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Reconciliation with the Indigenous Community in Canada

Los Angeles, Oct 06, 2021 Sanghera
Ramesh/ A.Gary Singh

Declaration of September 30 as the National Truth and Reconciliation Day in Canada was a commendable move on the part of the federal government. Historically, the Indigenous community has been through an extremely difficult time. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has dealt with the sufferings of this community in a very comprehensive manner. The Commission has made 94 recommendations in order to rectify the situation. The government has agreed to implement these recommendations as soon as possible. The Indigenous community is eagerly waiting for the implementation of each of this recommendation. Mistreatment of the Indigenous community in Canada is a very tragic chapter in this country’s history.  The discovery of unmarked graves of children in former residential schools in Kamloops and elsewhere in Canada has highlighted the mistreatment of the Indigenous community in a very effective manner. It has touched our hearts like never before.

On the First National Truth and Reconciliation Day on September 30 a, large number of Indigenous leaders articulated their concerns very well. The entire South Asian community has expressed strong support for and solidarity with the Indigenous community. All of us should make sure that this day is just not a token day but an on-going learning experience for us. In this context, one of the respected Aboriginal elders, Byron Joseph, has put it very well by calling upon all Canadians to come to-gether as “one heart and one mind, so we can… live together as one.” In this context, it is incumbent upon every level of government, non -government agencies and religious leadership to work closely with the Indigenous community in the reconciliation and healing process.

In order to build bridges with the Indigenous community, we need an open mind. Implementation of the 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is a good start. It will also be pertinent in the healing process to include an accurate and unbiased account of their history in Canada spanning thousands of years. Making it as part of our school curriculums will be another positive move in this regard. Canadians need to listen to the stories of not only the Indigenous leadership but also of ordinary people. It will enable us to see things from their perspective. Helping the Indigenous community reconnect with its heritage, culture, language and traditions will go a long way in the healing process already under way. In this context, I had an opportunity as an educator and Councillor in Lillooet for more than seventeen years. It was a wonderful experience for me to interact with and learn from the Indigenous students,parents,elders and their leadership. Their holistic and simple lifestyle, respect and love for nature are commendable. There is a lot that we can learn from them.

Canada is a very affluent country. Yet, we hear troubling stories of hardship of living on some Indian Reserves. It is a tragedy as the living conditions on some of the Reserves are still in such a deplorable condition. Recent stories in the media about the lack of basic necessities like clean running water are hard to believe. It has been reported that there are 45 long-term drinking water advisories that still remain in effect in 32 First Nation communities. Similarly, there are a number of issues that need to be addressed in order to help the Aboriginal communities across Canada. Canada prides itself as being one of the most multicultural, inclusive and compassionate counties in the world. Let us use the same kind of compassion and kindness to help our Indigenous brothers and sisters in this much needed reconciliation and healing process.

Balwant Sanghera

(Balwant Sanghera is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist)

  • What is indigenous community?
The World Health Organization defines Indigenous populations as follows: "communities that live within, or are attached to, geographically distinct traditional habitats or ancestral territories, and who identify themselves as being part of a distinct cultural group, descended from groups present in the area……NRIpress