Edmonton PhD candidate challenging Canadians to undertake acts of reconciliation
Researcher encouraging Canadians to undertake an act of reconciliation every day for the remaining 150 days of the year
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University of Alberta PhD candidate Crystal Fraser is hoping to bring a different perspective to the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada’s north ― one act of reconciliation at a time.
Fraser, who is Gwich'in from Inuvik, NWT, is nearly finished her dissertation on the history of residential schools in northern Canada. She is collaborating with Dr. Sara Komarnisky, a history post-doctoral fellow, to publish a list of 150 acts of reconciliation Canadians can undertake.
The plan is to release the full list on August 4, when there will be 150 days left for 2017.
“I think we’re certainly at a point where everyday Canadians have a growing awareness of their role in settler colonialism. But maybe also their responsibility,” Fraser said. “These are ongoing issues and the only way to work through them is to work together.”
Examples of everyday acts of reconciliation Canadians can undertake are learning the Indigenous land acknowledgement in your region, bolstering your knowledge of Indigenous history by registering for the University of Alberta’s online course ‘Indigenous Canada’ or supporting Indigenous authors by purchasing their books.
“Even though some of the points are gentle recommendations, we also have other ones that really try and interrupt how Canadians think of Indigenous peoples,” Fraser said.
For example, one of the acts of reconciliation is to 'Understand and acknowledge that Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, was an architect of genocide.'
“We have points focused on action and the plight of every day Indigenous Canadians … We’re also hoping policy makers, university administrators and professional organizations are also able to incorporate a couple of our points.”
For Fraser, her research into Canada’s northern residential schools is personal ― she had an aunt who died as a child at the Hay River Residential School.
“One of the really unique things about the north is it presents a scenario where residential schools in southern Canada was winding down and closing. (Meanwhile) the whole system was kind of gearing up in the north,” she said.
The last residential school in Canada closed in Saskatchewan in 1996.
Compared to the spotlight on the legacy of residential schools across the country, residential schools in Canada’s north have been left out of the story, Fraser said. That’s part of why she focused her research on the region.
She also wanted to write the history from the perspective of an Gwich'in person who has been affected by the legacy of residential schools.
“As usual in Canadian history, the north is excluded unless we’re talking about conquering some kind of final frontier through exploration,” she said.
“I really wanted to bring a social aspect to it. And also kind of get away from this idea that Canadian history is only a 19th century thing ― I also wanted to look at the modern past.”
Some everyday acts of reconciliation for Canadians