The Bishop’s Dinner was a great success yesterday, where a full conference room at the Victoria Inn enjoyed a lovely dinner followed by reflections from Justice Murray Sinclair on his work with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Our second great story-teller this month, Justice Sinclair has a surprising sense of humour and shared from his personal life as well as his professional one. He confessed to the crowd that he hadn’t wanted to chair the TRC, but felt called by the Creator to take on the challenge after being asked for the second time. Talking at length about the importance of education, Justice Sinclair explained, “Education got us into this mess and I believe that education will now get us out of it.”
Despite his role on the TRC, Justice Sinclair shared little about residential schools. Instead, he explained that the problem is much bigger than that: it lies in a centuries-long system of oppression which views Indigenous peoples as inferior to settlers. This trickles down into the tiniest areas of society, such as children’s picture books and, in the news recently, Hallowe’en costumes.
He called for an end to the spiritual and emotional violence done to his people, noting that the suppression of indigenous spirituality as inadequate has contributed to widespread feelings of inferiority among Indigenous peoples themselves. “Before we can have mutual respect, we must give people in Aboriginal communities an opportunity for self-respect,” he explained. For too long, Indigenous communities across the country have suffered from an internalized racism, believing the lie that they are not enough.
Despite the grim picture he painted, however, Justice Sinclair continues to be full of hope even in the wake of the TRC proceedings. “If this country comes to terms with its past, we will be able to stand proud together,” he assured the crowd, with an obvious reference to the example South Africa has been to the world post-apartheid. “I don’t want my children to live in conflict with your children and grandchildren. We need to believe that we have to work things out.”