September 30, 2023

Truth and Reconcilation

“Just get over it!”

This is a statement that many Indigenous people hear time and time again, especially those who went to residential school. Survivors, their children, and grandchildren are expected to move on from an experience that took place “along time ago”. When in reality, the last residential school officially closed in Canada in 1996. Most survivors have never been given the opportunity to process their trauma or given space to speak about their experiences. Most survivors were silenced in some way on speaking about those experiences.

Two members of Kitsilano Family Law team, Kerri Newman and Jennifer Buckley are children of residential school survivors. Kerri’s father attended St. Mary’s Residential School in Mission and St. Michael’s Indian Residential School in Alert Bay. Jennifer’s father went to Sechelt Indian School in Sechelt. Both their fathers have either downplayed their experiences or never spoke about them. They both tried to “just get over it.” Unfortunately, neither could do this.

Many residential school survivors have tried, time and time again to “just get over it”. By not being afforded the opportunity to speak about their experiences or process their traumas, survivors have unintentionally passed these traumas down to their children. These traumas have been passed down by how a survivor may have spoken to their child, disciplined them or cared for them. These passed down traumas are something that we, as a society today have come to understand as inter-generational trauma. This is where reconciliation comes in.

Why is reconciliation important? Indigenous voices and traditions have been silenced since the time settlers came to what is called Canada today. In 1831 the first residential school opened, by 1880 the Canadian government implemented these schools into their official policies and funded these schools. The purpose of these schools, to separate the child from their family and culture. The abuse that many children received while in school have stayed with them and their families to this day. At present, Indigenous people concerns, input and treatment are still not being taken seriously.

For Kerri reconciliation means: coming together as a community to teach our children and the non-indigenous community about our people, culture and history. Our society needs to listen to Indigenous elders’ stories and learn from their experiences.

For Jennifer reconciliation means: getting on the ground and working with Indigenous societies to help them enhance and expand their services for Indigenous people in need, especially those who living on the Downtown East Side. To put more pressure on our government, especially our federal government, to give rural Indigenous communities access to necessities and more resources to be self-sustaining.

Finally, standing together as a society and acknowledging Indigenous voices and culture are important. Our society needs to better understand Canada’s role in the systemic racism and treatment towards Indigenous people. When this happens, maybe then will Indigenous people, especially survivors, “just get over it”.

Gilakas’la(Thank you in the Kwakuitl language)

Blog by: Kerri Newman and Jennifer Buckley

Edit by: Jennifer Buckley

THE BRIEF

Read more from Kitsilano Family Law’s blog — The Brief.

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