On September 30th people across Canada will observe the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, the fulfilment of Call to Action #80 in the Final Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, completed back in 2015. In Halton, plans are underway for Truth and Reconciliation walks, ceremonies, and other events for residents. Some of you will be continuing your journey of Reconciliation, while others will certainly be called to begin their journey through participation in these events. Many Canadians are hopeful that marking this important day each year to focus on the Truth will bring Indigenous and non-Indigenous people closer to Reconciliation.
In the following dual blogs, Our Kids Network member, Joanna Matthews and OKN Indigenous Lead, Angela Bellegarde, write about their own unique journeys to discover, learn, and share the Truth; and about their hopes and aspirations for National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Halton and Canada.
A Personal and Professional Reflection from a Non-Indigenous Perspective
By Joanna Matthews, Vice President, Services, Reach Out Centre for Kids ROCK
Co-chair, Our Kids Network Community Planning Table
I am a white European woman and use the pronouns she/her. As a small child, I immigrated to Canada from the colonizing country of England, which maintained a class system. My family on both sides were from the working-class. In the mid-60s, when my parents were given the opportunity to be sponsored by the British government to move to a commonwealth country, they chose Canada. I recognize this sponsorship as a privilege, but even so we were still poor working-class newcomers immersed in multi-ethnic neighbourhoods in Toronto. I experienced the exclusion, discrimination, prejudice, and struggles that most newcomers endure, and I worked to overcome these hardships.
Sharing Experiences as Part of a Reconciliation Journey
It was not a stretch for me as part of my career to take on the position of executive director at the Halton Multicultural Council (HMC) in 2002. I was aware of my white privilege, had a good understanding about systemic discrimination, and knew how I could use my platform to make changes. Reflecting on my years at HMC, I recognize that I learned through experiences that demonstrated my lack of understanding regarding the Truth about Indigenous people in Canada and their struggles. These learnings have stayed with me to this day and I am sharing some of them in this blog as part of my own Reconciliation journey.
An Indigenous Person’s Truth; and Thoughts on the Meaning of This Significant Day
By Angela Bellegarde, Our Kids Network Indigenous Lead
On September 30th, the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we are all called to commemorate and honour Indian Residential School Survivors and those children who did not make it home. Establishing this day directly relates to Call to Action #80 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. As a First Nations person, who descends from three generations of Indian Residential School Survivors, I have been contemplating what this means to me, and to my children who are the next generation of Indian Residential School Survivors.
Residential Schools Took Away Language, Culture, History, and Pride
My Mooshum (grandfather), Maglory Bellegarde, was the twelfth Indian enrolled at Lebret Indian Industrial School, later called Lebret Indian Residential School. All of his children and grandchildren attended this institution as well. My Aunts and Uncles would say that “it wasn’t so bad”, and I am sure it was better than many of the other Indian Residential Schools that we have come to learn about over this past summer. However, the very fact that they were forced to attend demonstrates the unjust and genocidal practices of the Canadian government of the time.