Eugene Arcand, residential school survivor, delivers keynote address on Wednesday in Regina.
It’s time to stop talking about reconciliation and to start doing something about it, say those who attended a two-day Preventative and Restorative Services Conference in Regina.
Mark Fox, executive director of Foxvalley Counselling Services, said since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its 94 Calls to Action he has heard a lot of talk about reconciliation, but has seen very little action.
So rather than wait, he wanted to do something about it.
The one thing he wanted to do was to provide participants with the best possible resources he could find.
On Tuesday, Cindy Blackstock, an advocate on the rights of First Nations children, kicked off the conference.
It was important for organizers to include Blackstock in the conference because she can provide a realistic look at what aboriginal children in foster care face every day and what needs to be done.
On Wednesday, Eugene Arcand, member of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Indian Residential School Survivor Committee, shared not only his own story of residential school but what people can do to get involved in reconciliation.
Arcand told the audience that reconciliation is everyone’s responsibility and challenged them to read the 94 Calls to Action and work on implementing them on personal and professional level.
Fox said his organization is going to focus on the Calls to Action on child welfare.
“As an agency, we are working to keep children with their family,” he said.
Today’s youth are suffering and it all started with residential schools, said Fox.
Many young people who go to his office for services have no idea of who they are or where they’re from. He believes that disconnect is the root cause of many of their issues.
Kayleigh Olson, 15, from Moose Jaw knows all too well about that disconnect because she has lived it.
She said the intergenerational impacts of residential school are real because she has experienced it.
“Intergenerational trauma is definitely real,” she said. “When you see your parents and they’re so hurt inside because their parents didn’t know how to parent. My dad has stories about being outside a bar when he was little. He (experienced) it when he was little, so he didn’t know anything else about how to parent us. So he would come home drunk and always be crying. So, it’s most definitely real because he has hurt inside.”
Olson attended the conference so she could learn more about her culture and to learn more about reconciliation and what she could do to support the process.
Although she’s only 15, she is the Saskatchewan representative for the national youth advisory council of Canada and is a public speaker.
To Olson, reconciliation is about not being silent.
“I think we need to step up and tell our real stories because our whole lives we have been judged by people and we just really need to step out of our box and just say the actual truth about what some people went through,” said Olson. “Don’t hide it, tell the truth.”
She believes residential school students and their children have stories worth hearing and it’s up to everyone to allow them the space to share.
Olson has a lot of hope for the future and believes something positive will come out of reconciliation.