It took a long time to get to where we are. Next week is about getting somewhere better.
From Tuesday to Friday, Capilano University is hosting a series of discussions, crafts, lectures, and films with the same aim: nudging Canada a little closer to reconciliation.
“We’re making progress but we have a ways to go,” says Indigenous faculty adviser David Kirk. “Believe it or not we have students that grew up in the Lower Mainland that still don’t have a deep understanding of the history of Indigenous people and what we’ve gone through.”
There are some students who are aware of the horrors of residential school. But others think it’s ancient history, Kirk says, noting the last residential school closed in 1996.
Truth and Reconciliation Week is meant to educate and to break down barriers that might prevent Indigenous students from enrolling, he explains.
The four-day event features a keynote address from Plains Cree artist George Littlechild, known for grappling with oppression, homelessness and religion through a series of vibrant paintings. Author Lee Maracle is also slated to participate in the Wednesday night Indigenous Writers Feast.
Kirk is set to sit in the Truth and Reconciliation Talking Circle from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. next Friday.
“It is a little colonial,” Kirk says. “Traditionally of course, a talking circle wouldn’t have a time frame.”
Given the importance post-secondary institutions play in getting a decent job, shaking off Canada’s colonial past is paramount, Kirk says.
“We keep saying this is not just the responsibility of our Indigenous Student Services, it’s the responsibility of the institution to commit to reconciliation.”
Asked about gauging the success of CapU’s seventh Truth and Reconciliation Week, Kirk responds with four words: “Whether people show up.”
There are lingering problems of negative representations of Indigenous as well as, sometimes, the lack of any representation. After watching an hour of Canada’s federal leaders “trashing each other,” earlier this week, Kirk said he switched off the TV.
“Why didn’t we see an Indigenous moderator?” he asks.
Noting that Truth and Reconciliation Week falls immediately before the federal election, Kirk laughs. “It just happened that it was the week before,” he says. “We didn’t do that intentionally but maybe it’s a good thing.”
The event begins with a welcoming and blessing Tuesday morning.