Imagine being a child and ripped from the loving arms of your family and community. You travel a long distance, only to find yourself in a residential school among strangers.
You cry out in terror and, rather than receiving care and comfort, you are taken into a back room and beaten.
Some of the kids mysteriously disappear. You are taught to hate your culture.
By the time you are 10, you have endured so much that your life is no longer worth living.
While your white fellow citizens are playing cowboys and Indians, you are contemplating suicide for being Indigenous.
You manage to survive the years of systemic abuse but resort to drugs and alcohol to help you cope.
Society shames you, once more, for being Indigenous. You try to tell your story about the abuses you suffered at the residential school, only to be called a drunk and liar.
This sad tale is not the story of people who lived hundreds of years ago; rather, it is the real account of many Indigenous people still alive today.
Unfortunately, we cannot go back and change the past. What we can do, however, is atone for our sins and put words into actions for a genuine, Indigenous-led reconciliation effort.
We must demand our government settles land claims, addresses the water and housing crises on reserves, stops fighting Indigenous children in court, accounts for the shocking over-representation of Indigenous persons in prison and invests in Indigenous health and education.
We must fix our collective history to include the voices of First Nation peoples and fully implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Real justice requires concrete steps and the investment of resources.
The recommendations put forward by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission must be fully realized (so far, only 12 out of 94 Calls to Action have been implemented).
The time to demand action from all politicians — both Liberal and Conservative — is now.
Anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience can access this 24-hour, toll-free and confidential National Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419