National Day for Truth & Reconciliation

David Ruis, Sep 30, 2021, 4:02 PM
David Ruis National Director
Luke Swinson.jpg

As stated and instituted by our Canadian National Government:

"September 30, 2021 marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

The day honours the lost children and Survivors of residential schools, their families and communities. Public commemoration of the tragic and painful history and ongoing impacts of residential schools is a vital component of the reconciliation process.

The creation of this federal statutory holiday was through legislative amendments made by Parliament. On June 3, 2021, Bill C-5, An Act to amend the Bills of Exchange Act, the Interpretation Act and the Canada Labour Code (National Day for Truth and Reconciliation) received Royal Assent."

How do we as a national community in Vineyard Canada enter this space? I have a few thoughts for you to consider.
1. Lament

It is significant to note that this day is one of commemoration rather than that of simply  celebration, or a holiday. This must be more than a bit of clever word-smithing. It is an invitation to pause. To examine. To viscerally intercede. To honour. To lament.

Brian Doerksen's recent music video

would be a great tool today to help you enter this posture and sacred space.

Though a national initiative, not all provinces are choosing to recognize this day as such. Perhaps that in itself is cause for lament. As is to be expected, there are many mixed emotions and perspectives among our Indigenous peoples and leaders regarding how to respond to this day. We must respect that.

Be in solidarity.

There is a poignant moment captured in Jeremiah 31:15 where the Lord says, "A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping. Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more." Rachel's children were taken into exile and there was hope for their return, and yet she was inconsolable. How much more for those of our First Nation, Métis and Inuit as there will be no return home in the land of the living.

2. Listen

It would be really healthy and helpful to step out of our echo chambers and listen to our Indigenous community on this day.

In interview after interview with Indigenous people you hear the struggle of this gracious and long-suffering community, dispirited by decades of broken treaties and a less than snails pace implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation recommendations that were laid out as far back as 2008, of how to engage. Actually, this federal statutory "holiday" actually coincides with the already implemented annual "Orange Shirt Day" which began in 2013. The orange shirt was presented as a symbol of Indigenous peoples' suffering caused by the Indian Residential Schools then. How many of us were even aware that had been an observation for the last eight years? No wonder there is concern that this will be just another gesture and eventually just be a great "day off". Another holiday.

We must listen. Better. Often.

Be in solidarity. Let's hold our tongues.

"It is not good to be partial to the wicked and so deprive the innocent of justice. To answer before listening - that is folly and shame." Proverbs 18:5,13.

3. Learn

There is no room for a "been there done that" attitude in the long journey of reconciliation, redemption and restoration.There is always more to learn. Our VC Engage Initiative posted some great stuff on September 24th via FaceBook and has had material up on our website on how to prepare for and engage with this day for some time. That's a good place to start if you haven't checked it out already. Actually, it will take very little effort to discover some really amazing resources at our disposal to continue being educated and informed about the history, current reality and important steps into the future we have with our First Nation, Métis and Intuit peoples.

Unanimously we are hearing from the Indigenous communities the sentiment that this day is a good "first step." But the sentiment is clear. It's a "first step." One First Nation elder actually called it a "baby step." We have much more to learn. Much more to do as a result. We must remain attentive and diligent in walking forward towards healing and hope.

Be in solidarity. Let's hold our tongues. Reserve judgement.

"The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out. In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines." Proverbs 18:15,17

4. Lean

The Urban Dictionary, a crowd sourced online dictionary, describes what it means to "lean in" like this: "to own it, to cast off disparagement. You move forward and deal with (things) with unhindered confidence."

This is a time to lean into taking tangible, practical steps. Have you actually read the Truth and Reconciliation Report yet? Have you checked out VC's Engage posts and website articles and suggestions? Today would be a good day to do so and then choose just one thing that you'll tangibly do in the next few days to lean into action.

Be in solidarity. Let's hold our tongues. Reserve judgement. Grow.

Here's a bit of a chunk of Scripture, but lean into this wisdom from James as captured in his Epistle, Chapter One verses nineteen through twenty-seven.

"My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

5. Love

Our VC Engage team encouraged us to reflect on 1 John 3:16,18 on September 24th in preparation for this day. It's good to bring it forward again here.

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth."

Be in solidarity. Let's hold our tongues. Reserve judgement. Grow. Engage.

How about we sign off with another Scripture? Here goes. Pretty sure you know where to find it. Maybe take a deep breath, slow down and carve out some space either alone, or with a few others, and dive into a Lectio Divina rhythm to engage with the text in a fresh way today in the context of this Truth and Reconciliation Day.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

* Artist/ Luke Swinson from Kitchener ON. Anishinaabe-Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation
You can follow him on instagram @lukeswinsonart