Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is a time to acknowledge wrongdoings and build bridges between neighbours.
Almost 20 years ago, Tla’amin Nation and City of Powell River signed the first municipal/First Nation relationship protocol in Canada. The Community Accord was written long before reconciliation with First Nations was well understood, and it has become a model for communities across the country.
Our region was recognized as a leader because we showed the rest of the country what it means to do better when we know better.
Lately, the country has come face to face with another uncomfortable truth. The revelations about unmarked children’s graves at the Kamloops Indian Residential School have opened a painful and necessary national conversation about reconciliation. And this painful truth hits close to home.
In his 1882 annual report to the Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs, Israel Wood Powell first suggested that Canada build an Indian residential school in Kamloops so that Indigenous adults in the area might be trained as teachers to “become effective civilizers on returning to their own people.”
This was the same year as superintendent Powell petitioned Ottawa to ban the potlatch arguing that his agents “should be empowered by law to prevent the practice of any barbarous customs upon reserves placed under his immediate care.”
While many may look upon Powell’s actions as simply a sign of the times, it is also true that when we know better, we must do better. September 30th is a day to educate and promote awareness about the hard truths of the residential school system and its damaging effects, both past and present.
We find ourselves in a place of reflection where we acknowledge the atrocities of colonialism. Let us acknowledge these wrongdoings to ensure we continue on the path to true reconciliation.
September 30th is also a day to build bridges that will last for generations, bridges built with neighbourly consideration and a sense of shared responsibility.
And, it is a day to remember that we must walk this road together.
Together, we have an opportunity to be leaders once again, and to show the rest of Canada what true reconciliation looks like.
We ask that you all join us with the passion, energy and ideas that make this region great.
John Hackett is hegus of Tla’amin Nation. Dave Formosa is mayor of City of Powell River.