So, this adulting thing ain’t easy. We have to do our chores, including the weekly(ish) housecleaning. We have to admit that the bathroom sink won’t stop dripping all night unless we fix it. We have to look at ourselves in the mirror and say, “Look, you’re not going to eat better, or start going to bed on time, or ever become a world-famous author unless you get off your butt and do the work.”
The past 15 months have been all about adulting. For many of us, that adulting meant facing some harsh realities: the inequities of our society, the fundamental and systemic injustices, and the legacy of histories we would prefer not to look at too closely. In 2020, the death of George Floyd reminded all of us of systemic racism. In 2021, the graves of 215 children in Kamloops—shortly after followed by 750 more in Saskatchewan—reminded us that our nation was founded on genocide.
It would be easy, so easy, to put all that under the convenient label of “the past”. Let’s just move on already! But that’s the childish reaction. The adult reaction—the hard reaction—is to admit that the past informs our present, individually and communally. The 60’s Scoop and the Residential Schools are part of people’s living memory. The 215 children whose graves were found in Kamloops had siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, cousins, friends, and communities. These people live with the memory of seeing children taken from homes, of being abused themselves, of the loss of languages and culture, and basic human dignity. This grief, pain, loss, and trauma is the past on which their present has been built.
We must also admit that the legacy of colonialism in Canada did not end with the Residential Schools; to this day the Indian Act—first passed in 1876—defines the place of Indigenous people in Canada as “other”.
We—as individuals and collectively—all have a part to play in building a different future.
What did we learn as children? Did we hear stories about “those Indians”? Did our parents or grandparents love watching old westerns full of stereotypes? Did we read headlines about civil disobedience and just wish the police would stop the roadblock inconveniencing us? Did we ask ourselves what we needed to learn, and unlearn?
As service providers, we at Bruce House know that this is not a “to-do” we can check off. This is an ongoing process, and it certainly is an uncomfortable one sometimes. It is far easier to point the finger at others than at ourselves. However the hard questions must be asked: Have we consulted our Indigenous clients about how safe and welcome they feel in our office? Have we asked ourselves if we treat some clients differently? Have we educated ourselves about what traumas and challenges our Indigenous clients face? About how accessible our services are to them?
The honest answer—as it likely is for many of us—is that we have begun doing our homework, but it is far from done. And that’s ok. You can’t address systemic and historic wrongs overnight, but you must begin somewhere. It took generations to get us here, it may take generations to change course. But we can do it, and we will do it.
As individuals we can educate ourselves, examine ourselves, and set the tone with our friends and loves ones.
As organizations, service providers, and community groups, we can address Reconciliation openly and honestly.
We have made tremendous strides as a society. We can make more. It will take the willingness to be adults, to face uncomfortable truths, and to do the work. We can—we will—do this.