Last Saturday I went to the Diocesan Council retreat day at the Synod Office, where the day began with “The Blanket Exercise.” You may have heard of it. Participants begin by standing on one of several blankets which are on the floor, all next to each other without any gaps. The blankets represent “Turtle Island” – Canada before it was called Canada, before settlers arrived.
As the exercise proceeded, we (the participants) were taken through the history of the settlement and conquest of the European settlers who gradually, took the land from the indigenous peoples whom they encountered. I learned that whole societies, cultures and languages were wiped out either by violence or by diseases that the settlers brought with them.
We walked through the residential school period and heard quotes from people effected by the schools at the time and in the aftermath. Words from children who lost their connection with their communities. The cries of mothers whose children were taken and the lack of compassion and respect that the indigenous peoples have been shown from when the first settlers landed to the present day. When the exercise was finished, there was only silence.
The Blanket Exercise and the reflections from the participants that came afterwards made me realize how much work towards reconciliation has still to be done, and how much there is still to be learned. Looking forward to the Reconciliation Feast being held at St. James’ today, I want to extend thanks to all those people who have been instrumental in bringing the feast to fruition, and say how very grateful I am to the elders from both the indigenous and settler peoples who will attend, for their courage and willingness to come together.
Tomorrow, Bishop Mark MacDonald will preach at the Low Mass and then the St. James’ Social Justice Group along with other members of our community and friends will walk to the start of the Reconciliation March which ends in Strathcona Park where we will hear and learn more that will help us move towards being a reconciled people. Please come if you can. If you are unable to do the walk, or are attending the High Mass, please join us at Strathcona Park.
“Let us find a way to belong to this time and place together. Our future, and the well-being of all our children rests with the kind of relationships we build today.” – Chief Dr. Robert Joseph, O.B.C.