EDITORIAL – New stat for Day of Reconciliation could be a good thing

Sewing class at Kamloops residential school, late 1950s. (Image: Govt of Canada)

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

A NEW NATIONAL HOLIDAY around the issue of reconciliation is a good idea if it’s done right.

If it’s just going to be about the sad legacies of residential schools, never mind.

And — let’s speak frankly — if it’s going to focus only on the bad things brought to our country by the European “settlers,” as they’re now popularly called, that’s not going to work either.

I’m having trouble visualizing 10,000 people showing up at Riverside Park or at the Powwow grounds to listen to stories about the terrible things that happened in residential schools but I do see such a day becoming little more than an excuse for predominantly white civil servants to take another stat holiday.

Canadians are becoming educated about residential schools. They’re nothing to celebrate, but they’re certainly something to acknowledge and to learn from, not on one day but on all days.

If, on the other hand, we were to have a true celebration of reconciliation as a two-way street, an opportunity to discuss the very meaning of the word, now that would be worthwhile.

Because, let’s face it, the way things are going with reconciliation, as many wedges are being driven in as there are obstacles being removed. We run a serious risk of retrenching racism in this country instead of getting past it.

Many, many non-indigenous people recognize the wrongs of the past and want to do something about it, but there’s a risk of backlash if they sense an imbalance in the spirit of reconciliation. And indigenous people can be forgiven their frustration at slow progress.

So why not a day of festivals across the country aimed at true mutual reconciliation, a genuine celebration of what’s been accomplished and an acknowledgement, in friendship, that it’s a work in progress.

Nobody needs to give up anything, to concede anything, just come together.

From the reaction to the Trudeau government’s proposal so far, neither indigenous nor non-indigenous peoples are convinced a Reconciliation Day holiday would accomplish anything.

But with open minds, it really could.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

About Mel Rothenburger (6804 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

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