For obvious reasons I have been thinking a lot about residential schools lately. I went through 4 years of a liberal arts education followed by 3 years of studying law and never once heard of residential schools. My ignorance was profound. It still runs pretty deep, but I have tried to make a small dip into it.
Actually, that was one of the reasons I started a blog a few years ago. I wanted to dissent from the omnipresent white supremacy in our society, even among educated people. Even among good, privileged people who were blind to the power of that privilege.
I remember the first time I heard of residential schools was when I heard an allegation in the news that a Catholic Priest sexually abused children at one of those schools. How horrible I thought. But I still did not get it. The issue went much beyond abuse, though that was bad. What was much worse was what these schools told us about us whites in Canadian society. What we learned about ourselves when it started to sink in was not pretty.
Then at a law conference I heard Justice Murray Sinclair a Manitoba Court of Queens Bench Judge and the Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission speak out about Residential Schools. Frankly, I was shocked by what I had learned.
Then a few years later I read the executive summary of the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Then my eyes were really opened. In that report all Canadians were urged to do their part to bring about reconciliation. Every Canadian should read that report. That should be homework for each of us who lives in Canada.
I don’t yet know what I can do to help bring about reconciliation. Chris and I even took a 4 session course at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights on the subject of reconciliation. Recently I heard a talk on reconciliation given by Niigaan Sinclair the son of Justice Murray Sinclair, and a professor at the University of Manitoba, at an Alumni lectures series that Chris and I have been attending for about 5 years or more (the last couple virtually).
I asked him what I as an old white guy from Steinbach could do to help reconciliation. His answer was that the least I could do was to speak out. He pointed out that I could talk to people he could not talk to. My friends and relatives in other words. I as a white guy might get a couple of them to listen to me. If he knew me, he would not have been so confident about that. But I think he is right. Most of my friends and relatives I suspect don’t read his regular column on indigenous issues. None of them attended this course. Few of them will have read books on indigenous issues. Even less would read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report. But most of them are good people. I can talk to them when I get the chance. They can get it and together we can make a small difference.
Of course, most of them have too much good sense to listen to me either, particularly in my blog. But there are a few. That is the least I can do. I liked that answer. I won’t solve this problem, but I hope to make a slight dent in some preconceptions. Therefore, that’s what I will do. I will speak out when I can, even if that bugs some people. So be it. I’ve been a pain before.
What can we do about reconciliation.