Engage for Change


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While in Ottawa for a conference on reconciliation in January 2017, Anishinaabe Elder Commanda spoke about the concept of ‘ReconciliACTION.’ She suggested that we need to do more than merely speak about reconciliation and the wrongs of the past; we need to move to meaningful action. She called this “Reconcili-action.”

What does Reconcili-action look like for Kingston and where do we begin?

History – Before moving to action, we first need to understand the history of Kingston, including role(s) that it played in colonialism for Indigenous peoples in Canada. Sir John A. Macdonald was the Prime Minister for nearly two decades (1867-73 and 1878-91) and has been celebrated as the Father of Confederation; however, for Indigenous peoples, John A. Macdonald was responsible for moving forward harmful policies, including the promotion and expansion of residential schools, outlawing Indigenous cultural practices such as the potlach, and using starvation as a weapon against Indigenous peoples.

Acknowledgement of Traditional Territories – Reconciliation includes acknowledgement of the traditional territories where Kingston is situated. Before European settlement, the area now known as Kingston had a rich history of Indigenous settlement by the Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee peoples.

Reconciliation – Reconciliation is a complex topic as there are several forms of reconciliation, depending on what needs to be reconciled. This is evident by the 94 Calls to Action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada (2015), which highlight areas for reconciliation in several areas including (but not limited to), child welfare, education, language and culture, health, justice, government, churches, youth, museums, media, sports and business.

There are also individual, group, and national forms of reconciliation. On an individual level, reconciliation may take on different meanings depending on the historical and intergenerational contexts (e.g. a residential school survivor may see reconciliation as justice, whereas an educator may see reconciliation as building respect between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples through knowledge).

What Role(s) can you play in Reconcili-Action?

Whether Indigenous or non-Indigenous, we all have a role to play in reconciliation in Canada. With historical knowledge, we can learn from the past so we can move forward in a good way together. Through recognizing and acknowledging the original peoples of the Kingston area, we can continue to honour and include the Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee, including engaging the original peoples in a respectful way, realizing rich cultural knowledge and historical and current contributions to Kingston. On a personal level, each individual can ask “what does reconciliation mean to me? And, what action(s) will I take to make things better for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples?” Asking these questions are the key to moving from discussion on reconciliation to reconcile-action.