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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.”

Photo: Barbara Bellows

Hard Light” by Michael Crummey is proving to be one of those books where I dread reading the last page.  Here … he retells and reinvents his father’s stories of outport Newfoundland and the Labrador fishery of a half century ago. Events long vanished are rendered here in myriad voices, with clarity and intensity of lived experience.

Today’s selection is at page 98.

‘At home on a cold winter’s night. The changing scenes of life. (1928)’

November bluster,
the night sky obscured by cloud.

On the tall ships I was taught
to steer by the stars,
took them for granted,
like a portrait of grandparents
hung in the hallway before
you came into the world.

There is a telescope on Mount Wilson
in California whose lens
weights 4 and one half tons
and measures 100 inches across –
they say it has mapped the heavens
for hundreds of millions of miles,
that the darkness is deeper than
we ever imagined.
New galaxies and constellations
discovered every day
and it is still only
the simplest things we understand.

The speed of light exceeds
eleven million miles a minute,
it travels through space
for thousands of years after
its star has collapsed;
it is possible
that all my life I have
taken my mark by
a body that does not exist.

A chunk of wood shifts in
the fireplace,
through the window I watch
winter clouds drift and gather.

Clotted field of stars beyond them,
light rooted hard in darkness.

Publisher: Brick Books
ISBN: 978-0-919626-95-9

Other “Off the Shelf” Selections.


Brian Brett

Brian Brett (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Brian Brett, writer, poet, farmer, literary critic, memoirist and activist is the 9th recipient of the annual British Columbia’s Lieutenant Governor’s Award for literary excellence for his 2011 release, Trauma Farm: A Rebel History of Rural Life.

This prize was established in 2003 by former Lieutenant Governor, the Honourable Iona Campagnolo, to recognize British Columbia writers who have contributed to the development of literary excellence in the province. The recipient receives a cash award of $5,000.00 and a commemorative certificate.

Trauma Farm is a touching and tender memoir, at once humorous and profound, filled with wonderful insights about life as a poet and accidental farmer in what will always be, for Brian Brett especially, the gentle rain forests of home.” —WADE DAVIS, author of Light at the Edge of the World

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