New Westminster residents are invited to join in on a journey of truth and reconciliation.
Babs Kelly’s grandfather was taken away to a residential school when he was just a young boy.
“He came out of residential school broken, and we all inherited and internalized that brokenness,” she said. “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.”
But the New West resident noted her family’s legacy also includes the possibility of healing, not just through the individual efforts and the support of their loved ones, but with the support and acceptance of the truth in the communities where they live.
“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,” she recently told city council. “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.”
Kelly invites community members to take part in the reconciliation process by attending an upcoming event in New West: Community Stories of Truth and Reconciliation.
“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 saying that we each matter and that we each care,” said Kelly, a community organizer from Northern Engagement. “It is what the elders of this land, this land that blesses us with life, called upon us to do.”
Community Stories of Truth and Reconciliation is a free event taking place on Thursday, Jan. 19 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Anvil Centre. Eden Fine Day will perform at 6 p.m. and a panel discussion gets underway at 6:30 p.m.
“This will be an opportunity to have a conversation about what truth and reconciliation means for people living in New Westminster,” said New West resident Nadine Nakagawa, community organizer. “The panel discussion will be followed by a series of kitchen table dialogues which will be smaller scale community-led discussions from Jan. 25 to Feb. 18.”
Dave Seaweed, an aboriginal coordinator at Douglas College, will moderate the panel. Speakers include:
* Harlan Pruden, a Frist Nation Cree/nehiyaw and UBC PhD student whose credits include being managing editor of Two-SpiritJournal.com.
* Tuy’t’tanat – Cease Wyss, who is Coast Salish of mixed cultures with Polynesian and European cultures. She’s a media artist and ethnobotanist who has participated in international and local projects that address community engagement and public intervention.
* Natasha Webb, president of the Aboriginal Student Collective at Douglas College.
* Josh Dahling, a member of the Squamish Nation and head of operations for Camp Kerry, an organization dedicated to providing support and programming to address grief and loss.
The City of New Westminster, the New Westminster Museum and Archives, the Arts Council of New Westminster, New Westminster libraries, QMUNITY, Northern Engagement, Truth and Reconciliation Canada and Community Volunteer Connections are partners in the project. The event is free, but donations are being accepted to help cover event costs and to make a financial contribution to Spirit of the Children, a local First Nations support and healing organization.
Following the community discussions, the organizers will report back to city council in April about what they heard.
“I know a few years ago the City of New Westminster kind of started a journey down a reconciliation process with the Chinese community and it’s been a very rewarding experience,” said Mayor Jonathan Cote. “I think coming out of the report from last year on truth and reconciliation there’s definitely elements that speak to the municipal level.”
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada goals included: acknowledging residential school experiences, impacts and consequences; promoting awareness and public education of Canadians about Indian residential schools; and supporting, promoting and facilitating truth and reconciliation events at the national and community level. The commission’s report, released in December 2015, included 94 recommendations.
For more information or to register for Community Stories of Truth and Reconciliation, visit the website at www.trnewwest.com.
Witness Blanket at New Westminster Museum
A monument that symbolizes ongoing reconciliation, pays tribute to children and recognizes the atrocities of the residential school era is on display in New Westminster.
Kwagiulth artist and master carver Carey Newman created the Witness Blanket after months of collecting items for the project.
“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,” said New Westminster resident Nadine Nakagawa. “The Witness Blanket is a national monument to recognize 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 really fitting time to open a dialogue about truth and reconciliation here in New Westminster.”
Witness Blanket is the latest exhibition at the New Westminster Museum and Archives. It will be on display until April 21.
The museum is on the third floor of Anvil Centre, 777 Columbia St. It’s open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and until 8 p.m. on Thursdays.