As orange shirts and orange lights across Canada signalled the first federally-recognized National Day for Truth and Reconciliation last week, the U of M was no exception.
An hour of silence was held at the Chapel of St. John the Evangelist in St. John’s College from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Sept. 30. The silence is meant to provide a space to reflect on the unmarked graves of Indigenous children at residential school sites.
Orange ribbons and shoes were displayed in the chapel. Reverend Helen Holbrook, St. John’s College chaplain, lit candles for the hour of silence.
Holbrook saw the silence as an opportunity for reflection and self-awareness.
“I guess I’m hoping that maybe that’s what this hour would have helped, because it is a self-awareness exercise,” she said.
“To be self-aware in terms of reflecting on their own relationships and understanding of the history of Indigenous peoples.”
Holbrook promoted the practice of sharing circles to give non-Indigenous people context and perspective on the history of residential schools.
“It goes back to listening to the stories, I think that can be quite powerful,” she said.
“I think the more opportunities to do something like that, the greater.”
For Holbrook, the day of truth and reconciliation is a sign of wider positive change.
“I’m grateful that I was allowed to do this, I think that is good and if you think about it, could we have done this 30 years ago, would you have been ready?” she said.
The last residential school in Canada did not close until 1996. The last residential school in Manitoba was Mackay Indian Residential School in Dauphin, which closed its doors in 1988.
Looking forward, Holbrook concluded it is time for churches to be open and honest about their history.
“The university has come along, and same with the churches, in being open […] let’s listen, let’s do the work we need to.”