“The truth will set you free,” he said. This quote from Jesus was used by Justice Murray Sinclair in his closing remarks as commissioner at the final national Truth and Reconciliation (TRC)
event, recently held in Edmonton. It was an Easter promise if ever I heard one. If it is true, then Canada gained some freedom, not just at this event — which was attended by more than 3,000 registered survivors of Indian Residential Schools and thousands of others — but at the six previous TRC events held throughout Canada.
The courage of survivors in telling the truth was stunning. This is the most difficult Lenten walk of all. When I pick up my cross, I find that there are children nailed to it.
These are the children whose stories I listened to over four days of TRC testimonies. These innocent children have been nailed to the cross because they were simply born First Nation, Metis and Inuit. Their hearts were broken by a savage Canadian law that took them from their families for so-called educational reasons.
The children, who are now grown and even old, told the truth of seven generations taken from home, security, language, spirituality and community: the boy at the window staring at the moon, hoping his faraway parents were watching too; the girl whose hands were strapped until they dripped blood on the floor for the crime of speaking Cree; the pervasive hunger; the inadequate clothing and shoes; the child raped on her first day of school and during the following years; the boy hiding in the bush by his parents, watching the Indian agent empty the village of children, lifting them into the back of farm trucks; the girls made to eat green baloney and drink sour milk and the boy digging graves for other children. This cross is heavy.
In the biblical story of Jesus’ walk to the cross, Veronica steps out of the crowd and wipes the blood, sweat and tears from his face with her veil. The veils at this meeting were tissues in the hands of dozens of healers walking amongst us. Holy people with water, healing words and information about where to seek help later or to find a quiet place to smudge, pray or be quiet. The tears at this gathering, as in the time of Jesus, were considered sacred. The healers collected tear-soaked tissues and took them to the sacred fire outside to be offered to the Creator.
This five-year period of truth telling is changing lives, priorities, spiritual understandings and educational programs. Now, we will see if the Aboriginal children of today will benefit from an education in warm, safe schools that receive funding and resources equal to that of other Canadian children in our abundant land. Now, we will see if the federal government will put the safety and wellbeing of Aboriginal women on par with other Canadian women, establishing a Royal Commission for Murdered and Missing Women.
We will see what kind of citizens we are. We will see if Easter comes on Sunday morning.
This was Part One of Carolyn Pogue's reflection on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Hearings, which were held in Edmonton in March. Part Two will be posted on April 17.
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