Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Lorne Doerkson

Open ears and heart to Indigenous voices

MLA Lorne Doerkson column

We marked the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation last week and many of us wore an orange shirt to simultaneously mark Orange Shirt Day. But the work doesn’t stop there.

Orange Shirt Day started in the Cariboo, a legacy of the St. Joseph Mission Residential School Commemoration Project and Reunion events that took place in Williams Lake in 2013. Former student Phyllis Webstad shared the story of how she had a new orange shirt to wear to her school, not knowing it would be taken from her, among other injustices she experienced.

So while wearing the orange shirt is a visual symbol of our commitment to reconciliation, there’s more we can do to advance this process.

Firstly, it’s important to listen to the voices of Indigenous people, which have too often been silenced. We must open our ears and our hearts to how Indigenous people would like the process of reconciliation to unfold and reaffirm our commitment to working together to achieve it.

It’s also imperative that we commit to learning more about reconciliation and why it’s important. This is where the hard work comes in, and I encourage you to seek out educational resources in Indigenous voices. A good place to start is by reading the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It’s worth noting the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, marked on Sept. 30, was among those calls to action.

The Commission ran from 2008-2015 and provided those affected by the legacy of the Indian Residential Schools with the opportunity to share their stories. While it’s difficult to learn about the abuses and injustices suffered by those who attended residential schools — and the many impacts on their loved ones — doing so is important for all of us.

This leads to another significant action – to challenge our own thinking and actions. Are we carrying around our own prejudices and biases? Have we participated in Indigenous ceremonies or events? Have we held conversations with others about Indigenous issues, even if those discussions are difficult? We must challenge our own beliefs and our own discomfort as we walk this path together.

This weekend all of us will celebrate Thanksgiving, after an incredibly tough period of time. I hope you are able to take time with family and friends to reflect on all the good in your life. We’re blessed to live in this region, province and country. It’s always good to take a moment to be grateful for that blessing, as I will be doing.

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