by Katherine Martinko
“Reconciliation” is an important word in Canada. Ever since the government-appointed Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) issued its report in 2015, the country has been grappling with how best to come to terms with its colonial past and the countless wrongs inflicted on Indigenous people.
What role can a parent play in advancing an authentic understanding of reconciliation and inclusivity at home?
Kory Wilson, executive director of Indigenous Initiatives and Partnerships at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, spoke to Lianne Castelino, host of Where Parents Talk, about tangible steps parents can take in the home to support a greater understanding of Canada’s Indigenous. Wilson is also and educator with over 20 years’ experience, and a former family law and criminal defense attorney.
Wilson defined reconciliation as “a process that leads to some kind of outcome where Indigenous people are fully included and able to be self-determining in a country that is obviously on their own territory.”
When asked to characterize how Canada is proceeding on its journey toward reconciliation, Wilson said that, despite many frustrations, it’s good that we are talking about it. The TRC’s report has woken people up and made them understand a dark side to Canada’s history that wasn’t clear before.
However, statistics still show Indigenous people to be at the negative end of every socio- economic indicator, except for birth rate. There are parts of the country where 65% of children in government care are Indigenous, where prisons are predominately Indigenous, and Indigenous people are more likely to die at the hands of police. Indigenous women are seven times more likely to be raped and murdered than any other ethnic group. Education plays a key role in trying to help reverse these troubling numbers.
In some places, like British Columbia, kids are the ones teaching their parents about reconciliation. In that province, it is now mandatory to have Indigenous content in all subject matters, across all grades. Wilson said, “If you need to know something, ask your kids. [There is a] generation now that’s going to graduate from high school and have at least a basic, minimum understanding of Indigenous people versus what happened before.”
A parent’s goal should be to raise good humans, and that starts in the home. Parental example can teach kids to check their privilege and avoid perpetuating biases. Wilson shared the three requirements she always had for her own children: Don’t lie to me. You must do well in school. Do service. Not enough emphasis is put on the latter, she said, despite “study after study showing [that] people get more out of giving to others than when they don’t serve.”
Parents can also read books, listen to radio shows, and watch films that push themselves (and their kids) out of their comfort zones in order to become better informed of other equity- seeking groups’ struggles and needs. The more aware and sensitive a child is to people’s many differences, Wilson said, “the more successful that child is going to be, whether it’s in the workplace, with their colleagues [or] in the classroom when the teacher is exploring a particular topic.”