I don’t know what reconciliation will look like. I know it’s important and Canadians must figure it out. What colour is reconciliation? Is it white? Do white people have to figure it out? Yes, but not alone and not in such a way as we try to impose on others what it means. We tried that approach to relations with Indigenous people and it did not work very well. In fact, that is what got us into trouble.
Is the colour of reconciliation red? Yes, in part. We need indigenous people to actively engage in this process. I think they are prepared to engage, provided the white people are serious in their discussions and respectful in their intentions.
Is the colour of reconciliation red and white. Yes, in part again. It is more than that. It involves all Canadians and that means an array of colours. It involves an abundance of colours. We have people of all colours in Canada. That is great. It is what makes Canada great. We don’t need a great white hope to “make Canada great again.” Canada is not a great power. We have no goal to be that (I hope). Canada has made many mistakes, but it also has learned a lot. It has learned enough that others can learn something from us. We just need to understand and respect what we have and what we can do.
Is the Colour of reconciliation orange? Yes, in part. We must learn from that colour. That colour was chosen because of the experience of a 6-year-old Indigenous girl going to Residential School for the first time with her grandmother. Her name was Phyliss Webstad. She had chosen an orange shirt for her first exciting day in school because her shirt was bright and shiny and smooth and she was very proud of that shirt. But the shirt was taken away from her on her first day in residential school because the school administrators, for some reason did not like it. She never got to wear it again.
When she got older and remembered the incident and how unjust it was, she helped to start Orange Shirt day, on September 30 so that she could demonstrate that she could wear an orange shirt if she wanted to. As she said, “When I see people wearing an orange shirt or an ‘Every child matters pin,’ for us survivors, it’s like a little bit of justice in our life time.’
I don’t really know what reconciliation looks like. I hope to learn. But I hope it is the colour of justice. A little bit of justice.