Grassroots partnership takes on reconciliation

WINNIPEG — A grassroots community partnership is taking on reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. They say it’s time to move forward together.

Bonnie Loewen, a participant and facilitator of Circles For Reconciliation (CFR), says every Canadian is part of the Truth and Reconciliation process.

“It’s damaging to a settler to hold a stereotype that belittles another human being and it’s damaging to all my Cree, Dene, Ojibway neighbours,” says Loewen.

Raymond Currie is a project coordinator for the CFR and says to help get conversations started the CFR was formed.

“We do it by creating circles of 10 people – five Indigenous, five non-Indigenous – who meet together once a week for 10 weeks,” says Currie.

He says right now about 60 communities across Canada are either, holding sharing circles or are in the early stages of planning them.

Grace Schedler is from God Lake Narrows First Nation and is an Indigenous ambassador for CFR. She says the circles help break down stereotypes held on each side

“As an Indigenous person I assumed people knew the history and I just assumed they just didn’t care, but when I sat in the circles with the non-Indigenous people I was surprised that they were not clear on what happened with the Indigenous people of this country,” says Schedler.

Currie says the circles have been founded based on the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action especially 45, and 46.

One of them calls to renew or establish treaty relationships based on principles of mutual recognition, mutual respect, and shared responsibility for maintaining those relationships into the future.

The other calls for support for the renewal or establishment of treaty relationships based on principles of mutual recognition, mutual respect, and shared responsibility for maintaining those relationships into the future.

Jamie Dumont is a facilitator and participant and says it’s not about placing guilt, it’s the responsibility of every Canadian to understand the treaty relationships.

“The treaties aren’t some kind of old contract signed 200 hundred years ago. The treaties are actually something that is still alive today,” Dumont says.

Lowen says she continually learns about Indigenous ways of thinking from each circle. One of the most important lessons was from Grace.

“We always keep an open heart to expecting the humanity in the other person because we are created from the same spirit,” says Loewen.

The circles are held virtually for free, though the CFR asks people for a commitment of respect and courtesy for everyone in the group. 

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