When the Neighbourhood Empowerment Team looks at root causes of crime, often we find that fear is at the root it. We hear from people on a daily basis that they are afraid that they will be victims of crime, fearful of their neighbours, and afraid to speak up. This fear often results in folks thinking that somebody else is responsible for producing a safer community. This fear grows through feelings of mistrust, apathy and blame. Sadly, often blame is placed on the backs of our indigenous community members. Indigenous people are already overly represented in the criminal justice system and more frequently (and unjustly) impacted by victimization, poverty and oppression. We can trace these issues back through Canada’s history of colonization. Canada’s Indian Act (first written in 1867 and amended several times after that) promised indigenous communities sovereignty and rights, yet it paved the way for policies of cultural assimilation that have been confirmed in the stories of residential school survivors.
I had the great privilege of hearing some of these stories at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Edmonton on March 27-30th. I heard about the sexual abuse, violence and of the longing that many survivors had for their own culture, language and beliefs (all of which were denied by the church run residential schools). As I listened to these stories, I started to see clear connections between our shared history and our current community issues. This shared history and the intergenerational trauma has lead to the struggles that indigenous community members face today. These ghosts of our shared past have created communities filled with distrust and fear which continues to impact the overall health, wellness and safety of our communities.
In my next post, I’ll share how my time at the TRC Alberta National Event changed how I thought about my own history and my role in the process of reconciliation.