Reconciliation - How and Where to Start?
Reconciliation begins with every one of us. As settlers on these unceded lands, we have a duty to pursue truth and reconciliation. How? There are many ways, but in my experience, the path is through acknowledgment, education and participation. This path can look different depending on our resources, skills and comfort levels, but we can all make progress when it comes to decolonizing our thoughts and actions.
Acknowledgment begins with recognizing the history and ongoing impacts of colonialism, and that as settlers, we have benefitted from this system. Start by committing to read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s findings and final report. Then, read the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) final report. Listen to the truths shared in these reports.
Next, we can commit to educating ourselves. There are so many great resources out there, including these ones suggested in the MMIWG Final Report:
- Amnesty International: 10 Ways to Be a Genuine Ally to Indigenous Communities
- Dr. Lynn Gehl: Ally Bill of Responsibilities
- Indigenous Perspectives Society: How to be an Ally to Indigenous People
- Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy Network: Indigenous Ally Toolkit
Reading Indigenous authors, joining conversations led by Indigenous leaders, following and sharing news about Indigenous people’s fight for justice are also part of our ongoing education. Canada’s history did not begin with colonialism and confederation; if we know John A. McDonald who actively participated in the oppression and further colonization of the First Nations, we must also know Mistahimaskwa and other Indigenous leaders who fought for liberation of Indigenous peoples. We should know Lee Maracle and other Indigenous thinkers and authors. We should know what they stood/stand for and why.
Now we can focus on action. For many of us, this means being an ally. In their toolkit, the Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy Network recommends asking ourselves the following questions:
- How can I use this new information in my everyday life?
- What steps can I personally take to amplify marginalized voices that are too often silenced?
- What do I have and how can that be leveraged?
- How can I use my position and privileges to listen, shift power dynamics and take steps towards reconcili-action?
How do these questions apply to your life?
- Are you in a position of privilege that would allow you to make more space for Indigenous voices?
- Could you volunteer with an organization or cause that supports Indigenous folks on their path to achieving substantive equality?
- Can you show up at a march or rally and stand in support and solidarity with Indigenous peoples?
Speaking of marches and rallies, maybe we should re-examine the ways in which we spend our energy and resources. If we are an active participant of the Women’s March (that has been happening worldwide around January since Donald Trump was elected), but never joined the Annual Women’s Memorial March for Murdered and Missing Women in the Downtown Eastside, maybe it is time to ask ourselves why. And then rethink our priorities and actions as allies to Indigenous women – if we identify as such.
Each person’s path is different, but take some time to consider what allyship looks like in your life. Reconciliation begins with every one of us. Let us begin with ourselves: checking our privileges, biases and double-standards.
Golsa is an activist, community organizer and advocate with a special focus on intersectionality of race, class and gender struggles. She is currently working at the YWCA as a Youth Engagement Coordinator and also designing and directing the BEATS magazine for immigrant and refugee youth in the Lower Mainland. Golsa is completing her Honours Degree at SFU’s Political Science Department.
Photo credit: Saman Shariati, The Ubyssey