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Reconciliation through Education

During my five-week internship with the Centre for Public Dialogue, I had the opportunity to create lesson plans to be used by independent schools in B.C., Alberta, and Ontario. These lesson plans included the history of Residential Schools, and the reality of  current inequalities in schools on-reserves. I researched to learn more about the beautiful things Indigenous communities offer, the experiences they endured and the current inequalities they are facing. 

 I dove headlong into big questions.  How could the church play such a vital role in the injustices done to Indigenous peoples? Why does Canada continue to break its promises, even after naming and apologizing for the wrongs it has done? How is there still such significant inequality today? And where is the hope in all of this as a Christian? After devoting time to dive deeper into Indigenous history and current injustices, my mind flooded with questions such as these. I was shocked to learn the horrific details given in accounts in the history section of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The abuse endured, the pain that was felt, and the culture that was lost because of residential schools broke my heart. I recognize that I am unable to even grasp the magnitude of the loss experienced because of residential schools, but learning about the history of residential schools and the inequality that still takes place today should upset all who hear because it is unjust. According to the commission, “Reconciliation is not an Aboriginal problem; it is a Canadian one” and I would add that it is also a Christian problem. 

Learning about the history of residential schools and the inequality that still takes place today should upset all who hear because it is unjust.

I learned in my research that again and again, settlers in Canada and the Canadian government made promises through treaties to indigenous people, and again and again, these promises were broken or never reached fruition. The heartbreaking evidence is that the cycle of unfulfilled promises in Canada continues even today. Canada’s federal government has committed to fulfilling the TRC’s calls to action but evidence such as the significant lack of funding in on-reserve schools suggests this cycle has not yet come to an end.  On average, students on reserves across Canada get 30-50%  less funding than that of provincial schools off-reserve. The Centre for Public Dialogue report card for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action says, “In spring 2018 the Auditor General reported that the real grade 12 graduation rate for Indigenous students is 24%, compared to a national average of around 90%.” 

True reconciliation takes intentionality, repentance, and humility.

After digesting this information, I immediately wanted to know what I could do. How can I play a role in reconciliation? According to the commission,  “Reconciliation cannot occur without listening, contemplation, meditation, and deeper internal deliberation.” I assumed that reconciliation simply meant to “fix” what is broken, but this is a paternalistic mindset. The commission points out that true reconciliation takes intentionality, repentance, and humility. It is our duty as Christians to stand with our Indigenous brothers to demand equal opportunities and equitable funding for students on reserves. 

A great way to start the listening process is to read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission accounts. Sinclair, chairman of TRC says in regards to education, “It changes in the way we talk to and about each other, and the way we teach our children about each other. It was the use of schools that got us into this mess, it should be the use of schools to get us out. This part of the story needs to be included so they learn why things are the way they are now.” The education TRC calls to action is something we can all be a part of doing. We are only able to educate the next generations if we first educate ourselves. First, we can be witnesses and stand with Indigenous peoples for equitable funding for Indigenous students. Second, we need to begin the process of ongoing education for ourselves. It is a long, uncomfortable road to take but it is the necessary road for reconciliation to take place. 

Want to learn more about our paid internship and help make it a reality for a recent graduate?  Check out this video and consider making a donation if you are able.  

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