I know many of you have been shocked by the recent church burnings, vandalism, and destruction of statues and I strongly condemn these appalling actions.
While it is true that we are at a deeply emotional point in our nation’s history, we cannot resort to destruction and violence. That is not the way to reconciliation.
The discovery of over a thousand unmarked graves at former residential schools – and knowing there are more yet to be discovered – has been a somber reminder that more work needs to be done to address the devastating and harmful effects that residential schools had, and still have, on many survivors today.
This destruction only undermines the important conversations that need to take place on how we can move forward. As the Honourable Murray Sinclair, former senator and former chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said in a recent post on his Facebook page:
“I’m not at all impressed by acts of destruction such as this. The people who commit these acts and those who condone them, need to understand how much they set back any chance of moving the dialogue on changing the bad relationship we have, forward. Do you really think this is going to help? Of course you don’t. That’s not why you did it. You may have been instigated by those who want nothing to do with changing the relationship. You may have been instigated by people bent on making you look bad. You may have easily acted to do this because of the anger you feel and some sort of sense of getting even. I feel no pride in any of you who did this.”
Many other Indigenous leaders, as well as residential school survivors have condemned these actions. This includes Jenn Allan-Riley, a Sixties Scoop survivor and the daughter of a residential school survivor, who said, “burning down churches is not in solidarity with us Indigenous people…we do not destroy people’s places of worship…If you want to support us you can stand with us and you can mourn in our grief and support us as we discover more graves across this country.”
Canada’s history is far from perfect. In order to move forward we must learn more about our past and how to meaningfully address it, while also securing a future that includes everyone. I believe Canada’s future will be defined on how we build our nation up, not tear it down.
As Perry Bellegarde said in one of his last official statements as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations:
“We need to understand what happened and learn to speak openly about it. Destroying property will not help us build the peaceful, better and accepting Canada we all want and need. I believe in processes that unite rather than divide. Violence must be replaced by turning to ceremony and all that our old people taught us about peaceful co-existence and mutual respect. Thoughtful dialogue not destruction is the way through this.”
For forgiveness and healing to happen, we need to truly listen to and hear one another. These criminal acts only jeopardize this important national conversation from taking place.