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What honoring Truth & Reconciliation means

Loretta Todd reflects on what Canada's first national day honoring residential school survivors could mean to kids, and why reconciliation is a global process.
September 30, 2021

Today marks Canada’s first-ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a federal holiday to honor the survivors of residential schools, as well as their families and communities. Public commemoration of this tragic history is a core part of the reconciliation process, and is among 94 calls to action from the 2015 Government of Canada “Truth and Reconciliation Commission.” The day is meant to be one of reflection and remembrance, and to ensure the history and impact of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.

There are more than 300 million Indigenous peoples worldwide in more than 90 countries, according to The World Bank, and countries such as Australia and the US have also been reckoning with the ongoing effects of colonialism. 

We reached out to Métis Cree creator Loretta Todd (Coyote’s Crazy Smart Science Show) with three questions: What does the day mean for kids; what would this have meant for her as a child; and why is this important in Canada and globally. Below are her complete responses. 

Every child is different. But in the Indigenous community, everyone—in one way or another—is connected to the tragedy of residential schools and genocide.

Today, our children still face tragedy and genocide—call it cultural genocide if that softens the word. Federal statistics show that in Canada, 52.2% of children in foster care are Indigenous, even though they only account for 7.7% of the overall child population, according to the 2016 Census. In some provinces—such as Alberta, where 69% of children and youth in care were Indigenous—the rates are even higher. There are many reasons for this, but for Indigenous kids, Truth and Reconciliation means a safe home with parents who have meaningful work and who can live their cultures without having to wonder if there will be no moose or salmon or even cedar trees. It means seeing their family being treated with dignity everyday. And it means Free, Prior and Informed Consent [defined as the meaningful engagement with Indigenous people...to secure their free, prior and informed consent when Canada proposes to take actions that impact them and their rights, including their lands, territories and resources]. If there is no consent, then it means their parents won’t be criminalized for protecting their lands and waters. We are doing this for everyone, because we have a cultural imperative to protect the land, which can include sustainable development that benefits everyone.

Indigenous leaders, Elders, knowledge-holders, parents, matriarchs—all of our people have been speaking the truth since the Europeans arrived. We spoke the truth when we helped you survive on our lands. We spoke the truth when we understood the treaties to be peace treaties. We spoke the truth when we practiced our cultures and spoke our languages, and cared for our children and respected all our relations. We still speak the truth. What Truth and Reconciliation would’ve meant to me as a child was that we were respected as Nations that carry truths, who take responsibilities for those truths, and that our truths have meaning and power.

The process of decolonizing is a colossal undertaking that is global. Colonization continues today. And the consequences are climate change, increasing inequity, failure of democracy to protect the most vulnerable and protect true freedom. There were these books that came out—like How the Irish Saved Civilization and How the Scots Invented the Modern World—[that explore the role of these nations across history]. Well, Indigenous Nations aren’t without our flaws and struggles to create harmony and balance in our own histories on these lands, but much of the history that Europeans know of us is gleaned through the lens of colonization and the conflicts and scarcities it imparted to our lands.

I have been hearing warnings about the environment since I was a kid from Elders—and very few listened. If we look to our stories and philosophies, our truths speak to how every time we overused the land and water, polluted the land and water, and disrespected one another and other beings on earth—plants and animals—there were consequences. Not wrath of god consequences, but consequences that created imbalance and degradation of the land and water. So we have knowledge, experience and the skills to decolonize and restore balance and harmony…and maybe even save the world.

I have deep respect for all those who do this important work of Truth and Reconciliation, and for all those who seek to understand and listen. I know these truths are a bit daunting to hear in a publication about children’s programming. But I create joyful, inspirational, loving, caring, knowledgeable, cultural programming for Indigenous children, their families and their friends even though I carry these deep wounds from colonization. So please, take this as expression of seeking the space for all Indigenous people to speak our truths and to be heard. And that we need so much space to let more of our stories be told. Land back and stories back.

 

 

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