The First National Event of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
While Huntsville and Toronto gear up for the G8/G20, Winnipeg is hosting an event of comparable if not greater significance—the first National Event of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. For two days I have been at the forks of the Red and Assiniboine with other truth seekers—residential school survivors, churches, descendants of survivors, artists, academics, and other Canadians. The TRC doesn’t require billion dollar security, high priced hotels or fake ambience. It’s not about scripted speeches, careful decisions far in advance or photo ops. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is about listening. Listening to ordinary people—whose resiliency and courage in the face of unspeakable pain, loneliness and anger has made them extraordinary. Their stories of what they experienced as a result of Canada’s catastrophic process of assimilation through residential schools came straight from the heart, as did their hopes for new beginnings. Here bishops sat beside young people in the grass, church officials shared space on blankets in crowded tents, and politicians took their place in the listening circle.
In these last days (and those to come), KAIROS collaborated with others to magnify the voices of our partners in the Global North and South—people affected by climate injustice. We did this in large part because there is no place for them in the inner circle of the G8/G20—they are excluded. But in this first national event of the TRC and in the national events and community events to come, there is a circle that strives to include. In these rare moments, the voices of those pushed to the margins of our society—oppressed by colonization and racism—are speaking. They have stories to tell and visions of a new covenant to share—a covenant between non-Indigenous and Indigenous in this land we call Canada. Some survivors still lack access to this process, and for far too many, it has come too late, their descendants required to put their truths of the parents and grandparents into words. And yet, still, and again in this unfolding process to come, Indigenous people will speak. The question to Canada is: are we listening?
I attended the first days of the Truth and Reconciliation, with many of our member churches, on behalf of KAIROS. The first National Event continues today and Saturday in Winnipeg. See www.trc.ca for more information.
Jennifer Henry is the Manager of the Dignity and Rights Team at KAIROS