Telling a personal story to stress the importance of National Truth and Reconciliation Day
For the first time ever, Canada will observe a National Day of Truth and Reconciliation on Thursday.
Cody Groat will give an online presentation in the morning about the sweeping impacts of the residential school system based on his own father’s admission, “He says that his parents weren’t good parents, they weren’t necessarily good people. And it’s taken him 70 years to understand why.”
Groat is an assistant professor in Western University’s History department and Indigenous Studies program. His grandparents were products of the residential schools system and the ‘60s Scoop. For generations Indigenous children were taken from their families and placed in Christian-led schools or in the homes of white families.
“They never had love in the residential school system,” says Groat. “They were never hugged, they were never taught to be a good family structure. And he had to learn a lot of that when he was raising a family of his own.”
Groat is Mohawk, a Six Nations member. His talk will focus on the impacts of the Mohawk School in Brantford and the Mount Elgin School which once stood where a monument is now located in Munsee-Delaware First Nation. Groat says his address is not just reliving the past; it’s designed to help chart a course forward. “There’s a lot of learning opportunities to realize that the residential school system itself is a tragic occurrence, but it is part of a much broader system that is still continuing to impact Indigenous peoples.”
Research has shown that overt and systemic racism has contributed to issues like poverty, addictions and higher rates of incarceration.
“We want students coming out of Western informed,” says Christy Bressette, a Western University vice-provost and the first-ever associate vice-president of Indigenous Initiatives.
She says colonial systems and approaches need to be challenged, “This is a prime opportunity to address old ways of the thinking, how people understand the truth.”
Groat says if response to his talk is any indication, there’s a thirst for truth. More than 2,000 people had registered as of Wednesday morning.