On June 20, 2013, Vancouver began it’s Year of Reconciliation.
This week the city (and province, in partner with Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada) is hosting a series of events to commemorate the historically poor treatment of Native communities throughout history.
The reconciliation efforts include (but are not limited to) hearing, honouring and compensating former students of Canada’s residential schools.
From the 1870’s to 1996, over 150,000 Aboriginal children were taken from their homes and placed in church-run, government-funded residential schools with the aim that the children be assimilated into ‘mainstream’ society and kept apart from their traditional cultures.
As if the familial and cultural segregation did not have enough of an impact on it’s own, school conditions were generally substandard, and many children were subject to treatment that included physical and sexual abuse.
The emotional, spiritual, and cultural trauma that so many experienced then is intergenerational, and still exists as part of complex webs of social problems amongst Indigenous communities today.
During the past decade, after many former students came forward with stories of abuse, our government has offered compensation packages and a formal apology.
This is a step in the right direction, but there are still many problems to be worked out.
Reconciling is an ongoing process about rebuilding Aboriginal networks so that we can develop healthy, truthful relationships as we heal the wounds of the past. It is about educating the public about such historical issues as residential schools, and about fostering better cultural awareness.
It is about bearing witness to our historical roots and understanding how deeply past actions can affect us today.
And it is about promoting peaceful action on all levels and in all corners of the globe.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise
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