#8 – Youth Perspective on Reconciliation

On Wednesday June 10 2009, the Aboriginal Healing Foundation and the Legacy of Hope Foundation hosted a youth discussion about the legacy of residential schools and reconciliation. During this conversation, a group of 26 Aboriginal students spoke about the definition of reconciliation, ways to achieve reconciliation and its benefits for all Canadians. The first topic of conversation was the meaning of reconciliation. There was a consensus among the group that reconciliation cannot be defined as a one time event. According to the students, reconciliation is a long time journey and is practiced/perceived/achieved differently for everyone. It is a journey that can happen between anyone including; family, the church and government. In summary, the group agreed that reconciliation involves acceptance and forgiveness and is a good step forward.

Another topic discussed by the youth was ways to achieve reconciliation. The group agreed that the acknowledgment of one’s feelings is the first step in moving forward. As mentioned by the students, once there is acknowledgment of feelings, one can learn to accept them and move forward. The group also agreed that reconciliation can only be achieved with a positive attitude and positive coping mechanisms.

The students also spoke about the lack of knowledge that exists regarding the legacy of residential schools. They all concurred that it is highly important for Canadians to be aware of residential schools because increased education results into greater understanding of the issue. The students recognized the apology delivered by Prime Minister Stephen Harper as a good step forward; however they voiced that there is additional work that is needed. The students believe that there should be an increase in the knowledge regarding the history of residential schools. They believe that this will assist reconciliation because Canadians will be able to understand and appreciate the legacy that the residential school system has left on all Canadians.

The students agreed that reconciliation is an on going process and that one must fully understand the issue in order to achieve reconciliation. According to the group, all Canadians were affected by the residential school system, even families that did not attend residential schools. The youth voiced that the residential school system was based on the premise of social cohesion and on Eurocentric ideas on how to assimilate the Aboriginal population. Despite this, many of the Aboriginal youth agreed that the Aboriginal culture is not lost and that they must reclaim it. The idea of education was mentioned again and the students discussed the potential benefits of reconciliation that it poses for all of Canadians. The students suggested that programs be implemented in schools that teach the legacy of residential schools. It is crucial that this approach be “we are all in this together” and to avoid pointing the blame. The students once again stressed that education is a critical component in achieving reconciliation. All students expressed their interest in becoming more involved in the 1000 conversations initiative and believe initiatives such as this, will continue to break the silence.

Comments are closed.