Reconciliation — Canadian History & Religion

“We are deeply grateful to gather here on unceded, unsurrendered, Algonquin territory. Although divided by political boundaries, this remains Algonquin land.
We come together in this time between truth and the hope of reconciliation, seeking wisdom and accompaniment of one another as we try to find a good way forward.
Believing in the possibilities of a reconciled future, we will not ignore the many injustices that persist and the many inequalities that continue to divide. […] ” Jennifer Henry Executive Director – KAIROS

The moment I stepped in, I could feel an immense energy radiating from the room. I couldn’t immediately understand, but change was happening before my eyes.

Aboriginal Elders spoke about the cultural genocide they experienced while attending residential schools. Issues about the living quality on reserves, unequal treatment towards native women (including 2000+ unsolved murders), environmental law infractions and the government completely disregarding all efforts made by native people to prosper in Canada.

These are some heavy subjects, but it is important to know about the dark, often disregarded part of our history.


I was invited to go to Ottawa and be a part of the Truth and Reconciliation conversations you may be hearing about in the news. Before the formal event began, I spent 3 days attending talks, workshops and the Walk for Reconciliation through KAIROS.

When I discovered that KAIROS connects religious groups and churches to do ‘faithful action’ in ecological justice and human rights, I panicked. My mind was racing.norval-morrisseau-mary

The anti-theist in me started to get distracted by shutting anything that mentioned the words ‘God’ or ‘prayer’ out. I was critical of everything I heard and I found myself questioning everything the speakers were saying. When the opening prayer was said, I consciously changed all the words to suit my own ideas.

I was concerned that I would be spending 5 days with very religious people – it started to freak me out. A girl about my age walked up to me, face caught between horror and disbelief.

 

“excuse me. Do you know that your tights are see-through?! I can see your underwear!”

“yes, I know you can see my underwear, but I was hoping my tank top would cover my butt better than it did.”

“oh, okay… I just thought I’d let you know.”

 

Possibly the most ridiculous situation I’ve gotten myself into; choosing all the wrong clothes for this trip. I told Reuben what happened, laughing.

“Try to keep an open mind and an open heart,” said the wisest guy I know.

I realized that I was disrespecting the speakers and limiting my learning.

It doesn’t matter how I feel because it isn’t about me. I need to have an open mind (let new ideas in) and an open heart (feel compassion and kindness) regardless of my own ideas. We are learning about a traumatic event in history that still affects people everyday, how can I let myself be so critical about something as trivial as prayer?

It wasn’t about religion… well, it is in a way because it was forced on others but really, these talks were about the stories people had to share.res-school-prayer

Traditions were taken away from an entire group of people because the government made every effort to completely absorb the original people of Turtle Island into the system, forcing them to call it Canada and abide by colonial rules.

Why? Colonizers wanted the land for themselves.

After the horrors of residential school, some lost their traditions and languages for ever, others spent decades to learn it back.

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