Reflections on Beacon’s Learning Journey with Reconciliation

This church year, Beacon has embarked on a path towards Truth, Healing and Reconciliation with Indigenous people. Many Beaconites attended the reconciliation walk in September or the blanket exercise in October. A group of nine participants and three facilitators under the leadership of Reverend Debra have spent the past five months delving into what reconciliation means and learning why it is important. As part of the 8-session curriculum, we have read, watched videos, listened to stories, engaged in reflection and discussed topics such as colonization, residential schools, racism, systemic inequities, intergenerational trauma, cultural safety and being an effective ally.

John Hagen shared his reflections on this learning experience:

“I thought I knew what being an Indigenous person meant.

I thought I knew about the mistreatment that “colonization” of Canada inflicted on the Indigenous people.

I was wrong.

What I learned about my colonial culture’s treatment of Canada’s first nations – the intolerance, the prejudice, the racism, the criminal acts, shocked me, enraged me and made me ashamed of my Canadian heritage.

That all of my life I have lived in this bubble of ignorance, indifference and hostility humiliates me profoundly.

Even though most of this occurred in the past, I now know how critical it is to reveal the truth, to effect reconciliation and healing and somehow give recompense for the Indigenous cultures we tried to expunge and upon who we inflicted cruel and inhumane treatment”.

The work that we have taken up together has been intense, challenging and often disturbing. And so it should be. It is a difficult history that we are grappling with and trying to understand. We came up against our own ignorance. We shared our grief.  We looked at our personal and cultural histories. We talked about fears, confusion and uncertainty, and the difficulties of discussing our learning with loved ones. We made commitments to a better future for this country.

We are immensely grateful for the wisdom and guidance of Aline LaFlamme who brought both courage and heart to the group in sharing stories of residential schools and taking us inside the experience of Indigenous people, highlighting the treatment that they have endured, the pain and damage that was caused through colonization and the strength and resilience that have led to the current call for reconciliation.  Rebecca Burns shared her learning as a nurse working with Indigenous patients and helped the group to understand the work being done within the health care system to provide a sense of cultural safety.

Our shared learning is a first step – both at Beacon, and for each of us in our lives in the broader community – as we walk the path to reconciliation. Our journey together has opened the door to the TRUTH that is part of Truth, Healing and Reconciliation. There is more to learn and much more to do.