As I continue the discussion (see Part 1 here) of how reconciliation was used as the foundation of the Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) commission, the key component was for the TRC to travel across Canada and listen to the stories of those families affected by the residential school system in Canada. This particular action was an example of how we can use reconciliation in our lives and as we interact with our friends living in poverty. Listening allows us to understand that the damage poverty has on a person’s life is more than the lack of money. It can affect a person in emotional and spiritual ways that, while never being erased, can be lessened and addressed through social action.
The TRC resulted in 94 Calls to Action for governments, faith denominations and the general public to act on. As the Catholic church in Canada was a major player in the operation of residential schools, there is a heavy burden to take concrete action steps in response to the 94 Calls to Action. If we do not respond, then we are not fulfilling our obligation to the reconciliation needed with indigenous people in Canada. In addition, there are many indigenous people who are baptized Catholics but no longer practice their Catholic faith, due mainly to the history the Catholic church in Canada has with indigenous people.
Education of indigenous culture is an important part of this reconciliation act. As I grew up in the 1960’s I never heard of residential schools, even though there were still several in operation. There was more emphasis on the history of our ancestors, who came from many countries as immigrants to the new world of Canada, without the realization that there were people whose ancestry in Canada went back centuries.
Reconciliation is much more about the future while not forgetting the past. This is certainly true of reconciliation in our Catholic faith. We ask for forgiveness but also work on being a better person tomorrow. In my experience with indigenous culture and faith tradition, there is a lot we can learn and discover how compatible it is with the Catholic faith. I shall pray that the TRC’s work is addressed by all levels of government, all faith traditions and every Canadian.
About the author:
Jim Paddon lives in London, Ontario, Canada and is past president of the Ontario Regional Council of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. He is currently chair of the National Social Justice Committee of the Society in Canada. He is married to his dear wife Pat and they have six daughters and eleven grandchildren. Jim has been a member of the Society since the 1970’s.
Opinions expressed are the author’s own views and do not officially represent those of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.