Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Days Three and Four

Day Three, rain and more rain, all day, and the large commissioner’s tent deserted because of the sogginess and the sharing circle moved into a room at the theatre building at the Forks.

The miserable weather affected attendance and some pieces of the event had to be cancelled. I don’t know whether it’s a cultural thing or just the underlying sombre nature of the event itself lending perspective, but I didn’t hear a single complaint about it, however. I was struck by this, it seemed so unusual. The only one who mentioned the rain, in fact, was a woman in the sharing circle, and she said she was thankful because it was adding tears to the sorrow of memories. And, said another, “we have many tears to shed.”

I was happy that H. could take some time from work and come with me. I would describe to him when I came home what I was seeing and hearing these days, but it’s different actually experiencing it together. We spent several hours witnessing the sharing circle, and also watched a new play by Ian Ross called “Fabric of the Sky.” The play was about a man who had not been a good father to his son because of his residential school experiences. Then as he finally opened up about it,  the gap between him and his son began to close.

The point of the play could hardly be missed and so it felt a little didactic, but still, it was well done, and the point does need emphasizing. We’d heard so much of that in the stories: as children finally learn and began to understand what their parents have gone through, they begin to understand and even forgive the ways in which they have also been damaged by their parents’ lack of love and other behaviours.

Day Four — today — and a lovely day, clear and sunny. I returned to the Forks for a few more hours of listening, this time to some conversation in the interfaith tent: “signs of reconciliation and reflecting on our experiences.” There were more than a few interesting moments here. Continue reading

Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Day One

I spent the day at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s first national event, here at the Forks in Winnipeg. My heart is full, and — to borrow the expression Marie Wilson, one of the commissioners, used — it’s also “leaking.” The day felt weighty and often emotional. I can only imagine how intense it must have been for the many survivors of the residential school system and their families in attendance.

Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair, commissioner, speaking at the opening ceremonies

This event will likely be well covered by the media, so I’m not going to give any kind of journalistic play-by-play but simply a few of my own impressions and experiences.

1. Personalized

I’m attending the event in response to the call by the TRC to come and bear witness to the dreadful legacy of the residential school system in Canada, a system set up by the government and implemented through various church groups to “civilize and Christianize” native people by forcible assimilation through education. The intent, stated most bluntly, was to “take the Indian out of Indians.” Continue reading