The legacy of residential schools is ongoing in Canada. One that the recent discoveries of unmarked graves at former school sites has brought into sharp relief. But how can Canada keep a sustained focus on these issues in a way that brings about positive and lasting change?
Addressing these questions, the Macdonald-Laurier Institute recently held a webinar with a panel of Indigenous leaders on the theme of Building Beyond: The Painful Legacy of Residential Schools.
Hosted by Ken Coates, the panel featured Chief Cadmus Delorme of the Cowessess First Nation, Tosh Southwick, consultant and founding partner at IRP, Melissa Mbarki, policy analyst at MLI, and Chris Sankey, chairman and CEO of Blackfish Enterprises.
Chief Delorme sees this as an opportunity to finally face the truth of the intergenerational trauma that First Nations people have suffered. He believes that this will make Canada even stronger in the end.
“We’re not asking for pity, we’re asking for understanding. Stand beside us as we heal. We want to be a part of the economy. We want to be a part of social life. I’m a very proud Canadian citizen, but I am just as proud as a First People…I feel we are in a moment in this country’s time where we are going to reflect, and after this we are going to be the strongest nation in this world with a great relationship with Indigenous people.”
Mbarki believes we need grassroots healing that focuses on the wants and needs of communities. In terms of promoting understanding and reconciliation, she says that the recent spate of statue topplings and church burnings is actually making matters worse for Indigenous people.
“I think it is totally unfair to be putting survivors through that. Violence is never the answer to these kinds of issues. We’ve got to think about the bigger picture.”