Reconciled to What? Personal and Public Reconciliation in Canadian Aboriginal Context
by Brad Jersak with thanks to the Honourable Iona Campagnola
Recently, I was honoured to attend a gathering hosted by the Lytton First Nation, entitled ‘Bright New Day’ Workshop. The facilitators of the event were John McCandless and Chief Robert Joseph. Approximately sixty registrants attended, half of whom came from a variety of Aboriginal communities and organizations, while the other half represented a wide range of governments and businesses that have a stake in building relationships with the First Nations communities. It seemed symbolic that the modern facilities selected for the event were unfinished but that could enjoy meeting in one large circle within a tent with a grass field as the floor. Significant too was the fact that we were situated on the grounds of what had once been St. George's Residential School, with all the loaded history that its memory carries. To have a conference on reconciliation among such people in such a place was a profound experience that I will not forget. Before I go on, I want to thank the Lytton First Nation for welcoming me to the traditional territories of the N’Laka’Pamux Peoples. You treated me with great hospitality and respect.
Michael Ignatieff, True Patriot Love: Four Generations in Search of Canada. Toronto: Viking Canada, 2009.
Michael Ignatieff could become the next Prime Minister in Canada. This means it is of some importance to know what Ignatieff thinks and why.
Ignatieff is the child of two important Canadian families: the Grant and Ignatieff clans. Michael has written of the roots of the Ignatieff family in The Russian Album. True Patriot Love is a turn to the better known Grant side of the family, and an exploration of how four generations of Grants have tried to make sense of what it means to be Canadian.
I started spending a lot of evenings in my local county jail a few years ago, doing Bible studies and meeting with inmates one on one as a young chaplain. I immediately loved the Chicano gangsters best. I thought I’d found kindred souls on the margins our society who were readier to follow Jesus than either the youth group leaders or seminary students of my past.
They were delightfully irreligious in the Bible studies. Smart, boldly honest, aware of social injustice. They weren’t attached to the status quo or many family expectations, and not afraid to be arrested nor die for what they wanted. They knew how to hit the streets and get along with few material belongings. These guys could recruit other orphaned young men with uncanny results, and they already had experience in laying down their lives for their homies. Often one would take the hit for another’s crime, doing years in prison without saying a word to the lawyers.
In eighth street eatshops
Leaden words hiss and seal the doors.
“I am not a racist, but-
But. Those natives.”
how long -
- to choke these hymns of death?
How long to eat the bright paste,
the acrylic lies that melt shut the mouth?
Who will sing truthward songs?
When the young woman, the “Entrepreneur,”
the new waitress comes East to serve
And the dogs bark on her “she’s dirty”
Who would cast over those clean tables?
And who would drive down those lying dogs?
Let prairie winds fling wide the doors,
Scatter the keys. Let us gather round
New tables, look to one another's eyes
- and hear!
O Sing to us, fast flowing river,
Flow West to East and
North to South sing over us -