This Friday, September 30th, 2022 is recognized as a National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. It is a day set apart to acknowledge the terrible harm and deep wound the legacy of the residential schools have left upon the families left behind and the survivors of these institutions. We join with the rest of the country in pausing on this day to honor the dignity, strength and resilience of survivors and intergenerational survivors. And while this is now recognized as a statutory holiday on this one day of the year, in my way of thinking, honoring and protecting each person’s dignity is an everyday act.
When I consider the history of European colonisation of Indigenous peoples around the world, and in Canada, it is easy to desire to step away and suggest that I was not part of “that, then” but rather am “here, now.” However, in the words of Pope Francis, in his address to Canada’s Indigenous Peoples on April 1st, 2022 at the Vatican, “the memory of the past must never be sacrificed at the altar of alleged progress.” Pope Francis elaborates that he feels indignation and shame: “…indignation, because it is not right to accept evil and, even worse, to grow accustomed [to it] as if it were an inevitable part of the historical process…[as] without indignation, without historical memory, and without a commitment to learning from past mistakes, problems remain unresolved and keep coming back.”
I take to heart the intentionality of the apology Pope Francis offered on the same day, an apology rooted in shame and sorrow in which he noted that the lack of respect shown for identity, culture and spiritual values are contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ and that “the content of faith cannot be transmitted in a way contrary to the faith itself.” In other words, Jesus taught us to love, respect and be kind; to care for others in the way you would want to be cared for yourself, and more importantly, he taught us to welcome, serve and not judge.
As Canadians, and moreover as colleagues who work within Providence Health Care’s Catholic faith-based healing ministry – which is built on the traditions of the founding congregations of sisters who moved to BC from provinces in Eastern Canada, with an integral purpose to act with charity and faith for all those in need – I believe that it is our personal responsibility to read, learn, and reflect on historical, current and ongoing acts of colonization.
It is also our opportunity to contemplate our founding stories and recover the original seeds of good intention whose sole purpose was to lend help, care and compassion to alleviate suffering and ameliorate mental, physical and spiritual wounds, and to practice cultural humility and take personal action towards reconciliation. It is also our organizational responsibility, as we meet the needs of those we serve with humility, dignity, and respect.
Reconciliation to me is being in good relationships with people…restoring relationships…and reflecting on the impacts of the past on the present. So on this day I will reflect, on how we can honour these commitments EVERY day, as we care for people when they are most in need. The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a day of pondering, reflecting, considering how actions can hurt and how actions can heal… Actions speak louder than words.