It’s great to see, one by one, organizations capable of making great contributions are coming on board as we try to resolve the sins thrust on us by our grandparents and parents. But we must progress gently lest we moderns with our 20/20 hindsight, in haste to find forgiveness for past evils, create new tragedy to replace the old.
High on the agenda for educators of all stripes is the creation of a school curriculum tailored to the learning of all student ages from Grade 1 to 12. They are responding to the appeal of Justice Murray Sinclair, chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, to every province and territory in Canada “to change the way they teach about aboriginal people to ensure all children going into public schools learn” the facts of what happened to aboriginal children a century or more ago.
That sounds like a simple, straight forward request and one easy to meet. But it is far from simple, the lessons far from easy to teach.
In the interim report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission there are a couple of paragraphs clearly marking past classroom omissions as the hazards that lie ahead:
In the past the report emphasized – “Canadians have been denied a full and proper education as to the nature of Aboriginal societies and the history of the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples.
“Canadians generally have been led to believe – by what has been taught and not taught in schools – that Aboriginal people were and are uncivilized, primitive, and inferior, and continue to need to be civilized. Canadians have been denied a full and proper education as to the nature of Aboriginal societies. They have not been well informed about the nature of the relationship that was established originally between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples and the way that relationship has been shaped over time by colonialism and racism.
“This lack of education and misinformation has led to misunderstanding and, in some cases, hostility between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians on matters of importance.”
That’s a nice way of saying that whatever we teach our children from this day forward there’s an even greater task at hand in undoing what their parents learned in their poorly educated youth. And have failed to grasp in adulthood.
We must hope that our politicians, our teachers who sometimes forget their primary roles, and we the people who all too often adopt biased, superior, positions toward people of different racial background or religious beliefs, can solve this one without “hostility between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.”
It may all start in the classroom, but it needs strong support in the family kitchen at breakfast, and in late evening pre-bedtime calm as we edge toward reconciliation.
We can live in hope that future generations will move into adulthood with a better understanding and appreciation of other races, other cultures – especially those who were, and remain, the true founding fathers of Canada.
Who knows, maybe our better educated children will able to persuade some older folk that truth and reconciliation really can be found if we sincerely seek them, in truth, without anger, and certainly without ingrained but unfounded prejudice.