Reflection on my participation in the TRC: A time of deep gratitude and hope

At the Heart Garden outside Rideau Hall

By Ana Guadalupe Matzir Miculax

The histories of Guatemala and Canada are similar – histories of trying to erase our customs, languages, traditional clothing and dance; our way of life and world view; and, our relationship with nature. The result is many Indigenous people do not know their own identity and history.

As a consequence of colonization and foreign invasions, we have lost brothers and sisters who are no longer with us because of their resistance against an imposed system. Many have disappeared and others have been forced to adopt ways of life that are not their own.

During my time in Canada, I learned about the history of residential schools which began at the end of the 19th century , were run by the government and the churches and carried out what some of the survivors and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) have described as cultural genocide against Indigenous peoples . Now with the work of the TRC there is an effort to learn the truth and bring about reconciliation in a process of healing and justice for the approximately 70,000 survivors who continue to suffer the impacts of residential schools. I heard about the impacts on the lives of families and communities of Indigenous peoples who have suffered this attempt of cultural genocide. These impacts are far-reaching and inter-generational.

The 6,750 testimonies heard during this process, and the spirit of the thousands of people who were unable to give their testimonies, exposed and reminded us of the sexual, physical and psychological abuse suffered during this period. Many students did not survive to give their testimonies. In order to break the silence and the impunity, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission presented a report with 94 Calls to Action..

These Calls to Action include the need to know and respect the rights of Indigenous peoples, to change educations systems, to investigate the disappearances and murder of Indigenous women, and that the government produce an annual report on the situation of Indigenous peoples in Canada. As well, there was a clear call to see reconciliation as an issue for all Canadians, not only Indigenous peoples.

I witnessed the KAIROS Blanket Exercise on Parliament Hill and learned about the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada through this creative and participatory exercise. This brought out many strong feelings – memories, pain, sadness, and tears – but above all the courage and reflections in the activity were a source of motivation to better understand the reality and to struggle for justice, equality and respect among all peoples so that this history that marks our lives in the present is never repeated.

I hope the recommendations are respected and implemented so that history never repeats itself. Most importantly, I hope that what has been lost is restored that there is respect for different ways of life and world views and so that new relationships can be forged with Indigenous and non Indigenous people living in peace and harmony.

Our ancestors have historically lived on the land, and as Indigenous peoples today we struggle to maintain our ways and world view as our ancestors did. I feel strong solidarity with the survivors and I thank them for showing me once again that as Indigenous people we are alive, and not only are we living, we are moving forward together, struggling for a dignified life.

Filed in: Indigenous Rights


Share with your network:Share on Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Email this to someone
Print this page