These are difficult days.
The dark story of Residential Schools, although whispered for years, is being shouted across this land.
Here we are on the eve of Canada Day, yet it is hard to think of celebratory things in the midst of immense sorrow and heartbreak.
I wish healing for those most affected, and reflection for everyone else that are truly learning about this horrendous chapter of our collective Canadian story for the first time.
Sometimes it is hard to find the words – I keep thinking “we should have known”.
There were so many schools, so many stories, but we did not see and we chose not to hear. Donald Smith perhaps gave the most apt description in the title of his latest book: “Seen But Not Seen”.
Last week at the Heritage Mississauga Annual General Meeting, we welcomed Giima (Chief) R. Stacey Laforme of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.
He spoke about this moment in our history, of the news of the residential schools and the lost children, and of how they are children of this land – their story, their loss, and the sorrow, belongs to all of us.
Healing is the responsibility of all Canadians. He also spoke forcefully, and optimistically, about the shared path ahead – of using this moment of darkness as a lightning rod to light the path forward – to stand together against racism, discrimination, hatred, and to treat each other, and mother earth, with respect as we seek healing and reconciliation. And to seek and speak truths.
Giima Laforme, himself a poet, shared some of his words with us, and he graciously permitted us to share his poem entitled “Reconciliation” here. It is our hopes that this will aid us, collectively, in moments of reflection.
By R. Stacey Laforme
I sit here crying
I don’t know why
I didn’t know the children
I didn’t know the parents
But I knew their spirit
I knew their love
I know their loss
I know their potential
And I am overwhelmed
By the pain and the hurt
The pain of the families and friends
The pain of an entire people
Unable to protect them, to help them
To comfort them, to love them
I did not know them
But the pain is so real, so personal
I feel it in my core, my heart, my spirit
I sit here crying and I am not ashamed
I will cry for them, and the many others like them
I will cry for you, I will cry for me
I’ll cry for what could have been
Then I will calm myself, smudge myself, offer prayers
And know they are no longer in pain
No longer do they hurt, they are at peace
In time I will tell their story
I will educate society, so their memory is not lost to this world
And when I am asked
What does reconciliation mean to me
I will say, I want their lives back
I want them to live, to soar
I want to hear their laughter
See their smiles
Give me that
And I’ll grant you reconciliation
This article can also be found in Modern Mississauga here: https://www.modernmississauga.com/main/2021/6/30/finding-a-path-towards-reconciliation-a-poem-by-chief-giima-r-stacey-laforme-of-the-mississaugas-of-the-credit-first-nation