I am Canadian. My family arrived in this country as far back as the 1600’s in Moncton, NB. My Acadian roots were interwoven with Russian-Ukrainian’s of northern Saskatchewan and somewhere in there, there are rumours of a Cree mother. My parents met in Marathon, Ontario, but I was raised in Toronto and pride myself on being a latte drinking, cycling, urbanist with a business-savvy social justice twist. I figure that I am pretty informed and so that is why I am entirely embarrassed to tell you that I what I learned at the Indigenous Innovation Summit was completely transformative for me – mostly because of my own stupidity, ignorance and self-importance.
The Summit was a gathering of Indigenous and non-Indigenous practitioners that are exploring how social innovation can be used as a tool to build a vibrant Indigenous culture in Canada. I learned of amazing Indigenous accomplishments, of a proud history of innovation and of the incredible work of the National Association of Friendship Centres and many many other Indigenous groups.
Perhaps the most transformative part of this experience for me was the opportunity to hear three incredible people speak and it is these speeches that I want to share with you today.
First off, the incredible work of Justice Murray Sinclair and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I knew, but I didn’t REALLY know what had happened in the Residential Schools. When I learned that over 80,000 indigenous children went through these horrific schools and that the abuse (not nearly a strong enough word) was SO systemic (over 6000 first hand testimonies), I was appalled and absolutely ashamed of the country that I love. Listening to Justice Sinclair, who lead the TRC, be honoured at the Human Rights Museum was amazing and hearing his talk the day after filled me with such profound insight and sadness. Justice Murray Sinclair speaks at IIS.
Perhaps more impactful was the inspiring story of 20 year old Raven Lacerte and her father Paul Lacerte and their amazing story. To hear a story that is so moving with such a first hand experience of the affects of the systemic and crushing impact of the residential schools and their legacy, was for me at least, simply transformative – Raven Lacerte & the Moosehide Campaign. These two incredible people generously opened their hearts so that I may learn. I am grateful.
For me, l learned so many things:
- that my country has a shameful past that we must know, own and take responsibility for
- that the impact of this systemic oppression has had multi-generational impacts of pain and abuse
- that the Indigenous way of honouring everyone who has gone before and is present and honouring the place that we are, moves us squarely in a place of gratitude – a skillset that I sorely lack in my fast paced style
- that stories truly do stay with us in ways that instruction doesn’t
- that I have so so so much more to learn about the people who came before us in this incredible country
I was, and remain, humbled and grateful for this tremendous opportunity to learn and grow.
Happy New Year everyone!