The Trans­form­ing of Medicine

A sa­cred trust of wis­dom and hope

Medicine Hat News - - LIFESTYLES -

Canada is on the path of clos­ing a dark chap­ter in Cana­dian his­tory with re­spect to its treat­ment of In­dige­nous peo­ple. A legacy plagued with trauma, hurt, and dis­trust is on the thresh­old of be­com­ing a time of heal­ing.

On a cold Novem­ber day, I was sit­ting with two re­spected el­ders: Phillis and Mar­cia (not their real names). We dis­cussed pol­i­tics and fam­ily life. I was so pleased to see the two catch­ing up on old times: They hadn’t seen each other since they were chil­dren in res­i­den­tial school. I could see the joy and hap­pi­ness they shared in that mo­ment. The two hugged and ea­gerly re­con­nected. I ob­served a long stand­ing deep con­nec­tion. Then the mo­ment came that would change my life for­ever: Mar­cia de­clared with a lump in her throat:

“Every day that goes by I thank the Creator that I was born an ugly child.”

I stood in dis­be­lief. I asked my­self, “Did I hear that right?”

Phillis was an el­derly woman: Her beauty ra­di­ated. I couldn’t imag­ine how beau­ti­ful she must have been as a child if she was this beau­ti­ful as an el­derly woman. I al­ways thought to my­self that beauty was an as­set, some­thing that helped one get ahead in one’s life. Phillis had lovely long grey hair. How­ever, her eyes told a story of pain and suf­fer­ing. In the res­i­den­tial school era, beauty could make one vul­ner­a­ble for abuse. Phillis strug­gled her en­tire life: She ex­pe­ri­enced pro­foundly last­ing and dam­ag­ing im­pacts from the sex­ual abuse ex­pe­ri­enced in res­i­den­tial school that im­pacted every area of her life. Even to­day many In­dige­nous peo­ple like Phillis crave the val­i­da­tion and ac­knowl­edge­ment of the hor­rific abuses im­posed upon them: They want clo­sure.

Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion aims to sup­port the heal­ing of In­dige­nous peo­ple from the de­struc­tive lega­cies of col­o­niza­tion and the long last­ing im­pacts that con­tinue on to to­day.

The Cana­dian gov­ern­ment in 2016 adopted the United Na­tions Dec­la­ra­tion of In­dige­nous peo­ple as an of­fi­cially bind­ing In­ter­na­tional doc­u­ment. What’s more, the Truth & Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion’s calls to ac­tion ac­quired through res­i­den­tial school sur­vivor tes­ti­mony is con­sid­ered “heal­ing medicine” by many of Canada’s In­dige­nous peo­ple.

Leth­bridge and par­tic­i­pat­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions will be con­tribut­ing to a week-long cel­e­bra­tion in the spirit of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Sept. 19-23. Every sin­gle Cana­dian can con­trib­ute. As Cana­di­ans we have a sa­cred trust to act in sup­port of Canada’s most vul­ner­a­ble no mat­ter their colour, creed or so­cial stand­ing.

The state­ment of apolo­gies and the TRC has be­gun the process of heal­ing. The 94 TRC Calls to Ac­tion and the Leth­bridge “Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Im­ple­men­ta­tion Plan 20172027” has in­spired the im­por­tant work of cre­at­ing an aware­ness of the past, ac­knowl­edge­ment of the harm, and ac­tion to cre­ate a more co­he­sive Canada.

The fi­nal re­port out­line’s 94 “calls to ac­tion,” 18) which states:

“We call upon the fed­eral, pro­vin­cial, ter­ri­to­rial, and Abo­rig­i­nal govern­ments to ac­knowl­edge that the cur­rent state of Abo­rig­i­nal health in Canada is a di­rect re­sult of pre­vi­ous Cana­dian gov­ern­ment poli­cies, in­clud­ing res­i­den­tial schools, and to rec­og­nize and im­ple­ment the health-care rights of Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple as iden­ti­fied in in­ter­na­tional law and con­sti­tu­tional law, and un­der the Treaties.”

Pro­vid­ing In­dige­nous and Non-In­dige­nous peo­ple the op­por­tu­nity for di­a­logue on rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion is con­sid­ered the Medicine that can im­prove the In­dige­nous plight. Build­ing sa­cred trusts by ac­knowl­edg­ing the past wrongs, and pro­vid­ing ed­u­ca­tion and aware­ness for a bet­ter fu­ture can pro­vide some atone­ment for those suf­fer­ing.

Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion is about es­tab­lish­ing and main­tain­ing a mu­tu­ally-re­spect­ful re­la­tion­ship among In­dige­nous and Non-In­dige­nous. Com­ing to­gether to find lo­cal so­lu­tions to as­sist our most vul­ner­a­ble Cana­di­ans is key.

Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion can ig­nite In­dige­nous and NonIndige­nous peo­ple to trans­form Cana­dian so­ci­ety so that fu­ture gen­er­a­tions can live to­gether in dig­nity, peace, and pros­per­ity on these lands we now share.

Treena Tal­low is an ad­vi­sor with AHS Abo­rig­i­nal Ad­dic­tion and Men­tal Health, In­dige­nous Health Pro­gram in South Zone. She can be reached by email at treena.tal­

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