Reconciliation is about respect and a commitment to change
Senator Murray Sinclair, the Anishinaabe judge who chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, told a rapt audience of First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) staff as well as members the First Nations Health Council (FNHC) and our board that change is underway in Canada but it will take longer than we want.
“Reconciliation is about respect, it requires an understanding of the truth and a commitment to change,” told an audience of 200 gathered in the Musqueam Cultural Education Resource Centre in Vancouver. “Education is the key.”
“It is clear to us all now that many of our challenges today stem from what was done to us in the past,” said Sinclair.
The understanding we now have of the impacts of this on children, families and their communities underpins much of the work FNHA is doing across the province. And the losses of language, of culture, of identity and self-respect are now being recovered in communities across Canada despite the legacies of fear, poverty, mistrust and intergenerational trauma.
“Senator Sinclair drew connections in the minds of Canadians that we have been trying to point out for decades related to residential schools and how this history continues to impact our health outcomes today,” said FNHA, Chief Operating Officer, Richard Jock.
Sinclair spoke of how most communities are going through a process of cultural revival and reclamation as a means of healing from this experience. He added that identity is vital to healing as it gives hope, direction, self-respect and a sense of belonging.
The tragedy of indigenous youths taking their own lives out of despair is a result of this lack of identity.
“Part of the problem of suicide among young people is the loss of hope they feel because they do not know who they are,” said Sinclair. “We are responding to the suicide rate by giving them drugs, but this won’t give them a sense of who they are.”
The enormity of the effects are hard to describe in ways that people can feel but Sinclair gave the example that the risk of dying in the Second World War was less than the risk of dying in a residential school. And there is not a single record of a student going on directly to University from one either.
On a day to day basis there is much we can do to help the healing and change Canada forever, according to Sinclair. One of them is to stand up to racists.
“On a day to day basis in your conversations, when you hear people saying things that are not appropriate, you have an obligation to correct them,” said Sinclair.
Grand Chief Doug Kelly thanked Sinclair on behalf of the FNHA and the FNHC for leaving all present with a strong sense that positive change is happening.
“A leader’s job is to give hope,” said Kelly. “Together we can change the world we live in. Our leadership’s first job is believing in people until they believe in themselves.”
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