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In fact, all the children in your community have disappeared. Even those as young as five years old have vanished.

No, this is not the opening line in a science fiction story.  It isn’t fiction of any kind.  It’s the shocking truth.

The Reason You Walk’, a memoir by Wab Kinew

9780670069347In preparation for the launch of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) in 2010, CBC tasked Wab Kinew with preparing news stories, accounts from residential school survivors.

He sat with his five-year old in his lap witnessing the crew tape his father’s account.  He realized his boy was the age kids were when taken from their families. He wondered how such a tiny child could survive a beating as his father had. He wondered how his child could survive for ten months without his parents.

He asked these questions of his TV audience.

Indigenous people responded that the story did justice to their experiences. Non-Indigenous people said it helped them relate to the residential school experience, that … they were delivered to a place where they asked themselves what they would do if their children disappeared, or what would happen if all the children in their neighbourhood vanished.

I asked myself these questions

Why, I’d go straight to the authorities for help, right? But what if going to the authorities wouldn’t get my five-year old back? What if the authorities were implicit in the system that stole my child, all the children in my neighbourhood?  What if the authorities had knowingly aided and abetted church and government officials in a scheme of assimilation?

Wab Kinew believes … asking these questions is the beginning of building empathy, and empathy is the beginning of reconciliation.
_________

I’ve just finished reading Part One – Oshkaadizid (Youth).  On now to Part Two – Kiizhewaadizid (Living a Life of Love, Kindness, Sharing and Respect).

I’m learning so much.

Related Stories

  • Globe & Mail Review by Carleigh Baker, October 2015. “The philosophy of forgiveness instilled in Wab Kinew by his father is evident in The Reason You Walk.”
  • Why is the TRC Important to Canadians? “… Residential Schools are a part of our shared history, a history that is not well understood by many.”

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