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

by Debbie Bathgate


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?


 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.”


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


Truth and Reconciliation


The Settlement Agreement


These sites accessed June 27, 2012