September 30th

Reconciliation is not the responsibility of Indigenous Peoples – it is the responsibility of all Canadians. It is our responsibility to continue to listen and to learn.

Justin Trudeau

Word of the day = Responsibility

I was in Ottawa during Canada’s second annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The city was awash and aglow in a sea of orange shirts and buildings. In memory of a little girl whose only indiscretion was to wear a bright orange shirt on her first day at a residential school so many years ago.

Caught up in the fervour of this day of remembrance and reflection, I wanted to do something special to listen and to learn. So, I decided to go visit the Canadian Museum of History.

Canadian Museum of History

As soon as I entered the cavernous lobby of the museum and read the orange information radiators on the wall, I started to learn.

Museum Lobby

I began my tour in the Early Canada exhibit. The exhibit chronicled the earliest times of Canada and its First Peoples before the advent of newcomers from Europe. At one station, I was mesmerized by a holographic-like picture of a First Peoples’ family. I could’ve sworn they had each come alive and started blinking their eyes! But, not a word was said.

A First Peoples Family

When I arrived at the Modern Era part of my tour, the reason for this day became poignantly clear. Consent had been replaced with coercion.

Why Residential Schools?

It started with perspectives from the ruling people of Canada. The sheer ignorance, disregard and total lack of respect and human regard for the deep traditions and ways of the Indigenous First Peoples incited sadness and anger in me. Especially when I read this proclamation from the nation’s first Prime Minister…


As I continued through this part of the tour, I listened to sounds of residential school memories and the voices of residential school survivors. Their stories were heart-breaking. I recall one part where I became choked up and teary-eyed. The memoirs of a young residential school girl were being narrated. She described how she and many of the other girls cried themselves to sleep, missing their parents and the way of life they had left behind with their families. When one girl cried, all the other girls would start crying with her. She recalls it sounded like dogs howling in a puppy mill. That took my breath away 😢.

In the evening, back in my hotel room, I watched and listened as two indigenous community leaders were asked what they wanted from non-indigenous people. Their answers were:

  • Recognition of the truth before reconciliation can start as an embodiment of the calls to action that follow the truth.
  • Feel really angry about what has happened. For the plight of indigenous people that they had no control in making. They didn’t do this to themselves. It was purposely done to them.

They were then asked how they would describe how they were feeling on this day.

  • One felt a deep sense of gratitude. Gratitude for her ancestors and what they had gone through to lead her to this point where she is able to have and participate in these conversations.
  • The other felt concern. Concern that the space provided by the TRC process for residential school survivors and inter-generational survivors to tell and share their stories will no longer be available. No more space for those who have not had the chance to be heard, to tell their stories about what happened to them, to do so.

Whose responsibility is it to continue holding space for their stories? We are all responsible for creating and holding space.

So, let’s continue to listen, to learn and to have conversations that will pave the way towards real action and reconciliation.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s