2017 marks 150 years since Confederation and it is an ideal time to begin a conversation about reconciliation in the Royal City. Several municipalities have already declared 2017 to be the Year of Reconciliation. On December 5, members of the working group Truth and Reconciliation New West presented at the New Westminster City Council meeting to discuss the upcoming dialogues taking place in New Westminster.
This is the transcript of the presentation:
The Witness Blanket was created out of hundreds of items reclaimed from Residential Schools, churches, government buildings, and traditional cultural structures that include Friendship Centres, treatment centres, and more.
We are very fortunate to have this piece of artwork in New Westminster. The Witness Blanket is a national monument to recognise the atrocities of the Indian Residential School era and is a symbol of ongoing reconciliation.
It’s been a year since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada completed their work and it seems like a very fitting time to open a dialogue about Truth and Reconciliation here in New Westminster.
Aanii, Boozhoo, ’Uy’ skweyu
Greetings everyone, my name is Babs Kelly, I was born into this city, this ancestral and traditional land of the Qayqayt, 50 years ago and it is an honour to be with all of you today as we consider what reconciliation means to each and every one of us, our community, our way of being together, and our way forward.
I am the grand-daughter of Rita and Bob from Liverpool and Olds Alberta, as well as the grand-daughter of Slim and Tina, and the daughter of Marilyn, who came to BC from north eastern Ontario and the land of the Fort Albany 67 Indian Reserve.
As a young boy Slim was taken away to residential school. He came out of residential school broken, and we all inherited and internalized that brokenness. The family story goes, that Chief Dan George dipped me in the chuck in hopes of giving me something to see through the hard times. I like to think of that as my first moment of truth. My family’s truth includes a legacy of violence, addiction, survival sex work, institutionalization, self-harm, incarceration, sexual abuse, and the fear of having our children seized.
It also includes the possibility of healing – not just through individual efforts and care, or with the support of our loved ones, but with the support, and with the acceptance of the truth, from the communities we find ourselves in, no matter how far from home.
I was asked to bear witness and speak this truth to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, to share my story of the legacy of the intentional harm that was done to my family. I was asked to face my shame, to keenly feel the pain of systemic and personal racism, to understand the solitude of social disconnection born out of otherness;
And now I ask you, to lead our beautiful and historic city with courage, to consider the truths revealed through the TRC, and to believe in a community that honours reconciliation and where we are all one.
I know that reconciliation is possible, and that it will take different times and different paths for all of us.
And I know, as I walked here this evening through this city, this community, and as I look around this room, that we are all one. Reconciliation is an opportunity, a hope, and a way forward with so many of the challenges that we face; it is a way of understanding and reaching new solutions and it is a way of saying that we each matter and we each care.
On behalf of my mother, my aunties and my grandmothers, chi miigwech, Huy ch q’u, and safe journeys.
Along with Erin Watkins and Nick Rowlands from the New Westminster Public Library and Hayley Sinclair from Community Volunteer Connections, we have organized a panel discussion called Community Stories of Truth and Reconciliation on Thursday, January 19 at the Anvil Centre. We have invited dignitaries to attend and the event is open to the public with childminding available. Tickets are free or by donation with proceeds being donated to Spirit of the Children Society. This will be an opportunity to have a conversation about what T&R means for people living in New Westminster.
The panel discussion will be followed by a series of kitchen table dialogues which will be smaller scale, community-led discussions from January 25-February 18. We will come back to Council after these events to report back about what we heard. More information can be found at trnewwest.com.