Written by Jordan Weller of Langley, BC
Growing up in a non-aboriginal family, my passion for aboriginal justice has always been there, but I never fully realized it until September 2013 when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission arrived in Vancouver. Since then I have taken a posture of learning as I lived in and did youth work with aboriginal communities, and completed an internship focused on aboriginal justice. I have come a long way since 2013, but I still have a lot to learn. This is not the full story, but a start to help you understand some of these issues a little bit.
The relationship between the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada and non-aboriginal Canadians (represented by the Canadian government) is unique. It is grounded in treaties (various agreements), many which go back centuries, and continue to be valid today.
These agreements are promises to one another directing how the relationship is to be carried out. Sadly, Canada still has not followed through with many of its promises. Even some government representatives present at treaty negotiations voice Canada’s failure to implement “the spirit of the treaties,” a statement that rings true today.
A good indicator of this reality is our education system. Knowing our shared history can aid us in fulfilling these past promises. Unfortunately, our education is failing us. Education about aboriginal residential schools for example are still not mandatory in many schools. I didn’t know about residential schools until a grade 12 elective course. How did the education system fail me so profoundly? This failure indicates to me that there is much more work to be done to repair our aboriginal-non-aboriginal relationship and fulfill the promises that were made many years ago.
Even though aboriginal people continue to be hurt by this reality, I am always impressed that they are willing to repair the relationship. After the proposed First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act failed to be implemented in 2014 due to a lack of consultation by the government from the aboriginal perspective, many aboriginals were willing to have further dialogue to find a solution, but the government refused. Aboriginal people do not want our guilt; they want to build a relationship with the non-aboriginal People of Canada with a respectful future and right the wrongs of the past. I have experienced this in my many interactions with aboriginals.
As Christians, we are called to love our neighbours as ourselves. This means that any grievance another has should matter to us.
Although I care about aboriginal issues because of past promises we inherited, my first reason for caring comes from a desire to follow God. Having these promises legally grounded is helpful, but my faith in God moved me to care before any legal knowledge.
Aboriginal people are our neighbours; let’s care about them, love them, and build on the relationship we have had with them for centuries.