Friday, 01 June 2018 04:01

Truth and reconciliation event will focus on healing of families

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The second annual truth and reconciliation event in Swift Current will focus on the need for families to heal from the trauma of the past.


It will highlight the impact of the Sixties Scoop on the indigenous family structure and on Canadian society.
The Southwest Multicultural Association has partnered with a variety of organizations to host the event at Great Plains College on June 5 with the theme “Truth and Reconciliation – Act Now – Healing Families.”
Bula Ghosh of the Southwest Multicultural Association, who is on the organizing committee, said the purpose of the event is to continue to create more awareness about the past and the need for everyone to work towards reconciliation.
“It’s not a matter of anybody taking blame, but it’s a matter of people understanding this is a mission that we all have something to do with, whether we came to the country two years ago, 20 years ago, or were born here,” she emphasized. “We all enjoy this land and we all have a responsibility.”
It is necessary to talk about reconciliation and to take action because the events of the past are still resonating in the present.
“Canada as a country, where human rights are concerned by the United Nations, we're not in the top 10 countries with our record because of the way that the indigenous people have been treated in the past and still,” she said. “Why is there no good clean water on many reserves. Everybody else has good, clean water. Why is this a problem there? So these are the things as a country that we need to be paying attention to.”
The goal of last year's event in Swift Current was to increase awareness about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action. It was organized in response to a national survey, which indicated that 30 per cent of people in the prairie provinces were not aware of residential schools.
“Saskatchewan has one of the highest percentages of indigenous people,” she noted. “So we saw that there was a huge problem here. We looked at it and as Southwest Multicultural Association we thought that there needs something to be done by us in the southwest.”
The inaugural event was attended by about 230 people, including 170 students from Chinook School Division.
Afterwards members of the community asked if there will be a follow-up event, which served as a motivation for the committee to organize a second event.
There will again be a significant number of students from Chinook School Division and Great Plains College in attendance.
According to Lisa Kuntz, a curriculum coordinator at the Chinook School Division and a member of the organizing committee, there will be 185 Grade 12 students.
They will be joined by members of the school division's senior management team and board trustees.
“We want our students to be able to be aware and acknowledge the land that we are on, Treaty 4 land and the land of the Métis,” she said. “We also want to have students dedicate themselves to moving forward in partnership with indigenous communities, so our Nekaneet partners from the Nekaneet First Nation, in the spirit of reconciliation and collaboration so that students will have some understanding and be able to look at what does this mean for reconciliation and collaboration moving forward.”
Organizing committee member Sylvia Thorburn of the Salvation Army, who is also a cultural representative because of her Cree heritage, said this event will also be beneficial to people from an indigenous background because truth and reconciliation has a lot do with reclaiming culture.
“It is reclaiming it and owning it and being proud of it, not being ashamed of it, because years ago you used to be ashamed of it, but now it’s something that’s beautiful that you can share with the community and society,” she explained. “That’s what I think about truth and reconciliation, and that’s part of the healing process, and it’s exciting.”
The June 5 event will start at 9:30 a.m. in the gymnasium at Great Plains College. It will commence with a smudge and a blessing by cultural advisor Wendell Starblanket.
There will be greetings by Métis elder Cecile Blanke and representatives from the City of Swift Current, Chinook School Division, Great Plains College, and Living Sky Casino.
This will be followed by a presentation by Vince Vandale, a Sixties Scoop survivor. The Sixties Scoop is a term for a practice that started in Canada in the 1950s and continued until the 1980s. Indigenous children were taken away from their families and communities, often without consent from parents or bands, and then adopted by mostly non-indigenous families in Canada and the United States.
Leticia Racine, a member of the Sixties Scoop Committee and a scoop survivor, will also be speaking at the event.
During the morning there will be a performance by indigenous youth poet and creative artist Zoey Roy as well as fiddling and a round dance.
At noon the event participants will walk from the college to the nearby Market Square in downtown Swift Current, where there will be a flag raising. Students will read the call to action items from the Truth and Reconciliation report that relates to families. The event will conclude with lunch at the Lyric Theatre.
There will also be an evening program at the Swift Current Branch Library for people who are unable to attend the event during the day.
There will be a blessing by Métis elder Cecile Blanke, Zoey Roy will perform, and Leticia Racine will speak about her experiences as a Sixties Scoop survivor and how to heal families.
Both events are open to the public and everyone is welcome to attend. People who want to attend the lunch at the Lyric Theatre are requested to register before June 5.
For more information and to register, please call Bula Ghosh at 306-778-5477 or Catherine Aguilar at 306-750-2847.

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Matthew Liebenberg

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