A residential school survivor said an ‘F’ word – forgiveness – is key to the truth and reconciliation process.
Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre and Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Vancouver Island hosted the Youth Leading Reconciliation event at the Beban Park social centre Nov. 7. The event saw youths take part in social and cultural activities.
Greg Charleson, a Hesquiaht First Nation elder, was among attendees and said overcoming the effects of residential school is difficult and forgiveness was first and foremost. He had to forgive God, Jesus, priests and religious brothers and sisters. Not only has he survived residential school, he has survived alcoholism, addiction and violence as well.
“People will think of all the other ‘F’ words before they even think of ‘forgiveness,’” said Charleson. “So forgiveness is ongoing. Forgiveness is lifelong. Forgiveness for me comes each and every morning I wake up because if I walk with no forgiveness, then I’m setting myself up to be hurt again … for me truth and reconciliation is being right here with the kids and drumming with them, teaching them how to dance, teaching them how to pray, teaching our language and telling them that each one of them matter.”
Ruby Barclay, Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre youth advisory council coordinator, said the event is created by youths for youths.
“We’ve had over 100 young people in this space, being able to share in circle and I think what we all heard this morning was, ‘This is the biggest circle I’ve been able to share in,’ and many of our young people’s first times sitting in circle … I think it’s pretty powerful and talking about reconciliation is coming together and if we we’re talking about reconciliation with the next generation, it’s about planting the seeds and providing that space for them to start doing that because they are our next leaders,” said Barclay.
Jaydin Charleson, Greg’s son, said that reconciliation is about healing and said the day’s events were educational.
“I’ve learned to be open,” he said. “Listen to people’s perspectives and not just look at mine.”
Carlin Charleson, Greg’s other son, expressed similar sentiments as his father.
“I think [truth and reconciliation is] about forgiving and about admitting the mistakes that happened in the past,” he said.
Cadence Manson, a youth mentor, said Youth Leading Reconciliation is “100 per cent” therapeutic for those attending.
“It helps every single person in different ways,” said Manson. “For me, I just like being able to talk to everybody, hang out with people I barely get to see and [hear] other people’s stories.”