Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper Archives Jun 6 2015, Page 75

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Winnipeg Free Press (Newspaper) - June 6, 2015, Winnipeg, Manitoba C M Y K PAGE D3 W HEN we were children, maybe we spent summer days kicking sticks on the banks of the river, wondering where the water was flowing and what it had already seen. Even when we’re grown, it’s difficult for us to grasp how far the current rushes, and how every point along its path is just another in- between. One day, maybe we will understand Canada’s reluctance to accept the facts of residential schools like this: a passing glance at the river and a failure to acknowledge a past and future that can only exist outside our current view. For this collapse of history and imagination, our dialogues become entangled in a narrow present. I write these thoughts for Canada and for fellow non- indigenous Canadians — not for the people of those Nations, who are inviting us to ride the current. Truth, we call this. Truth and reconciliation. The first part concerns facts carefully preserved from decades gone; the latter speaks of actions envisioned, yet to be realized. Before and after. Past and future. Strong words on how to name our river, and a map of where it could rush next. The summary findings that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released earlier this week are powerful documents, as living as any documents can be. The TRC curated survivors’ stories with care and caring, traced their struggles and their joys with fairness, let them finally breathe. Yes, there is pain in these stories, incredible pain and harm and fear. There is also love, burning bright in tales of children’s lives before the schools; that love is observed again in its absence, after the children were taken. Love is remembered as a caribou- skin jacket beaded by an aching mother, then callously thrown away. These stories survivors shared with us can teach us many things. One of them is the truest and most intrinsic value of love and family. To obscure the centrality of love and loss in survivors’ lives is to fail history — and Canada has failed it badly. In so doing, we have failed the indigenous men and women on whose bodies and hearts that history was summarily inflicted, and their ancestors, and their children. We fail them still today. “ Non- aboriginal Canadians hear about the problems faced by aboriginal communities, but they have almost no idea how those problems developed,” Justice Murray Sinclair wrote in the TRC report. “ This has left most Canadians with the view that aboriginal people were and are to blame for the situations in which they find themselves, as though there were no external cause.” That this failure to history is localized on indigenous survival is telling. In most things, Canadians accept with pride the idea that history informs our modern lives. Three years ago, the federal government spent $ 28 million to commemorate the War of 1812, a year after it invested $ 4 million into an ad campaign lionizing the “ fathers of Confederation.” In both cases government insisted those efforts would remind Canadians what unites us. There was some debate over the aim of these investments, but none of it questioned the basic premise: that the machinations of the past inflect our present. Yet when survivors of residential schools or their relatives speak, suddenly critics insist the past has no bearing on the present, and in turn the present has no bearing on the future. Indigenous people alone are told that history carries no water into the now, that families and communities are not shaped by where they have already been. The river again, narrowing. We have a chance to rectify this, to make whole our grasp of the intermingled human paths on this land, and it begins with education. As Wab Kinew noted in the National Post earlier this week, “ Most of the TRC’s 94 calls to action can be boiled down to a similar ethos: Let’s learn about aboriginal peoples and cultures so we can get on with the business of living together in a good way.” That is true, and understanding the TRC’s core message this way makes the next steps look refreshingly straightforward. With that guiding ethos, we are better armed to confront Canada’s other failure: one of the future and its necessary interpreter, imagination. A core problem, I think, in non- indigenous conversations about these issues is a failure to imagine any other way. Critics of the outcry over residential schools stubbornly fail to imagine how Canada might have shared education in a way that didn’t rest on children being dislocated from families and harmed. Similarly, resistance to the TRC’s suggested path forward, and other voices that have emerged from a growing indigenous resurgence, hinge on a lack of imagination about how to construct a better world, one in which Canada interacts with indigenous peoples as a respectful partner, not a dominating force. Yes, like seeing around the riverbend, it is hard. Even now, after years of listening and reading, I struggle to make out the twists and turns of what a decolonizing future might really look like, in terms of social organization, governmental relationships and public policy — but the basic shape, that part I can see. For these glimpses, I am indebted to indigenous voices such as Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Taiaiake Alfred, Chelsea Vowel and countless others who have worked so hard to describe these possible futures with their people, and published this work for Canadians to read. And now, the gap between the present and an imagined future is one step smaller. The TRC summary report and its calls to action give us the points to plot a course. Sure, maybe some adjustment will be needed as we move forward, to account for the shifting swells of culture, or the rapids or the rocks. What matters is that we begin to move along. We have sat at this point on the riverbank, kicking sticks and questioning the path of currents, for far too long. melissa. martin@ freepress. mb. ca 49.8 ¢ª D3 up close SATURDAY, JUNE 6, 2015 A MANDA Lathlin hadn’t always dreamed of going into politics. But when the opportunity came up, the recently sworn- in member of the legislative assembly figured it was the perfect time. On the phone from her constituency office in The Pas, Lathlin talks about her girls, becoming an MLA and living in the North. FP: To start off, can you tell me a bit about yourself? A: That’s always the toughest first question in job interviews. I’m a single parent raising four girls: my daughter and three nieces. I’m a proud member of Opaskwayak Cree Nation. I have worked in pretty much all levels of government. I worked for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, when it was still called that. I worked for the province as an employment counsellor, was a band councillor, and worked with other aboriginal organizations, with residential school survivors and as a health- policy analyst. FP: What got you interested in politics? A: Well, it’s no secret who my role model was — it was my late father ( Oscar Lathlin served the riding from 1990 until his death in 2008). I always knew I wanted to run for MLA for The Pas, I was just waiting for that time. So when Mr. Frank Whitehead resigned, I received a few phone calls saying ‘ I think it’s your time, kid.’” After a couple weeks of mustering up the courage and talking to my daughters and family and friends, and also talking to other community leaders as well, I finally said ‘ OK, this is it.’ FP: Is this something you thought about as a kid and growing up? A: I was a shy child, I would practically hide behind my parents’ legs if anyone said hello. I didn’t have this in mind. I think when my dad was chief, it crossed my mind. I would see him with our community members here at OCN. I would see him in his beautiful headdress, and I would see him talking with people and listening to them. It did cross my mind when he was chief, but I didn’t really gather momentum until I became more involved with my community and committees and boards. FP: You mention your father and how influential he was. Do you have a favourite memory with him? A: There’s many. He’s always been involved with the political life. I loved the opportunity to go with him places, to join him for lunch when he’s sitting with constituents. Probably my most favourite times were when we had him alone, just sitting with him at his cabin in the mornings and having coffee and watching the news with him. It was just those quiet moments that I cherished. FP: What does a typical day and week look like for you so far? A: A typical week would be flying into Winnipeg Monday morning. A lot of our caucus meetings happen in the afternoon, then we go into question period. In between, I’m still adjusting. Pretty much first thing in the morning I call my daughters to make sure they are off and ready for school, and FaceTime with them. I get to work — I’m still getting my office set up there, so it’s a lot of organization right now — and then the afternoon is pretty much set; my calendar is booked with House duties. And I come home Thursday nights. Friday, Saturday and Sunday are my time here. FP: Tell me a bit about your girls. How old are they? A: My oldest, she’s 11 and will be 12 this year. My oldest niece is 10, my other niece is four and my youngest is one. FP: What do you like about The Pas? A: It’s home. Friend and family — just the familiarity of it. That sense of relief when you come home. It’s a slower pace; you just know a lot of people, a lot of friendly faces. FP: What did your girls say when you were elected and sworn in? A: They said, “ We knew you would make it, mom.” And my oldest was saying, “ You worked so hard, we saw you work hard.” FP: What are they most excited about? Is there anything they’re looking forward to? A: They absolutely loved the ( legislature) building when they came to the swearing- in ceremony. They’re looking forward to coming with me to the communities when I’m here ( in The Pas) on Fridays and Saturdays. I don’t think they’re fully quite aware of what this job really consists of, but I’m sure as they see mom in action, they’ll see that this is an important job to represent up to 30,000 people in our constituency and be a representative for Manitoba as well. FP: You’re the first aboriginal woman to be in the Manitoba legislature. How does that feel? A: It feels great and it feels like it’s long overdue. We’ve had many wonderful First Nations men representing us, and I think it’s wonderful to bring a perspective from a woman’s point of view to the NDP caucus and government, and also a woman from the North. You have to remember this is also the first woman MLA for The Pas constituency. I just would love for young aboriginal people, especially our young single mothers, to see this as a positive thing for everyone. It’s possible and with the support system, it is possible for us to be successful in this line of work. FP: What excites you most about being an MLA? A: I’m excited to start making progress and meeting with people. Right now, I’m just setting up, so I’m excited to have everything start jelling. I’m looking forward to getting that momentum going. kathleen. saylors@ freepress. mb. ca IN CONVERSATION WITH AMANDA LATHLIN BY KATHLEEN SAYLORS RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS I was a shy child, I would practically hide behind my parents’ legs if anyone said hello. Well, it’s no secret who my role model was — it was my late father BY MELISSA MARTIN HISTORY FLOWS THROUGH TODAY… AND TOMORROW D_ 03_ Jun- 06- 15_ FF_ 01. indd D3 6/ 4/ 15 5: 33: 34 PM

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