On Wednesday (tomorrow as I write this) Prime Minister Stephen Harper will give a public apology in Canadian Parliament to all those who have been affected by the Residential Schools travesty which so darkens our nation's past. I hope you will be listening along with me at 3:00 Eastern.
This is an important day for our country. It is not the end of the road, nor the guarantee of healing, but it is a highly significant moment. As someone who has done a little bit of digging into the story behind this issue I must say that I hope there is sincerity in our Prime Minister's voice and in all of our hearts as this public apology is given on behalf of Canadians past and present.
We will hear much debate about the effectiveness of this apology and of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that follows. Much of that will be appropriate. But if it is a cop-out for actually owning the reconciliation opportunity then it will be a sad day for us all.
To what extent can a nation be sorry? How can a group of people forgive? And how can anyone propose to do either on behalf of others (some of whom are long since dead)? Certainly this apology can not be more than it is. But I still think it can be a lot. Especially if we mean it. I really think we all need to take pause and consider the legacy of the residential schools and our complicity in that legacy, simply by virtue of being Canadian. We inherited this injustice, and it is important that we take part in this act of peace-making, else we perpetuate it by ignorance, indifference, or worse, insolence.
The injustices of the residential schools are not confined solely to the past. The ramifications are felt in the affected families for generations, and are still being felt today. It was an attempt by our country to commit cultural genocide. I am not exaggerating. That is what the UN called it. A people were told to become European, and families were torn apart to make it happen.
Of course, it got worse than that. The funding was not there over the years even to see to the health of those children taken from their families. Their teachers were working with some warped values (by today's standards) and were left high and dry (in many cases) by their government. Abuse, illness, and death were rampant. Families were ripped to shreds. Alcoholism, depression, and perpetuation of abuse were just some of the after-effects within those children and families that tried to piece things together.
To fail to empathize, grieve, and even join together as a nation in this apology will be at best a missed opportunity to participate in the road to redemption and at worst a perpetuation of injustice.
This apology will not make everything better. But if we listen to it, and own it, I think it can go a long way, not only to the healing of the victims (to whom my heart goes out), but to the healing of the country; the perpetrators; the bystanders.
I pray for healing, redemption, truth, and reconciliation. I believe this to be something that can ultimately and only be had in Christ, but I see His Spirit at work in this process, and I pray that our country, and our aboriginal peoples, will get a taste of redemption this Wednesday. I pray for their forgiveness. I pray for the end of racist ignorance and repent of my own. I pray for a country that is willing to rebuild itself with empathy and the energy required to help restore the hurting and the destitute. I pray for the wholeness, dignity, and courage of those still living with the vestiges of the harm that was done. I pray that the echoes of suffering will get fainter still and will be replaced by the sounds of hope.