The Tillicum Lelum Aboriginal Friendship Centre is hosting a pair of reconciliation sessions Thursday and Friday (March 27-28).
The reconciliation process in Canada stems from physical, mental and sexual abuse committed against aboriginal students in residential schools, and workshops will include videos, testimony from survivors and discussion.
“It’s to bring and share awareness and acknowledgement to the many aspects of residential schools experienced and how it’s currently impacting people within our community,” said Claudio Aguilera, part of the Tillicum Lelum centre management team.
According to organizer Randy Fred, himself a survivor of Alberni Indian Residential School, the sessions will pose some basic questions to participants: What are our expectations of reconciliation? What does reconciliation mean to us? What can I do to help work towards true reconciliation in central Vancouver Island?
“It’s a two-way process,” Fred said. “The dialogue is stemming from the Indian residential school legacy, which had a really negative impact on aboriginal people, and we’re looking at reconciliation, not as a process of assimilation but more as a process of being able to exist together in a society.”
Fred said he is excited to hear and see the input and feedback from the sessions. Speaking about the abuse is therapeutic. During a six-year court case, Fred said that listening to his story over and over again helped him move forward, which wasn’t easy.
“It’s difficult because the broad symptoms are insecurity, denial, alcoholism, drug addiction, they all have to be dealt with [to] be able to work towards healing,” Fred said. “It’s quite a process and a lot of people that I went to school with, their denial was so strong that I know it had a lot to do with them dying young.”
He also said it’s hard to keep from dwelling on the past.
“When you’re introduced to sex at a young age, before you even reach puberty, it distracts you. I have to say, all my life, it never leaves your mind. It keeps popping into your head, so it’s very distracting and painful. Part of it is being able to use all the supports available – your family and whatever supports are in the community, to take advantage of them,” he said.
The event is a collaboration between Tillicum Lelum and Inter-Tribal Health Authority, the Regional District of Nanaimo, Nanaimo school district and Vancouver Island University.