I think my heart skipped a beat. It was the first meeting of our congregation’s Truth, Healing and Reconciliation team, and we were lucky enough to have Treaty Commissioner George Lafond join us for the evening.
I was thrilled. Except that now he was asking each of us for our thoughts on reconciliation, and my mind was blank.
I was drawn to be a part of UCS’ Reconciliation team because I have a deep sense that this work is important to me, and to this country. I have followed the news, listened to stories, attended workshops and read quite a bit of the Truth and Reconciliation commission’s Executive Summary, including all of the calls to action.
But asked this question, “what is reconciliation,” my mind went blank. Embarrassingly blank. This is what I was hoping to discover by joining the team!
As it turns out, I am not alone. We are all trying to figure out what reconciliation means. Many of us have a sense that now is the time to work together, so that our future can be better than our past, especially in this province, where, within a couple of decades, the aboriginal population will be a much larger percentage of the population. But exactly what to do … the answer, or answers, have yet to take shape.
After being provocative with his questioning, and giving us a sense of urgency about the work, Commissioner Lafond went on to suggest that reconciliation is easier to grasp if broken down into types, which he named as political/legal, economic, cultural and spiritual reconciliation.
Political/legal reconciliation is the work that First Nations, Métis and Inuit have done and are doing to stand up for their treaty rights and to strengthen their relationships with the various levels of government. This is their work to lead, and they will ask for wider support as they need it.
Economic reconciliation, on the other hand, is everyone’s responsibility. Commissioner Lafond spoke movingly of the need to stabilize families, especially mothers and young children. He sees the stability and health of young families as the cornerstone to success, and wanted us to consider how our work as a team might have an impact in this area.
Cultural and spiritual reconciliation ask us to reflect on who we are as a community – what are our practices, and how might they be adapted to be more welcoming and inclusive of aboriginal experience. How knowledgeable are we about aboriginal cultural and spiritual practices? How welcoming and open are we to First Nations and Métis peoples? (Which means, not how welcoming do we think we are, but what are some of their experiences when they walk through our doors?) Are we able to engage with partners outside the congregation in ways that are respectful and empowering?
Over the next year, UCS’ Truth, Healing and Reconciliation team will be offering a variety of opportunities to engage in this work. We encouraging everyone in the congregation to get involved in ways that are meaningful to them, whether it is attending workshops and services, participating in book groups, or getting involved in social action projects.
Speaking for myself, I hope that in a year, I will be better able to answer the question “what is reconciliation.” I hope that this is true of our congregation and our city, too.