivors together, working on getting their stories told, overcoming their fears. There were a lot of tears.
I picked up a few prints, one of the speech by PM Harper, and one of a map of all the church-run schools in Canada. My uncles and a few of their friends were pointing out the schools they went to. It was sad to see they didn’t even all get to go to the same schools. Or schools that were even remotely close to their communities.
They even had free books. I picked up two copies of one called “Speaking my Truth: Reflections on Reconciliation & Residential School.” One for me, and one as a blog giveaway. If you’d like this copy, leave a comment and your name will be entered into the draw. Deadline will be Sunday at midnight, Saskatchewan time.