Reconciliation is in the air. According to Wikipedia, reconciliation can mean restoring mutual respect between those of diverse cultural backgrounds.
As a newbie executive member of the Council for Aboriginal Education in Manitoba (soon to be officially termed Indigenous Education), I feel compelled to focus my sense of direction as an educator. I am not speaking just in terms of Indigenous education per se.
When John Ralston Saul first released A Fair Country: Telling Truths about Canada (2008), my understanding of the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada shifted. It is about our relationship and for me, it is how we convey that understanding in the education system.
First of all, I am wondering what is reconciliation in the sense of residential school survivors? Behold, there is a video of Chair of the TRC, Justice Murray Sinclair, explaining just that. What is reconciliation?
It is quite profound to think it has taken seven generations for this country to bring the relationship between Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people of Canada to its current state.
According to Sinclair, there are no quick and easy solutions.
He postulates that if we can agree on what that relationship could look like for the generations of the future – say seven generations, we can begin to contribute to that objective. Reconciliation today will mean everything we do is aimed at that high standard of restoring that balance to the relationship.
It’s all about relationships. Canada is 150-years-old this year. I guess that means it could take another 150 years to put things in balance.
The TRC has left in its wake a set of Calls for Action.
Looking at Reconciliation for Education in the Calls for Action, I like that its calls for the establishment of senior-level positions in government at the assistant deputy minister level or higher dedicated to Aboriginal content in education.
The Council of Ministers of Education (people like James Allum) are called upon to maintain an annual commitment to Aboriginal education issues, including:
I. Developing and implementing Kindergarten to Grade Twelve curriculum and learning resources on Aboriginal peoples in Canadian history, and the history and legacy of residential schools.
II. Sharing information and best practices on teaching curriculum related to residential schools and Aboriginal history.
III. Building student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect.
IV. Identifying teacher-training needs relating to the above
It’s good that people in so-called high places are called upon to maintain responsibility and accountability towards reconciliation. With the upcoming provincial election, the Council for Aboriginal Education in Manitoba is preparing a debate in which candidates can voice their commitment and plans of action in response to these TRC Calls for Action.
As the TRC was gathering stories of survivors of Indian Residential Schools, Murray Sinclair responded to the person on the ground, “How can you get involved?”
Sinclair acknowledges many of us feel that in our education something has been missing. He encourages us to inform ourselves and be aware of what this story is all about.
When we pass that along to our children and our grandchildren, their relationship with Aboriginal people in this country will also be strong – strong as it could have been – strong as it should have been from the very beginning.
What is our story? Who are we as Canadians today? What is the truth of our history?
As educators, how can we come together and agree on what the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in this country could look like in the generations to come?
Murray Sinclair says it is the educational system that has contributed to this problem and it is the educational system the commission believes is going to help us to get away from this.
How can reconciliation be achieved? The journey continues.