|Cindy Blackstock, a Canadian activist and advocate for First Nations children|
|Commissioner Marie Wilson|
It was Sunday, November 1, the beginning of a month associated with remembrance and Paul and I had just driven five hours to Ottawa to witness a ceremony that shone truth on a part of history that was remembered until now, through the blindfold of prejudice.
Ever since September and an earlier trip to Ottawa, when we had lunch with Cindy Blackstock; a Canadian born Gitxsan activist for child welfare, and the Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society; I had been captivated by Cindy's revelations about two Canadian historical figures: Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce, and Duncan Campbell Scott.
Over a generously shared hour and a half, Cindy educated and inspired me. I highly recommend you clicking on a link HERE to hear Cindy tell the short version of what I heard then, in an 8 minute interview by Robyn Bresnahan on the CBC radio show this week, Ottawa Morning. Cindy is a powerful teacher. CBC website notes: He was a famous poet and he was partly responsible for Canada's residential school system: Duncan Campbell Scott left a complicated legacy. We hear why both sides are now part of a plaque near his grave in Beechwood Cemetery.
In preparation, for the last month I had been reading A National Crime, by John S. Milloy, cited as "one of the 100 most important Canadian books ever written," by Literary Review of Canada, and one of two books recommended by Cindy. I learned about the residential school system and the role played by the man at the centre of Sunday's ceremony, Duncan Campbell Scott. The book is a heartbreaking read. The other book Cindy recommended is also compelling: Conversations with a Dead Man: The legacy of Duncan Campbell Scott by Mark Abley.
After a few words, a prayer and the unveiling of the new plaque, we retreated from the fall weather to the comfort of the beautiful Beechwood reception halls and chapel, for refreshments and a powerful and poignant ceremony of Truth Telling, Learning and Reconciliation that included talks by author John S. Milloy, Professor Steven Artelle (University of Ottawa,) Mohawk activist and artist, Ellen Gabriel, and Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner, Marie Wilson. as well as Beechwood COO Roger Boult, Cindy Blackstock, Ed Bianchi of Kairos Canada and Rev. James Murray of Dominion Chalmers United Church.
|Mohawk activist and artist, Ellen Gabriel|
The afternoon ended with a walk through Beechwood Cemetery, to "visit" Dr, Peter Henderson Bryce, the man who raised the alarm on conditions in Canada's residential schools, an alarm that fell on Duncan Campbell Scott's deaf ears. At his grave, there is a plaque, unveiled in June, which honours his work.
By the time we walked to the grave of Dr. Bryce, the cemetery was appropriately aglow in a symphony of golden leaves. It was a time to celebrate truth finally told.
It had been a very good day.