When City Counsellor Reid Skelton-Morven hears the words ‘truth and reconciliation’ he said they mean a lot of different things, which raise a lot of different feelings and opinions.
Skelton-Morven said for him part of the fallout from the effects of residential schools is the intergenerational trauma of being the second generation after a survivor. There is a disconnect from the culture and disconnect from the First Nation communities that are passed down, he said.
“I think there is a macro picture across the board for a lot of folks,” he said. “For me [it’s] still finding in my adult life, trying to really find that connection and build that relationship with my roots.”
The pieces of truth and reconciliation that come to mind for Skelton-Morven are acknowledging the atrocities that have been committed throughout history creating a darker past and recognizing those pieces as substantial amounts of evidence, beyond the oral reporting that was being done before, he said.
“For me acknowledging that, having that ownership and accountability on different levels of government, even us [City of Prince Rupert] as a municipality is where we can play a part and look at that will look like it the future.”
Meaningful relationships are what is needed to build reconciliation and not just symbolic gestures, he said.
“Ultimately, reconciliation, by definition is making one view or belief system compatible with another,” the city councillor said. “I also firmly believe that also means the harmonious coexistence and what that looks like. I think that love, that connection, that relationship, that we need with each other as a society is that way forward.”
“Where some folks may indeed feel that these [truth and reconciliation] are just kind of the buzzwords and what’s with the times with the different levels of government and things like that, but ultimately, what we can do collectively really sets the stage.”
Skelton-Morven said to assist the collective forward momentum he is working on a recommendation to the city council to implement a reconciliation framework motion. The city has worked on various memorandums of understanding between communities to having meaningful relationships going forward as different bodies of government, he said. Some of the other pieces council is working on, in line with Redesign Rupert, are donating land for housing and housing development, and working with Coastal First Nations and construction companies, and progressing Watson Island development.
“This is only the beginning of this, to continue moving forward. In a good way that allows for us to have a meaningful relationship with communities.”
“Part of that, for me, as an indigenous person elected to a colonial municipal government, and trying to navigate that system has definitely been challenging. But, it’s all worthwhile in the end to be seeing the results and allowing for that coexistence and meaningful relationships.”
Regarding healing under truth and reconciliation, Skelton-Morven said the time for baby steps and subtle nuances has happened incrementally over time.
“I think we’ve hit the point where it’s ‘all and now’ … I think at this point enough is enough. I think it’s time to make really critical infrastructure investments when it comes to mental health, spiritual healing, other aspects, and healing modalities that are alternatives to what we would deem as mainstream. I think there’s so more to it than that.”
For businesspeople having a connection to the land is extremely important, he said, but it really boils down to infrastructure, and how much the government is wanting to invest in those pieces.
“I think that different levels of government definitely need to own up and start in making investments, especially in the healing and spiritual aspects of the infrastructure that’s just needed for the collective wellbeing of Indigenous communities in Canada.”
The societal chains of the residential school system are applicable across all generations while they affect each generation differently, he said.
“I think we have a huge opportunity to start ending those cycles now, with this generation … I think there is a huge monumental shift that’s taking place and here’s the opportunity to start those efforts through government and make them much more than buzzwords and make meaningful action.”
K-J Millar | Journalist
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