Reflections on Truth and Reconciliation
BY Chris McLaughlin
ON September 30, 2021
This is a blog about the federal statutory holiday today establishing Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. But I’m going to start in the early 1980s.

Every other kid who, like me, grew up in Peterborough, Ontario, has gone on a field trip to Petroglyphs Provincial Park.

This Park preserves the largest known concentration of Indigenous rock carvings (petroglyphs) in Canada, depicting turtles, snakes, birds, humans, and more. It is a sacred site known as “The Teaching Rocks” that are believed to range in age from 600 to 1100 years old. It’s an incredible part of the deeper history of what we now call Ontario, and a place that I highly recommend you visit.

What I’m finding most useful and inspiring about going on that middle school field trip all those years ago, however, is something that I’ve only become prepared to see and appreciate in middle age.

Like so many others of my vintage, we spent a whole day learning about the lives and culture of Indigenous peoples of centuries past, but in riding that school bus we twice passed right by Curve Lake First Nation and not once was it suggested that we stop and learn about the contemporary lives and stories of our Indigenous neighbours. At the time, no space was allocated to those truths, not in the educational system and not in the minds of non-Indigenous people.

Middle age arrived for me right about the time that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada delivered its final report in 2015. Since then I have tried to start do the work of reconciliation, which can seem daunting for a great many who are trying to also act.

Well, it is daunting, reconciliation. But more daunting still is truth. I have half a lifetime of my own ignorance to overcome before achieving a much fuller appreciation and understanding of our shared history and its terrible truths.

We must start with open minds. We must start with learning. I’m trying to be that student again, to take new field trips. I’ve had the privilege since 2015 to attend several workshops and weekend retreats with both Indigenous and environmental leaders, forging new and vital relationships. As TRC Commissioner, the Honourable Murray Sinclair, has stated, “reconciliation is about forging and maintaining respectful relationships. There are no shortcuts.”

As an organization, BARC values progress and encourages collectives action and social change, resilience and reconciliation. And we value learning as a means to achieving progress, and in our work we strive to improve our relations to water, the environment, and to each other. For example, I wonder what Indigenizing environmental thinking could do for our efforts to restore water quality, for non-Indigenous cultural relations with water? This is my own personal call to action: to learn, appreciate, and relate, and I invite you to make it yours as well.

To start, let me suggest that you try three simple things that I’ve tried: commit to reading the works of Indigenous authors such as Thomas King, Jesse Wente, and Tanya Talaga; visit Indigenous sources of news and commentary such as APTN News or Muskrat Magazine and follow Indigenous authors, educators, and commentators on social media; and donate to Indigenous-led organizations that serve Indigenous communities such as the Hamilton Regional Indian Centre or the Woodland Cultural Centre.

I also encourage you to become more familiar with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and especially the final report’s calls to action, and with the new National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba. And locally, you can begin with the City of Burlington’s land acknowledgment and the City of Hamilton’s Land Acknowledgement Toolkit Guide and its Urban Indigenous Strategy (which provides the City’s land acknowledgment).
Author Bio - Chris McLaughlin
Chris McLaughlin is BARC's Executive Director.
Chris McLaughlin is BARC's Executive Director.

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