B.C.'s biggest credit union, Vancity, has contributed $500,000 to Reconciliation Canada in a partnership designed to bring aboriginal and nonaboriginal people together.
The ambassador for Reconciliation Canada, Chief Robert Joseph, is a residential-school survivor and a leader in promoting greater understanding of the impact of this education on First Nations people.
He praised Vancity for its "investment in the reconciliation process", suggesting it's a huge boost to the work that his organization is doing to promote a better and stronger Canada.
Reconciliation Canada was created by the Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society and Tides Canada Initiatives to engage the public "in open and honest dialogue about reconciliation and the unique contributions our diverse histories and experiences offer in building resilient communities".
Vancity is working with Reconciliation Canada to convene a "Partners Table" on December 5, bringing together organizations and government to increase public awareness about the reconciliation process.
It's one of a number of events taking place in the city leading up to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada coming to Vancouver from September 19 to 21, 2013.
Earlier this month, the former CEO of the Assembly of First Nations, Bob Watts, delivered the 2012 Vancouver Human Rights Lecture at the UBC First Nations House of Learning. He focused on achieving reconciliation in the wake of the residential-school experience of Canada's First Nations.
Watts explained that under the leadership of poet and bureaucrat Duncan Campbell Scott, the federal Indian-affairs department aggressively assimilated Native children into mainstream society by annihilating their culture.
Approximately 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children attended church-run residential schools in Canada, where they were usually forbidden from speaking their aboriginal language.
"I want to get rid of the Indian problem," Scott wrote to a fellow public servant in the 1920s. "I do not think as a matter of fact, that the country ought to continuously protect a class of people who are able to stand alone… Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question, and no Indian Department..."
Joseph was one of the many thousands of aboriginal kids who experienced abuse in residential schools.
“Those things, you live with forever,” he told the Straight last year. “You try to erase them from your memory, but when we’re least expecting it, haunt you sometimes…It’s so life-long a scar.”
Stephen Harper's actions belie apology on residential schools
Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.