There Can’t Be Reconciliation Without Education

Hands holding each other in care

September 30th is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada.

In light of the confirmation of unmarked graves and remains of Indigenous children on the grounds of former Residential Schools, this will be a particularly momentous day for our country.

At Maplewave, we take diversity and inclusion very seriously and feel it’s our responsibility to educate ourselves on the history of the Indigenous cultures in Canada and the injustices they’ve endured throughout Canada’s history.

As a leadership team, we want to acknowledge this day by doing more than just giving our staff a day off. We want to honor this day with an opportunity for education and awareness.

Although we are a global company, most of us live and work in Nova Scotia. It’s important that we understand the issues facing our friends and neighbours. 5.7% of our population is Indigenous (as of 2016), and like many provinces, Nova Scotia was also home to a residential school (the Shubenacadie Residential School operated between 1930 and 1967).

Our Education Plan

Reconciliation isn’t something that just happens. As a first step, its important to educate ourselves to better understand the nuances and scale of this topic.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission published 94 ‘calls to action’ earlier this year that illuminates the breadth of change needed to move us towards harmony and reconciliation. The calls to action urge all levels of government to work together for change; however, reconciliation is also about action in our personal lives as well.

Education is something we can all do. Only then can we begin the necessary work to start to heal as a nation. This includes how we perceive injustices, how we empathize and stand up for others, and how we start to change the discriminatory policies and practices in our workplaces, school curriculums, and more.  

In the spirit of education, Maplewave curated a list of 9 books on Indigenous topics. We encouraged staff to loan or purchase one of these titles and are reimbursing the full purchase price, including shipping. You can see what we’re reading at the end of this blog.

The HR team selected “21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act: Helping Canadians Make Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples a Reality” by Bob Joseph. As a department that’s focused on people, we wanted to look at the foundations of reconciliation. Our plan is to read and discuss this book at a future meeting and we have encouraged other departments to do something similar.

Other teams have shared that they are intentionally purchasing different books among their members so they can exchange and read as many titles as possible.

Maplewave’s book club is taking a similar approach. All members will select a title that appeals to them, and then everyone will share what they learned at their next virtual get together. All Maplewave staff will be invited to this session, whether they are book club members or not, so they can participate in the discussion.

How To Make A Difference

I recently spoke with two of my close friends who are very in tune with the issues facing Indigenous communities and children.

We discussed the importance of September 30th and their feelings on the new statutory holiday . Both vocalized that it was a start but were adamant it couldn’t be just another day off. This helped support our educational initiative and reading list for September 30th. They agreed that while having time for reflection and bringing awareness is good, much more still needs to be done.

My other friend echoed these sentiments and was very vocal on the need to weave this into our education system to impact the next generation. Our children need to know from the start about our history, why it matters, and how it impacts us as a country. I couldn’t agree more.

I know that in the context of hundreds of years of oppression, what Maplewave is doing is a small step. But with approximately 100 Canadian-based employees, it’s our hope that this exercise will create one hundred additional allies who can use their voices to spread awareness and champion this cause. If every individual and organization take just one small step, just imagine the impact we could start to have!

We all play a part in raising awareness, self-education, healing, and reconciliation. I strongly encourage other Canadian companies to ensure that National Truth & Reconciliation Day becomes a way to effect change, rather than becoming yet another day off work.

Suggested Reading List

Here are the 9 books that our staff are reading. We’ve provided a synopsis of each book in case you would like to read along with us:

21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act: Helping Canadians Make Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples a Reality - by Bob Joseph.

Based on a viral article, 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act is the essential guide to understanding the legal document and its repercussion on generations of Indigenous Peoples, written by a leading cultural sensitivity trainer. Bob Joseph is a member of the Gwawa'enuk Nation and is a hereditary chief of the Gayaxala clan. Joseph grew up in Campbell River, BC and lives in Qualicum Beach, BC.

We Were Not the Savages - by Daniel Paul

This fully updated third edition of a vital text on the history of indigenous peoples comes from the thorough research of a First Nations descendent. By turns revealing and deeply unsettling, the book details the brutal treatment and complete displacement of the Mi’kmaq civilization at the hands of European settlers. The author’s ongoing research casts doubt on the recorded tales of Canadian colonization and reveals that the mistreatment of First Nations peoples is not confined to the past. Daniel N. Paul, CM ONS, is a Miꞌkmaq elder, author, columnist, and human rights activist.

Out of the Depths - by Isabelle Knockwood

Daring to break the code of silence imposed on Aboriginal students, residential school survivor Isabelle Knockwood offers the firsthand experiences of forty-two survivors of the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School. In this newly updated fourth edition, Knockwood speaks to twenty-one survivors of the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School about their reaction to the apology by the Canadian government in 2008. Is it now possible to move forward? Isabelle Knockwood, born in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, attended the Indian Residential School in Shubenacadie from 1936 to 1947.

Indigenous Relations: Insights, Tips & Suggestions to Make Reconciliation a Reality - by Bob Joseph

A timely sequel to the bestselling 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act - and an invaluable guide for anyone seeking to work more effectively with Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous Relations equips you with the necessary knowledge to respectfully avoid missteps in your work and daily life and offers an eight-part process to help business and government work more effectively with Indigenous Peoples - benefitting workplace culture as well as the bottom line.

Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death and Hard Truths in a Northern City - by Tanya Talaga

Over the span of eleven years, seven Indigenous high school students died in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Five were found dead in the rivers surrounding Lake Superior, below a sacred Indigenous site. Using a sweeping narrative focusing on the lives of the students, award-winning author Tanya Talaga delves into the history of this northern city that has come to manifest Canada’s long struggle with human rights violations against Indigenous communities. Tanya Talaga is a Canadian journalist and author of Anishinaabe and Polish descent. She worked as a journalist at the Toronto Star for over twenty years. She is now a regular columnist with the Globe and Mail.

All Our Relations - by Tanya Talaga

In this urgent and incisive work, bestselling and award-winning author Tanya Talaga explores the alarming rise of youth suicide in Indigenous communities in Canada and beyond. From Northern Ontario to Nunavut, Norway, Brazil, Australia, and the United States, the Indigenous experience in colonized nations is startlingly similar and deeply disturbing. As a result of this colonial legacy, too many communities today lack access to the basic determinants of health - income, employment, education, a safe environment, health services - leading to a mental health and youth suicide crisis on a global scale.

The Inconvenient Indian – by Thomas King

Rich with dark and light, pain and magic, The Inconvenient Indian distills the insights gleaned from Thomas King's critical and personal meditation on what it means to be “Indian” in North America, weaving the curiously circular tale of the relationship between non-Natives and Natives in the centuries since the two first encountered each other. In the process, King refashions old stories about historical events and figures, takes a sideways look at film and pop culture, relates his own complex experiences with activism, and articulates a deep and revolutionary understanding of the cumulative effects of ever-shifting laws and treaties on Native peoples and lands. Thomas King CC is a Canadian writer and broadcast presenter who most often writes about First Nations.

From the Ashes – by Jesse Thistle

In this heartwarming and heart-wrenching memoir, Jesse Thistle writes honestly and fearlessly about his painful past, the abuse he endured, and how he uncovered the truth about his parents. Through sheer perseverance and education—and newfound love—he found his way back into the circle of his Indigenous culture and family. Jesse Thistle is a Métis/Cree author and assistant professor in the Department of Humanities at York University in Toronto. Thistle is an advocate for the homeless.

A Mind Spread Out on the Ground – by Alicia Elliot

In an urgent and visceral work that asks essential questions about the treatment of Native people in North America while drawing on intimate details of her own life and experience with intergenerational trauma, Alicia Elliott offers indispensable insight into the ongoing legacy of colonialism. Alicia Elliott is a Tuscarora writer and editor.

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