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For the Child Taken, for the Parent Left Behind: the Circle of Reconciliation

by Debbie Bathgate

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It's about truth and a national path of healing. Over the course of 150 years and 7 generations, 150,000 children, primarily Inuit, Metis, and First Nations, were placed in residential schools in an attempt to assimilate Aboriginal peoples, language, and culture. June 21-24, 2012, Prairieland Park in Saskatoon teamed with people striving together towards Truth and Reconciliation at a national event.

The circle of reconciliation June 22 at 1:30 PM was just one emotionally powerful event. Survivors and representatives of the Settlement Agreement came together to respectfully discuss three questions: How communities reconcile? How can we advance reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples? and What are you as an individual doing towards reconciliation?

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 A few of the wise members of the Circle of Reconciliation are quoted as: Eugene Arcand from Muskeg First Nation described Truth and Reconciliation as “opening the space to work on ourselves” and challenged us each to make a real change. John Vissers, Presbyterian Moderator advised in the circle “to make a difference, listen deeply and profoundly to the stories. Acknowledge the harm done, and consciously begin a mutual journey”. Fred Sasakamoose, a survivor of Duck Lake residential school shared emotional stories which contributed to his success with the Chicago Blackhawks as the first Aboriginal NHL player. Clem Chartier, a Metis lawyer, described how the Metis were “nobody's children”, as non-treaty and excluded in many ways, including the Settlement Agreement. The planners of Saskatoon Truth and Reconciliation were commended on including the Metis peoples. Myrna Whiteduck, a social worker and survivor spoke to the hearts of all, and posed three challenges: “to the government for Reparation”, and to every Canadian “to focus on children”, and to families and communities “to engage with supportive people.”

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The experience of participation in this Circle of Reconciliation, which is just a tiny part of Truth and Reconciliation, was no less than life changing. National Chief Atleo closed saying, “ None of us created this inequity. Every single one of us is responsible to overcome it. Grasp this moment. Be bold. We'll get there by working together. A strong first nation will make a strong country. We are all part of the circle.”

 

Indian Residential Schools

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Indian_residential_school_system

Truth and Reconciliation

http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/index.php?p=3

The Settlement Agreement

http://www.ahf.ca/downloads/cep-2010-healing.pdf

These sites accessed June 27, 2012

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