Blog Post by Anastasia M Lintner, Special Projects Coordinator, Healthy Great Lakes
As the first ever National Day of Truth and Reconciliation approaches, I am reflecting on what it means to me.
I’ll start with a little about me.
I’m a white, cis-gendered woman, who is of European descent. I’m a daughter, sister, aunt, mother. I’m also a PhD-trained economist and a licenced Ontario lawyer, who specializes in environmental protection and ecosystem health. I’m particularly passionate about relationships with waters. Since the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report in 2015, I’ve been personally and professionally committed to doing my part to live by the principles and fulfill the recommendations therein. I’ve not been particularly public about such commitments, though this has been shifting more recently.
I’m taking the time now to reflect on what I’ve been doing in order to keep my commitments fresh, authentic, and meaningful.
This is a message for myself as much as it is for you.
I’m re-committing to these three things: (i) staying open in the face of extreme discomfort, (ii) stepping back so others can step forward, and (iii) acting with intention.
Staying open in the face of extreme discomfort
Staying open-minded and open-hearted, particularly when extremely uncomfortable, is important to understand the truth of Canada’s past and ongoing colonial harms aimed at Indigenous Peoples. Truth comes before reconciliation. I’m committed to unlearning and relearning what I thought I knew. I’m committed to getting comfortable with feeling uncomfortable in understanding the cultural norms I grew up with and continue to be immersed in. I’m committed to seeking out and exposing my own unconscious biases. I’m recognizing that unless I’m actively working to change things, I’m complicit.
Stepping back so others can step forward
Actively changing the system can not be accomplished without many different voices being given an equitable seat at the same table. Although my own voice can be used to get attention, as I have experienced many privileges in my journey to date, I’m committed to actively making space for bringing forward those whose voices have either not been heard or have been intentionally silenced. Rather than simply telling others about what might be the next steps toward healing and a resurgence of Indigenous Peoples’ legal systems and governance, I need to create space within the circles that I am already journeying in to offer invitations to hear from those voices directly.
Acting with intention
As the realities of Canada’s past and ongoing colonial harms aimed at Indigenous Peoples are reaching more of us settlers, there is also a concerning “bandwagon effect”. You may have seen many recent advertisements about purchasing materials for Orange Shirt Day, for example. What you may not realize is that not all Orange Shirt Day materials are created by, nor intended to directly benefit, Indigenous Peoples. I need to take the time and direct my spending toward actively doing good (rather than furthering harm). It means searching out Indigenous-owned businesses, Indigenous-led organizations, and Indigenous artists directly. Acting with intention requires slowing down. It requires taking the time to ensure that my actions are actively countering the super-fast pace we often operate under in the mainstream, in order to seek consistency with the commitment to truth and reconciliation.
As Senator Murray Sinclair stated, “The truth is hard. Reconciliation is harder.”
I keep this quote on my wall to remind me daily that it won’t be easy. If it were easy, we wouldn’t need a national day of recognition, because we would have found a new way forward. The first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation is, I hope, the first step in an ongoing dialogue about significantly changing the systems in a way that is centered on the safety, health, and dignity of Indigenous Peoples.
Let’s all take a moment to reflect on how we are going to take action to forward truth and reconciliation in our personal and professional lives.