Reflections on the Close of the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation

Jingle dress dancers at the Heart Gardens Ceremony, Rideau Hall, Ottawa, Canada.  June 3, 2015

Jingle dress dancers at the Heart Gardens Ceremony, Rideau Hall, Ottawa, Canada. June 3, 2015

By Jennifer Henry

I tell you this to break your heart, by which I mean only that it break open and never close again to the rest of the world.
Mary Oliver

Now, almost a month away from the closing ceremonies of the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), there are two images I can’t get out of my mind. One is a word picture painted by Commissioner Marie Wilson who asked those pressed into rooms to hear the findings of the TRC to think of “graveyards where there should have been playgrounds.” She was speaking of the 6000 estimated deaths at residential schools (odds of dying almost identical to those of Canadians serving in World War II) and the dehumanization of unmarked graves and families who still do not know what happened to their child. She was speaking of the 150,000 children whose childhood was robbed when they were forcibly removed from their families, subjected to neglect and child labour, denied their language and culture, taught they were inferior, and, in many cases, abused by the people who were charged with their care. It is an image that should have made every Canadian hold their breath. Children not allowed to be children. Children who never made it home.
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