Moving forward requires honesty about Canada’s collective past and present actions
As Canada enters its 151st year as a nation, the call for healing, reconciliation and justice rings loudly from coast to coast to coast, says Ry Moran, director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) at the University of Manitoba.
With the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action, “we have been presented with an opportunity to fully embrace a process of reconciliation that, in essence, can help to make this country better for everyone,” says Mr. Moran. “But first, we have to become much more honest and truthful about our past and present actions.”
Mr. Moran, who is Métis, believes “we need to understand that the ideas and values that created the residential school system are not isolated to history – they are a core part of this country’s identity.
“Unpacking the legacy of violence directed at Indigenous peoples is not an easy task for this country,” he explains. “Many Canadians remain largely unaware of the history experienced by Indigenous peoples at the hands of the Canadian state.”
The long and complicated development of Canada gives many Indigenous and non-Indigenous people good reason to worry about our collective future, says Mr. Moran. Residential schools removed Indigenous children from families for over seven generations, forcibly trying to convert them to living as non-Indigenous people. “The damage inflicted on communities, families and individuals through nationwide policies of aggressive assimilation will take generations to repair,” he says. “The question of how we will address the great injustices inflicted upon Indigenous peoples will continue to test our national moral fibre.”
Part of the mandate of the NCTR includes raising awareness of the lived realities and aspirations of Indigenous peoples, says Mr. Moran. “It’s a centre for truth and honesty, where all Canadians are welcome and encouraged to reflect upon how Indigenous peoples have been treated and how we can collectively come together to create a better path forward.
“The NCTR’s collection of statements and documents reminds us of how far we can fall when we don’t hold ourselves to the standards of respect, mutual accountability and understanding” he states. The NCTR holds statements and records (access and privacy protected), educational resources and online tools for Canadians to access, learn and advance reconciliation.
“Only when we confront the truth can we move forward together,” says Mr. Moran. “If we continue to pretend nothing is the matter, that the past is rosy, we are going to make the same mistakes over and over again,” he says. “Prejudice and racism remain deeply ingrained within our society and institutions, and we often have difficulty seeing this in ourselves and in our collective actions.”
He suggests to “remember that the way we think is the product of how we have been collectively educated, and this way of thinking has created untold harm and deep divisions within our society,” he says. “We need to take a hard look at ourselves and combat the ways we see one another in this society and Indigenous peoples through a discriminatory lens. We need to ask ourselves how we can become more fair, understanding and compassionate. We need to rebuild relationships together.”
One of the greatest challenges for reconciliation is achieving a high degree of self-awareness, says Mr. Moran, who believes that individual action can lead to collective action within communities and organizations, which, in turn, can translate into transformative action for the country.
For Mr. Moran, hope comes from seeing a change in Canada’s young people. “Hope comes when you hear children in Grade 6 speaking openly and honestly about how Indigenous peoples have been treated, and understanding that Indigenous peoples deserve to be treated fairly and with respect.”
However, he also cautions that “we cannot forget the children who are living in this current environment of violence and hate. We have to do everything possible to ensure they are given the support, love and opportunity necessary to break the cycles created by the long history of mistreatment directed towards Indigenous people.”
The centre provides the necessary truths and support for all Canadians to work together and write a new future, adds Mr. Moran.
More information at nctr.ca.
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