Skip to content

Truth and Reconciliation: Unexpected feelings of guilt a chance to talk, make things different

Friday is National Truth and Reconciliation Day in Canada, a day set aside to reflect on the injustices of the past.

There are no photos to display.

Feelings of guilt are not unusual when non-Indigenous people confront the brutal reality of Canada's residential school past, says a spokesperson for the North Okanagan Friendship Centre.

But that's OK, says Morina Warawa.

"Every one of us is on our individual path, Indigenous or non-Indigenous. We're all going through it at our own pace."

The discovery of 215 suspected graves at the Kamloops Residential School sparked a national reckoning and mourning that is still being felt. But progress is being made.

"After the bodies were discovered, it was massive. Every wound was ripped open ... none of us were prepared for that," says Warawa, office administrator and cultural coordinator at the centre.

"We all knew this for a long time, but it being plastered out there made it completely different."

Friday is National Truth and Reconciliation Day in Canada, a day set aside to reflect on the injustices of the past – some not all that long ago.

Warawa says the events of the past year have brought up "a ton of feelings, all the feelings" among clients of the centre.

"Some don't want to talk about it and just want to move on," but she says others need to talk. And she is there to listen.

"My mom was in residential school from the time she was three until she was 16," says Warawa.

She says she "was brought up English" as her mother later married a settler.

More recently, Warawa has "really dug in to who I am" and has spent 15 years "on a path of learning."

She says most people that come to her, such as at the recent cultural festival in Polson Park, are non-Indigenous – and they all want to talk about truth and reconciliation.

"People get triggered, they don't know why they are crying or why they are so emotional ... but we offer a safe space where people can come and ask questions."

She says since the widespread coverage of the treatment of First Nations the conversation "has started to evolve" because people are realizing "what they were taught – or not – wasn't the truth."

The centre is there to help people bridge the gap.

"If we don't start, it won't change," said Warawa. "Truth and reconciliation is a two-way street."

She says the resiliency of Indigenous people "has been absolutely amazing" despite many being "lost and broken."

Daniel Joe, the centre's men's wellness coordinator, said feelings of guilt can arise.

"This is the second Truth and Reconciliation Day, but our people have been mourning for a long time."

All races are welcome at the centre, and this represents the four directions of the medicine wheel, says Joe.

"It's not just for First Nations people, everyone is welcome."

He says "progress has definitely been made" and he also fields many questions from the wider community.

Warawa chips in: "People feel this guilt and that they may hurt us if they say the wrong thing... If they want to know 'can I wear orange or is it just for Indigenous?' – the answer is yes!"

"If you do something one time, how good do you get? If you do it every day, that's living it," she said of reconciliation.

Joe recalls one "vivid experience."

"I was playing drop-in hockey, and this player came up to me and said 'I'm really sorry about what my people did to your people.' I didn't expect that in that setting.

"I'm glad he felt courageous enough to speak."

The fellow player, who supports other charities as well, even asked if he could help support a needy family on the reserve."

Events will be held across the country for Truth and Reconciliation Day.

In Vernon, the friendship centre will host a barbecue today with a talk from a residential school survivor, and on Friday the Syilx flag will be raised at City Hall at 12:30 p.m., along with prayers and drumming.

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks