The Road to Reconciliation Panel Transcript

How can Chanie Wenjack's story make a difference? Immediately following The Secret Path broadcast, CBC live-streamed The Road to Reconciliation, a special one-hour panel conversation with CBC's Jesse Wente, filmmaker Tasha Hubbard, and National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation director Ry Moran.

Ry Moran, Tasha Hubbard, and Jesse Wente discuss The Secret Path and Reconciliation

How can Chanie Wenjack's story make a difference? Immediately following The Secret Path broadcast, CBC live-streamed The Road to Reconciliation, a special one-hour panel conversation with CBC's Jesse Wente, filmmaker Tasha Hubbard, and National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation director Ry Moran, live from CBC's Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto. Below is a transcript of the panel:

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[01:00:52;08] Hello. Hello, welcome. (applause) Hello and welcome. Melanie Nepinak Hadley, (saying her name and clan name in Ojibwe). Welcome to the Road to Reconciliation Panel Discussion. This discussion is hosted by CBC Arts. The Facebook Live Event is going on right now. You can put in your questions. We really – we really do want to hear from you. So I'm sitting here with some individuals who are going to talk about what we just saw, The Secret Path, and they're going to talk about the issue of reconciliation at large.

[01:01:31;06] But before that, I thought I would tell you a little bit about myself. I work here at CBC in the programming department. I was able to work on this project on behalf of the network. But in addition to that I'm a First Nations person who is really, from a young age, probably due to the fact that my father was a residential school survivor, have really felt this ingrained purpose to tell these stories or to help tell these stories. And I'm hoping today that following this discussion and following this film, you feel that purpose as well.

[01:02:07;03] So with that I'll introduce to you our panelists. First up we're joined by Ry Moran. Ry Moran is the first director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. It's his job to guide this creation of dynamic indigenous archive built on integrity, trust and dignity. 

[01:02:28;15] Ry came to the centre directly from the TRC. On the TRC's behalf, he facilitated the gathering of nearly 70- of nearly 7,000 video and audio recorded statements from residential – from survivors of the residential school system. He's also responsible for gathering the documentary history of residential school system from more than twenty government departments and nearly a hundred church archives, millions of records in all. Ry is a proud member of the Metis nation. Thank you, Ry, for joining us.

Ry Moran:

[01:03:05;14] Thank you.

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[01:03:07;13] Next we have Tasha Hubbard. Tasha was born a Soto Metis Cree mother. Tasha is a survivor of the '60s scoop and was adopted out to a non-indigenous family. As a child she faced questions about her own identity and she's explored – that she's explored through her art and storytelling. An assistant professor at the University of Saskatchewan, and an award winning filmmaker, her research is on indigenous film, indigenous creative representation of the buffalo and indigenous women's and indigenous histories.

[01:03:43;21] A Gemini award winning director, Tasha's most recent film short, Seven Minutes, won Best Short Non-Fiction at Yorkton Film Festival. Thank you for being here, Tasha.

Tasha Hubbard:

[01:03:56;13] Thank you.

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[01:03:57;10] And last but certainly not least, Jesse Wente is an Ojibwa from Toronto. A broadcaster, public speaker, and curator, he's appeared on CBC's Radio Metro Morning as film and pop culture critic for 20 years. He currently serves as director of film programs at TIFF Light Box where he has curated retrospectives on indigenous cinema, Tim Burton, Stanley Kubrick, Michael Mann and Keanu Reeves. Currently a member of the Toronto Arts Council, Jesse has served on the boards of Imaginative Film Festival, North Earth, Native Earth Performing Arts. Jesse lives in Etobicoke, Ontario, with his wife and two children. Thank you for joining us, Jesse..

[01:04:41;19] So we just saw The Secret Path. It is such a, a powerful story, I know for myself I had to watch it for editorial purposes numerous times and it never changed. It always affected me. Can you maybe tell me a little bit of your reactions after seeing this first time. Jesse, I'll start with you. 

Jesse Wente:

[01:05:02;06] Yeah I think it's a very powerful work and I wonder how often I'll be able to watch it.

Host, Melanie Hadley:

Tasha?

Tasha Hubbard:

[01:05:11;14] Yeah, I had to watch it by myself in a hotel room and process it. I mean this is – these stories are close to us and we see our own families. I see – I see my Dad, I see my – you know, the relationship that my son has with his Dad who's a survivor. And you know, it's, I think you have to make that space to really feel it. And that's – I had to do that before tonight (chuckle) to be able to then start to think about what we do next. 

Host, Melanie Hadley:

Ry?

Ry Moran:

[01:05:51;12] Yeah it's, it's so powerful and it hits really close to home for me as well. I think in watching this I just think of all the survivors that we've met and we've talked to, all the other little Chanies out there, the kids that were taken away and really the families that were left behind, you know, the parents. And that's the parts in this piece that are definitely the hardest for me. That relationship that was so tarnished by these schools, that most sacred of all bonds, that bond between parents and children that was just so attacked.

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[01:06:31;10] Of course.

Ry Moran:

[01:06:32;07] Yeah. 

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[01:06:33;04] So this project is – I mean you know it's a multi-layer project, a multimedia project. I'm just wondering if in this form did you have a different personal reaction that you maybe weren't anticipating. Tasha?

Tasha Hubbard:

[01:06:49;14] Well I think that's the power of animation. I mean some of – I think that for us to, as an audience, as learners about this history, absolutely there's a place for, for different genres of drama and documentary and literature. But there is something about animation I think that because we can see the person, like different people's personal stories in it. And it also gives us a sense of just a little bit of distance that I think sometimes is what we need to really be able to process these children's experiences. 

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[01:07:36;20] Of course, of course. Now Ry, you travelled to Agoki Post with Gord and the Wenjack family. And I just want to know, is there anything that we should know about Chanie or the Wenjack family that we're maybe not picking up from this film.

Ry Moran:

[01:07:55;13] Yeah there is some stuff to know. If we're talking to the country right now, I mean let's talk about where Pearl lives. So this is a small community. It's an hour's flight north of Thunder Bay. And when you go into all the community homes, you know, they don't have clean water in that community. It's been on a boil water advisory for years. That's a privilege that we have in the South that they don't have up there. And there's, you know, close to a hundred communities right now in this country that don't have clean water. And that's not right.

[01:08:34;19] But in that I think comes a real – there's a real strength there and there's a real strength in Pearl and her sisters and her family. And Chanie's photograph hangs on the wall. And that's reflective of I think a lot of homes across the country where there's a picture of a loved one that hands on the wall that's not with us anymore. And I just have just the utmost of respect for Pearl and her sisters for how they welcomed Gord and his family and how giving they still are in light of what it is that they suffered through, really through all of this that we're talking about. This isn't abstract history for them. I mean this is their – this is their brother. But yet they were still able to give strength to Gord because he's going through a tough time right now of course as well.

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[01:09:30;11] That's amazing. I think I'd like to take it just a little bit farther back. Maybe you can tell us, paint a picture of what it might look like for a child like Chanie to be taken from their home. Because I think that that's a part that we don't really see clearly depicted in the film. I know you have quite a bit of experience with those firsthand stories in your work with the TRC. 

Ry Moran:

[01:09:55;29] Yeah I think we can – so the railroad track features so prominently in this, in this story. And railways in this country were used to establish Canada, but they were also used to transport kids. And we've heard from so many survivors about these trains of tears where the trains were filled full of kids that were forcibly taken from their – from their homes and placed on these trains. And would sometimes be moved two days away and it would just be full of little kids crying.

[01:10:28;27] And we have to remember in this that families were prevented by law from resisting. So families could be arrested, put into jail, fined, for not sending their kids to school.

[01:10:45;22] And I think back to this fellow that I met in Saskatchewan at the Saskatchewan National (unclear). He was actually a train conductor who drove the train up in northern Manitoba. He said he would be driving the train and they'd stop the train and the Indian agents would be there. And they'd kind of throw the kids on to the train and the parents would be there. And the parents would be crying and the kids would be crying and he knew how wrong this was. He just knew it was wrong. He just knew it wasn't right. But he was kind of one man and hired to drive the train and he couldn't do anything about it. 

[01:11:23;29] The thing with all of this history is that he was a – he is maybe in his 70s and still teared up when he talked about this as well. And that's how much pain there is still around this whole broken system that we ran in this country for far too long. 

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[01:11:38;13] Mhm, mhm. I'd like to take this moment to let the people who are watching online that if you have any other questions, for sure start prepping those We will have a moment near the end for those questions to come through. And even when you're telling these stories, I feel like I myself have a ton of questions that are coming in. But to not detail the conversation I just want to put that out there.

[01:12:00;16] Tasha, maybe you can talk a little bit about your experience. I know that you were adopted out in the scoop and maybe explain what that is for people who don't know.

Tasha Hubbard:

[01:12:11;13] So I think now it's important to use different phrasing as well to think about the child removal system because it started in the '50s and it went to the '80s. And I mean we're still looking at issues around children in care to this day. But specifically the policy and there were estimates anywhere between 20- and even as high as 50,000 children were removed from their homes. 

[01:12:45;03] Mine was a little different. My parents had gone through experiences both as a direct residential school survivor and as a second generation and found themselves not able at that time to care for me. So I was surrendered and ended up in farm family in southern Saskatchewan. And unlike lots of the children I had a positive home experience. Um but I think that's the minority. Most really struggle. And I think what the ongoing legacy is that the disruption of parenting, the disruption of kinship and I know for me what I feel most profoundly is the loss of language. 

[01:13:38;23] My Dad is a fluent Cree speaker and is known for that. When I tell people who my Dad is, oh he speaks good Cree, you know. And that won't happen for me. And I'm learning a little but it's hard and my little boy asked me when he was 3, he said, Mom I want to learn Cree. And I said okay, I'm going to take you to your auntie and you're going to spend more time with your mushum. And he goes, no mom, I want you to teach me. And I was like, oh, I can't. So those are – those are those other legacies around residential school that, that continue on, right? That we're living with day to day, right? 

[01:14:17;28] And you know, and it goes further than that as well. But we can talk about that at the time. 

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[01:14:24;12] Yeah. You're touching on something about the effects that happened to the rest of that family. And I think  just jumping back, Ry, if you can talk a little bit about what happened to the rest of the Wenjack family or how they've been impacted.

Ry Moran:

[01:14:41;03] Well, when you lose somebody that you love you lose a piece of yourself. And I know having spent some time with Pearl that she had hoped that her brother would be remembered and that somehow some shred of justice could come to be in this country where his death perhaps might not be in – in vain I suppose.

[01:15:17;06] And the TRC, the TRC's tagline I guess was for the child taken and for the parents left behind. But it's not just a matter of the parents. It's everybody else that's left behind when you lose somebody, when you lose somebody to the schools. So it's not just that it's Pearl and her sisters, it's also the rest of the family lost an uncle or a cousin or a grandfather or – Chanie never got to have kids himself. 

[01:15:54;23] And sadly there are so many people out there ah that died as a direct result of these schools um that never got to be that grandfather, that never got to see – or grandmother – never got to see young ones come after them. Because these schools, we have to remember, tried to end indigenous peoples. They tried to – they tried to end cultures. 

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[01:16:23;14] Mhm. I mentioned earlier that my father went to residential school. And watching this project and kind of know what you're saying, it has an effect beyond that. Like it lasts, it makes an imprint for such a long time after. And I find myself wondering, you know, why are people only finding out about this now? Like I've been so deeply affected, so many people that I know and I'm related to have been so deeply affected, so why now? Jesse, maybe you can speak to that a little bit.

Jesse Wente:

[01:16:55;01] Well I mean I don't think we spoke about it and I don't just mean – I mean I think the indigenous community has been well aware of this for a long time but I don't think Canada spoke about it. I mean I think one of the things we suffer on, you know, colonialism has a great ability to blind everyone to truth. That's sort of its purpose, to create a, a myth to support its own weight. And you know, we still live with that myth. 

[01:17:20;12] And so I think part of the importance of work like this, certainly the TRC, is that to hear some of these truths, to actually start the conversation. And we should be clear as we sit here where we are really just at the beginning of this process. Like we're still at the beginning of the truth stage despite all of the testimony.

[01:17:43;16] More Canadians need to hear these things in order for us to get to where we need to get. And I think – but I think we've done a great job, or colonialism has done a great job at obscuring these, these truths from most, from most Canadians that aren't indigenous.

[01:17:59;26] I think for us, movies like this, this is lived reality. These aren't, these aren't things in the abstract for us. This is our family. This is our day to day life. Indigenous people reconcile, I like to say every single day when we wake up, we reconcile that we're still here and we reconcile those that aren't and we reconcile the feet we have to have in two different places on a land that we've been here for thousands and thousands of years. 

[01:18:26;01] So I think in some ways what things like this is help – hopefully it helps others start on a path that we've been walking down for a long time. 

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[01:18:38;10] Yeah. Sorry, I thought you wanted something to add.

Ry Moran:

[01:18:43;08] Sure. Because I think you're a hundred percent right that we're just at the start of this journey and we have to recognize that. Because you're right that we talked to a lot of survivors, but we talked to a lot of survivors at the TRC that told their stories to us for the first time in their lives.

[01:19:00;05] Something that they kept bottled up for 60, 70, 80, sometimes 90 years because, you know, early childhood trauma just makes you want to like protect it and deny it somehow. And the truth has to come out sooner or later. So we talked to literally thousands of people who had never ever shared their experiences before.

[01:19:26;13] And so central in that as well is that we have to remember it's really not very long ago in this country that the residential schools weren't even being discussed at the level that they're at now. And the first survivors who went and started bringing their stories forward suffered terribly because nobody believed them and they were accused of being liars. And they were dragged through the courts and cross-examined and, and told over and over again that they were making things up and that they were conspiring to, to tarnish the good name of the church and state. And that's really not that long ago. That's like less than 20 years ago that this was still happening.

[01:20:08;02] So we are very much at the start of this journey. We are very much at the start of this truth coming out. 

Tasha Hubbard:

[01:20:14;29] Can I just also – I was thinking about in terms of myths and what not and I think that, that's also got to be thought about in the sense that there's a myth of indigenous people as being deficient, of being less than. And I mean that's the mentality that allowed the schools like this to happen. That's the mentality that allowed land theft and all things, and it's still happening. And that myth is really powerful.

[01:20:50;03] And I think that too is why telling stories and people listening to them um is a way of pushing back against, against that myth. Because so much of how things are structured in this country is built on that. 

Jesse Wente:

[01:21:05;12] And listening is really the key. Because we can talk all we want. If people don't actually listen, it won't matter. But it can't just stop at listening. Like I think it's important for Canada to understand there has to be action after the listening and that this, as great a work as this is, and as important as it is, this isn't the end either. This is again just a part of the conversation. Engaging with this isn't reconciliation. It's not even close. And so as long as we're, we're aware of these things and we're listening, truly listening, I think maybe we can, we can move somewhere.

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[01:21:52;04] Mhm. Tasha, you had mentioned that your experience growing up was a positive one. So you're living in a non-indigenous household. Maybe you can tell us a little bit about your first conversations about residential schools with your family.

Tasha Hubbard:

[01:22:10;10] Yeah. So, I mean it's positive in the sense I was loved and kept safe. But I don't think, for lots of reasons, I learned the history. And I think it's similar to Canadians in the sense if it's not in our school system, it's not in our  popular culture, it's just not, you know, it's not there. It's starting to shift but at the time I was growing up it wasn't.

[01:22:41;00] So I didn't learn about residential schools really until I met my birth parents and they started to educate me. But I was already in my late teens, early 20s.

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[01:22:51;05] Oh wow.

Tasha Hubbard:

[01:22:51;27] And even then there was only so much that people – what Ry is saying, it's a tough thing to talk about. And the really tragic, one of the really tragic things is how much shame got embedded in, in people who went. So it's a difficult thing to talk about. And it wasn't till I think I started working in film and looking at the different ways that indigenous people have been affected by the colonial experiences that's when I started to look more into what it was and ask questions and learn and listen to people who were willing to tell their story. 

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[01:23:33;16] So now as an educator, how are you getting students to - because that was a very personal journey. But how are you getting your students to maybe have that same journey?

Tasha Hubbard:

[01:23:42;21] Yeah, I mean it's about engaging with – and that's the power and strength of creative texts and I mean films and literature and theatre and the arts, right? It's a way – and that's what I teach. So I teach the history absolutely, but through – through texts like this, through how indigenous people also express their own experience. And I think that's really important that I think there's some really respectful works out there that are done, like in terms of collaborations and whatnot. But I think it's also really important that people engage with our own indigenous expression that tells our experience.

[01:24:28;19] And so that's the start is my students reading things. And they'll say that the first they've encountered this. It's the first time in their  and it is starting to change, but I think in general it's – we still have a long way to go.

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[01:24:46;23] Yeah. You had mentioned too that there are sometimes – in a previous conversation you mentioned to me that there are sometimes these situations where they get defensive about it almost, like it didn't happen. So if you're coming across somebody who's having that type of reaction, how do you get them to change percept-

Tasha Hubbard:

[01:25:05;21] So the way I teach is that I have – I have students that have expectations when they take my class that they're going to learn all about indigenous people. And so at the first – beginning of the class I will talk about that they're in the space to basically turn their gaze towards themselves. Because so much of the time indigenous people are the object of a gaze, right? And there's bias inherent with that. There's all sorts of things embedded within that gaze. 

[01:25:34;09] And so what I'll talk about is turning that around and being self –aware and what are your responses to this and are you feel defensive. And be curious about that, why are you feeling that way? What has taught you to respond in that way? And most of the time by the end of the class they're thinking in those, in those terms. And I think it's something I think Canadians could also do. Because I think a lot of times that defensive comes up. And you know, and it gets put on our shoulders all the time to try and dismantle that. But I think it's not all of our responsibility. 

[01:26:18;29] It's Canadians' responsibility to educate themselves and learn and listen. I always say that. Because sometimes that space gets filled with their own voice. And sometimes it needs to be space left for indigenous – to listen to indigenous people tell it.

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[01:26:37;25] Mhm, mhm. Ry, in your work are you finding a similar type of approach where some people are defensive? Or how are you getting it out to outside the indigenous community?

Ry Moran:

[01:26:50;26] I think, I mean, yeah, there's lots of defensiveness out there. And it comes out a lot of different ways. Sometimes people just want to believe that there's good somewhere in the system. And they say well, was it all bad? Well it wasn't all bad, but generally it was all bad. (chuckle) And ah, and this desire to maintain this belief that it couldn't be as bad as it seems is a very powerful defence that people put up. And it's hard because you have to deconstruct that and you have to help people see that – we've talked to a lot of people – and it's not just about the residential schools either. Sure there were some schools that weren't quite as bad as some others, but there were some really incredibly horrible schools, schools with electric chairs in them, schools with children dying routinely.

[01:27:54;09] But the schools were just one part of a much bigger system. And when you take that bigger system and put it altogether, it's as really bad history that we have in this country. And that's where it's like, is there any good? Well, gees, you've got to look at the big picture. 

[01:28:08;23] And the other big, the other big thing too is it's just, you know, racism and mis-education and just misunderstandings. Like the myths that are out there that indigenous peoples don't pay taxes or that everybody gets money or that there's all this free-free stuff, I mean this is – this all biases people's perceptions and puts up real barriers to meaningful conversation that hold us back as a country.

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[01:28:37;04] Mhm. I know, even for myself growing up in a non-indigenous environment, I felt like I was just an open book of like this is not what you think it is. Like I'm not getting all this free stuff, it's not an amazing ride. Like it's all this other very real stuff. And I think indigenous people to have this huge responsibility to learn all this stuff so that they can – not really set these people straight, but at least defend themselves in situations like that.

[01:29:07;19] We have a reporter, Jody Porter. She's a CBC journalist specializing in social justice issues in northwestern Ontario. Her 2012 radio documentary, Dying for an Education, actually was a catalyst for the Downie family to really put their efforts behind this issue. I'm just wondering how does this project resonate differently with survivors versus other Canadians. Maybe Jesse, you can speak to that a little bit.

Jesse Wente:

[01:29:37;04] Yeah. Well I think it's interesting because I think there's, there's a lot of different opinions in the indigenous community about this work, because it's complex, you know. We see we've been the object of other people's art for a very long time. And that hasn't – the history of that largely has not benefited us. 

[01:30:01;25] And so I think there's always some trepidation around these sorts of projects. But you know, clearly this is, this is something else. And I think that the, the hopeful part is that – like let's be really honest. Like a panel like this wasn't ever supposed to happen, right? Like the whole point of residential schools and everything was to make sure that this – this event right here wasn't going to be possible. The whole goal was, as you said, was to extinguish.

[01:30:33;14] So, you know, we've overcome that part. But I think for the rest of Canadians, because again, we've – indigenous people have been speaking out for many, many years. There were, there were, there were all sorts of indicators and people telling residential school stories. 

[01:30:52;04] But Canada does not have a history of listening to indigenous people. That's true of both Canada and the United States. Both of the nation states that now exist on Turtle Island. You know, so this is a new experience for a lot of Canadians. And I think the benefit of something like this is, maybe coming from an artist like Gord Downie, who's already beloved in Canada, maybe people that won't listen to this panel will listen to that. And maybe this will lead them to someplace else where we can finally get some traction.

[01:31:24;29] And I think that's why this project in particular is important is because maybe, maybe Canada needs someone like Gord Downie to tell them, for them to actually pay attention. And while I wish that weren't true, if it takes a rock star to move us in this path then that's – then good. It takes a rock star and I'll applaud that rock star.

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[01:31:49;03] So where does that – like how much do we have left to do after something like this? Like what – because it sounds like we're getting there. You know, it's happening. But it still also is we're very far away. So how- what next?

Ry Moran:

[01:32:06;13] Well I guess – We ran some polls in the middle of the summer ah through the centre and with a number of other organizations. And two really jumped out off the page at me, three actually. 

[01:32:21;00] So one, on average across the country 66% of Canadians have heard or read something about residential schools. That's got to be a hundred percent. I mean so we have to get to that point somehow or another. And that's through education, that's through media, that's through events like this. That's through Gord's work. That's through a whole bunch of other work. But we've got to somehow get to a hundred percent.

[01:32:40;20] Because that's just the starting point of really having a meaningful conversation of reconciliation. Only 40% of people had heard about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. So we've just had this massive thing that's happened in this country that happens at the national level in the aftermath of mass human rights violations and 60% of the country doesn't even realize it's existed. So that could change. 

[01:33:11;11] But on the flip side, on the inverse of that, we see and saw that Canadians are really keen about learning more. And  like 90%, 95% of people believe that full and complete histories of indigenous peoples should be in the schools. And Canadians at the same time want to learn.

[01:33:30;17] So I think what's really critical here in the next little bit is trying to walk forward on this path of learning  and dialogue and listening, that we've talked about, and somehow trying to help the country slow down and become self-reflecting enough and humble enough to actually let the voices of indigenous people speak for a while. Because really, you know, there's been a lot of speaking about indigenous peoples and it's time now for indigenous peoples to have a voice and really helping this country ah move forward on a much more just and equitable and fair and frankly, humble path. 

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[01:34:16;22] Mhm. It's interesting because you've kind of – you're painting a picture of, you know, what's going to, what's to come. But I'm still looking at this project and thinking like how is this able to gain more traction than all of these stories that we've heard before. And is it really about who's telling it? Is that really what it's about? Maybe you can elaborate on that, Jesse.

Jesse Wente:

[01:34:43;12] I mean I, I feel you searching, but I think it does have a lot to do with who's telling it. Cause, you know, um only 40% of the people had heard of the TRC and a lot of people told a lot of truth there. And a lot of people didn't make it to tell their truth there. And if, you know, if Canada is not going to listen to that, again maybe they'll listen to this. 

[01:35:08;19] And you know, the other thing I would say is Canadians should read the TRC, the report. They should read the 94 recommendations. They should find themselves in there. And when their MP comes knocking at their door they should ask what they're doing. And they should be armed to know if their MP is telling the truth or not. And we should all – I would challenge all Canadians if you watch Gord Downie at his concert in Kingston, I would challenge them all to do the same thing , which is turn to our leaders and ask them to do this. And not let them off the hook, because that's the tradition the indigenous people have seen is talk, promises and then no action. And that can't be what we're going to see this time.

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[01:35:52;29] Mhm. So hearing from an artist like Gord Downie and I think there are a lot of other artists out there that are working on this that we don't know about. We have Joseph Boyden, Kent Mongma- Kent Monkman, Terrell Calder. Can you maybe mention a few of the other artists that are working in a meaningful way on reconciliation that people should maybe look into.

Jesse Wente:

[01:36:18;00] Wow. Every indigenous artist. 

Host, Melanie Hadley:

(overlap) Everyone. (laugh)

Jesse Wente:

[01:36:23;04] Um because I think even when the art isn't directly set in that context, I think the reality is indigenous – these stories have been in our art for decades. And in fact, Canadians should go back and return to that art. Because it's not just these stories, it's a whole bunch of stories are related there, when we weren't allowed to tell them in other spaces, when this was the only place we could – in our songs, in our theatre, in our visual art, that's where a lot of the stuff lives.

[01:36:54;23] But in terms of people doing it right now, I mean I'm sitting on stage with one. There's Alanissa Obomsawin. Oh my goodness, there's so many, Tanya – Tanya Tagak (overlap), A Tribe Called Red. (overlap) You know, Article 11, I could list dozens and dozens and Canada should really turn to these – these artists. And I hope what this piece really does is shine a path and make the path to indigenous artists less obscure and so people can find it from our own voices as well. And you'll realize we've been – we have been saying this for a very long time.

Tasha Hubbard:

[01:37:32;11] And we're just coming out of the tail end of the Imaginative Indigenous Film Festival where indigenous film from all over the world comes. But specifically a lot of Canadian ah indigenous filmmakers are represented. And they're telling stories and they're not – you know, they're engaging with stories around residential school, absolutely. But they're also speaking about resource extraction, land rights, um the over-representation of indigenous people in the prison system, missing and murdered indigenous women. I mean these are all issues that people are engaging with. 

[01:38:08;22] And I think, you know, it's hard to find the audience. And I think we're watching our own work. It's difficult sometimes because we're still working to have access to resources that are needed to make these projects that to broadcasters to show them. I mean it's a system. The television and film system isn't – is not any different than Canadians in general where there's potentially biases or even racism. And so where do we get our work seen, right?

[01:38:42;19] And that can spread out to indigenous writers in terms of getting published. And you know, the stories are all there and they're really powerful and there's beautiful work out there. And you know, it needs to be seen, it needs to be engaged with. And, and if somebody engages with it and doesn't understand all of the complexities of the foundation around, you know, around colonialism, around the long history this country has with that, before it was even a country. Then, you know, go to education, right? Learn that history.

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[01:39:21;07] Totally. Chief Alvin Fiddler said that Secret Path is like another Terry Fox moment for Canada. Why? Do you think that Gord Downie could be the tipping point for the changing of the conversation about Canada's residential school history?

Ry Moran:

[01:39:40;04] Ah, I think it really can be actually, to tell you the truth. And the reason for that is, you know, at the TRC we believe very strongly that at the end of the day the residential schools are not just an indigenous story. It's actually a Canadian story. And it's actually a Canadian story about a system that went really wrong and really bad.

[01:40:08;06] And we need to understand that we all need to be talking about how wrong and how bad this was. And in that, with Gord bringing this to Canada and bringing a lot more people to this conversation now, I think we've now reached people that we've never reached before. Because we had a lot of people show up at the TRC events. But we never somehow really got mainstream Canada showing up somehow, you know.

[01:40:38;29] Um and now through this I think there's that potential. And if we can keep this dialogue going, then it's the old multiplier effect kind of thing. If we've talked to – say we talk to a million people tonight, you know, through this broadcast and they can talk to two people, you know. And even if people can just understand Chanie's story and that opens their hearts and their minds to learning just a little bit more, that's a really good path for actually, for us to get on as a country. 

[01:41:10;09] And if we can encourage Canadians to start asking the questions that need to be asked about why the things are still so wrong in this country and to do that with open hearts and open minds and, and don't pre-judge before they interact, then we're going to be heading in a good moment, ah into a good place. And that's going to carry us a very long ways. 

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[01:41:32;28] That's great. I think now would actually be a perfect time to hear from Pearl. We're actually going to run a clip right now and it's Pearl Wenjack, Chanie's sister. 

Pearl Wenjack:

[01:41:48;14] I'm happy um today. I'm happy to bring Charlie's story to light which is what I've always wanted, to have it on a national basi- basis. So that every Canadian is aware of it, so that they're thankful that they're taken care of where they are, especially the children. 

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[01:42:16;21] So on the heels of that I'm opening up the floor for questions. We'll start by taking questions off of the Facebook comments and I invite people here in the audience to, if you'd like to come up and ask a question we should have a microphone up in a moment. So Mercedes from CBC Arts, can you tell us our first question?

Mercedes:

[01:42:34;14] Yes, um we want to say that over the course of the stream there were approximately 3,000 comments and reactions. It's easily the highest number that we've received in such a short time. 

[01:42:47;29] So Edna asks: As the daughter of a residential school survivor, my father, Noel Knockwood, told me horrific stories of abuse that took place there. I have told my children in the hopes that they will tell their children in the years to come. How do we forgive?

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[01:43:06;18] That's a tough one. That's a little bit – Ry, do you think you can speak to that?

Ry Moran:

[01:43:10;25] Yeah. I ah, I guess I'll just say that each person has got to find their own path to forgiveness. And it is a very personal journey. And I think what helps people find forgiveness is having a society that enables people to forgive. Because, you know, our society is like this. It's like we've been in a fist fight with indigenous peoples for a really long time where indigenous peoples keep getting hit. And it's hard, like if you say you're sorry while you're still hitting somebody, it's kind of hollow, right? 

[01:43:57;19] And we have to create a society where as people start to find the power and the strength to forgive, that on the other side of that that's actually honoured and that we speak truth with our words. And when we go right down to the real teachings about what's really meaningful and how to walk in the world in a good way, it's being very truthful. So when you say something, you do it and you mean it and you – you honour what you say.

[01:44:23;14] And we have to get real truthful in this society, not just in facing our truth but walking a truthful path. And that's going to help a lot more people be able to forgive this state, when we can start walking with humility and love and courage and all the other teachings.

Jesse Wente:

[01:44:45;14] I was just going to say it's also okay to struggle with that, because I think I struggle with that every day. And so I think that's, you know, it's okay to ah – to not always be in a forgiving mood. 

Ry Moran:

[01:45:00;29] Mhm. 

Tasha Hubbard:

[01:45:01;14] Mhm. It's – I think sometimes it – it's ah, we get told um, like there's this sense of the need to be civil. And I think sometimes what that does is it just squashes, you know, people's genuine reaction. And yeah, you know, we're – I just finished watching Angry Inuk by Alethea Arnaquq-Baril and the way that the Inuit people have been treated and they're continued to be treated and yet, you know, not being able to be angry. And sometimes we just – we're angry. It's awful the things that have happened. And I, I think it's – no one wants to live with that though their whole lives, right? So but at the same time, if you're feeling angry, it's okay. And I think in general our society tries to, you know, minimize that and – so I think just how people are feeling needs to be respected.

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[01:46:06;29] Of course. And I think that's actually a perfect opportunity to mention that um CBC Arts ah currently had up a resource line for people if anyone is being – feeling triggered or feels like they need to ah work through these emotions. You know, that anger is such a powerful thing and you have to get beyond it in order to heal. So ah if anyone does need that crisis line, it is available on the CBC Secret Path website.

[01:46:34;05] Mercedes, do we have any other questions coming in?

Mercedes:

Rene asks: How did they decide which children were taken and which stayed home?

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[01:46:44;03] Again Ry, I feel like we  need to go to you for this.

Ry Moran:

[01:46:47;02] Okay. I think it really depended on the community. But certainly in the early part of the history it was just a blanket abduction. So if you were a child between certain ages you were going to the residential school. And there was no selecting.

[01:47:03;17] What we, what we heard is a lot of brave stories of parents who hid their kids, you know, sometimes under very difficult circumstances. But basically in the inverse of that, I mean kids were abducted. Like kids were literally stolen, snatched.

[01:47:22;18] You know, the Indian agent would drive into town and kids would be walking like this along the side of the road and they would forcibly grab the kids and throw them into the back of the car and drive them off to the residential school. And the parents wouldn't know where their kids were. So it was – it was forced, it was planned, ah and it was total in its effort to bring children into school. 

Tasha Hubbard:

[01:47:48;21] And I just want to add that in my work sometimes what will happen is um I'll get asked, well why didn't people stop their kids from going, right? And for lots of reasons – I've looked at the RCMP archives where they have their arrest logs where they list the people they've arrested for attempting to not send their children , right? I mean it was absolutely part of that history.

[01:48:14;19] But I actually asked um an elder that I used to work with, the late Narcis Blood. And I asked him once about that. I said, you know, why wasn't there more resistance right at – especially in those ear- early days. And he explained it that what we need to remember is that indigenous people from the time of contact have been under assault and that we've been experiencing what he called waves of trauma. And so, you know, he talked about the epidemics as one of those waves and how we lost so many of our pop- so much of our population and how devastating that was.

[01:48:55;05] The Indian Wars which , you know, sometimes Canada says, oh we didn't do that. Well yes, actually you know, there were similar tactics that were undertaken that we suffered under. The loss of the buffalo or other sustaining – not just food sources but our relatives and our family. You know, we look at – we look at the world like that um and then, you know, the reserve system and pass system and all of these waves. And he said, by the time the residential schools – by the time they came, he said, we were hurting so bad, we were already hurting so bad. And then it just is one more awful wave, right? 

[01:49:36;14] And it, it helps put a lot of that in context, you know. And again it, I think sometimes it becomes part of that deficiency narrative, well what kind of parent lets their child get taken? It's like, you know, people don't understand how the system was set up to make people so powerfulness at that time.

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[01:49:55;14] That's very jarring. Mercedes, do you have any other questions? Oh we have a question in the audience. Please. 

Woman:

[01:50:05;27] As the daughter-in-law of a residential school survivor and the mother of two aboriginal children who are now in college, I'd like to ask a question in regards to something Pearl said about having high schools on reserves. My direct experience of ah native education is it can be very challenging to get two aboriginal children into college with the bureaucracy of bursaries even.

[01:50:32;11] But I'm thinking more specifically about what maybe could be called the Plains of Tears as compared to the Trains of Tears where children are still taken to Thunder Bay, instance, to high school and how so often that goes so poorly. So I'm wondering if you could – I'm thinking about Pearl saying specifically high schools on reserves and if you could speak to that.

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[01:50:53;13] Ry?

Ry Moran:

[01:50:56;06] You know, education is at the heart of everything, all the conversations we're having really. And going right back to treaty, I mean indigenous peoples wanted education. I mean that was – that was one of the promises of treaty. There were supposed to be schools built in communities. Because people saw the wave coming and knew that the world was changing. 

[01:51:21;16] The thing that went so wrong though is that instead of education, really by indigenous peoples, for indigenous peoples, or education that was at least not assimilative, you know, that was supportive. That helped indigenous peoples walk in the white world, we can call it, but still maintain their culture. That was – that never happened. Instead what we got was residential schools. And, and we know how damaging that was.

[01:51:51;29] And you know, today it's – there's a lot of challenge still present within the education system. And what's critical, what's coming in this country which we need to be very well aware of is the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which Canada has just recently ratified and said that they're going to implement. And that says that indigenous peoples have a right under – under Article 8.1 of not being assimilated. 

[01:52:16;12] And when we look at our contemporary curriculum and how indigenous peoples are being taught and how – how our history is being reflected in schools, it is still assimilative. And we have a lot, a lot, a lot of work to do in this country, um before our education systems, be they in community, be they out of community, be they on a holistic ah, you know, level ah really reflect a non-assimilative system. 

Tasha Hubbard:

[01:52:44;09] And it feels, you know, the policies whether it's the federal or provincial government and I think even people's responses is that indigenous people need to come to the education. And you know, that's just such a wrong way of thinking. People are rooted in the lands that they come from and through treaty and other, you know – we negotiated that. We negotiated - what another elder, Danny Muscraw told me and tells others is the power of the pen. We negotiated to have that ability and never once was it, you know, and not teach our own selves. That was part of it. 

[01:53:24;26] We were, you know, the idea was that they were to work in partnership. So absolutely, I'm so glad that the audience member brought that up. And I think that's the kind of stuff that comes out of a work like this is the voice – and I'm so glad and happy that Gord and the others have included her voice in this. And I think it's just so telling that she's like, yes, thank you for remembering my brother but we can't forget the kids that are here now and what they need and what they – what they need is a proper education system that is not assimilative, that is not – and is not telling people who live out on the land in the North or out in, you know, - that they have to come to a city. I mean that, that's just such a wrong way of thinking. 

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[01:54:14;29] Mhm.

Jesse Wente:

[01:54:16;01] Yeah we have to get out of modes thinking that we've tried things and they didn't work. Because we tried them under a system that was never meant for them to work. 

Ry Moran:

Mhm.

Tasha Hubbard:

Mhm.

Jesse Wente:

[01:54:25;25] So, so it actually worked exactly as designed which is it failed. So we need to try something else which for some indigenous – for most is going to be how about schools in our communities. 

Host, Melanie Hadley:

Yeah.

Jesse Wente:

[01:54:37;16] Because we haven't tried that. So you know, let's try clean drinking water in all of our communities. (overlap) Because we've been wait- (applause) we've been waiting on that. (applause) So – you know, instead of – instead of continuing to think under one paradigm around what success looks like and how we achieve it, we need to completely invert that and decolonize that and say, that's not – you know, we've – there's proof of concept on those ideas. Let's try something different. 

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[01:55:06;23] Of course. That's so true. We have another question from the audience.

Woman:

[01:55:09;27] Hey, it's less a question and more prompting. I'm wondering if we can return to the theme of defensiveness. I've noticed, at least in my circles, when I look at my Facebook feed, it's full of talking about the States and about Trump and about, you know, soul searching that our neighbours need to do. And I think I've recently come to hear more in terms about Canada and our angel complex and our ability to point over there and say, it's so bad and let's talk about that. 

[01:55:32;05] So just with that in mind, this problem of defensiveness, this problem of guilt and shame, I wonder if the panel could speak to how we might get over our inability to look at things that are hard to look at and spend enough time with them. 

[01:55:45;26] I love what Tasha said earlier about getting yourself the space to feel and I love what Jesse said about, you know, it's nowhere near reconciliation with most people. We're just at just getting to (truth). So I invite you to just talk about that please.

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[01:56:01;02] Yeah, maybe Jesse you can speak to that a little bit. I know you have your finger on the pulse of what's happening out there.

Jesse Wente:

[01:56:06;23] Yeah. Well I have – I have a social media feed which is probably worse than even yours, um and can be discouraging. But you know, I think it's, you know, I think there's always going to be defensiveness when you challenge a system that has been in place and privileged so many for so long that a challenge to that privilege actually feels like inequality, when it isn't, you know. Like and so I think we have to – and that's I think a educational thing, you know. And I think it really is – you know, we have been let down in so many ways, but really on the education system has let all Canadians down on this..

[01:56:46;11] And so I have a, a pretty hefty measure of empathy for people that are defensive, because it must be challenging to hear voices that you're not used to hearing and hearing truths that you're not used to hearing from voices that you're not used to hearing. But in the end, um I think we're going to have to overcome that dialogue and listening is going to be a key part of all that, and truly listening.

[01:57:14;07] I think, you know, we live in an age where communication is at such a rapid pace. We have so much information. There's such an ability to hear lots of things. But to truly listen, you know, we've created a lot of technology to help us make noise but not necessarily listen. And I think a lot of the tools where we see public engagement, like whether it's Facebook or, or Twitter or whatever, I mean they're really not meant for a very mature discourse. And that's not what we find there. 

[01:57:47;08] But I think we have to – if we confront these things and we move them to a different venue then I think maybe we can actually make ah progress. But I think people have to want to hear it. And you know, um yeah. And I think the good thing about where we are now is we're gonna keep tellin' ya. So it's – this isn't 3 years ago where Canadians could hide. That's not what this age is anymore. This is not going to go away. There is no hiding from this.

[01:58:18;09] So we either confront it now or we'll come back next year and do this panel all over again. (chuckles) (applause)

Tasha Hubbard:

[01:58:24;22] Can I – (applause for Jesse) I had a – recently had a conversation with a person I really respects who's a non-indigenous person. And she was sharing her experience of her willingness to be uncomfortable. 

Jesse Wente:

Mhm.

Tasha Hubbard:

[01:58:42;19] And, and I think we're in a, again we're in an age where we don't want to not be comfortable, right? Our whole – everything as well. And she talked about that, that that's here like her way of thinking it's okay if this unsettles me. It's okay if I felt uncomfortable because that's a space of learning. And I think people are so unwilling to stay in that space, but I think that's what's needed. 

Jesse Wente:

[01:59:08;27] We really need to embrace discomfort. What I always like to say is if we're going to share, we share a lot – indigenous people have shared a lot on this land. Um so I'm uncomfortable every day. And I think a lot of indigenous people feel that way when we wake up. And so let's share a little bit of that too. Cause I gotta tell ya, that – that's as Canadian as apologizing for other things. We've got to own – we've got to own all of what this land is, not just a part of it. 

Ry Moran:

[01:59:38;04] Mhm.

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[01:59:38;10] Mhm. We have a couple more questions in the audience. 

Woman:

[01:59:43;06] Hi. I was just wondering how you feel that the Secret Path and these projects can work to be a catalyst to revive some things that we've lost like languages which are going extinct in some – in some bands across Canada. I wonder if you could speak to that.

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[02:00:02;17] Tasha, do you have anything to add for that?

Tasha Hubbard:

[02:00:07;02] I think that um, you know, it comes to resources. It comes to um the different group- whether it's on an indigenous nation level, whether it's through education groups. People are – whether it's community focused as learning, language learning, all of that requires resources. And on a level that recognizes that indigenous people are of this land and that, you know, we hear the dialogue of the founding nations and it's like, well we were here for a very long time and those languages are part of the land. They come from the land. 

[02:00:49;27] So um that's been eroded, that, you know, and luckily we have, you know, there's places and people who have held on to that, you know, overwhelmingly, you know, overwhelming odds to be able to do that. So they need the support – the language teachers, the immersion programs. They're out there, you know, but they need to be – they need the resources. They need to ah to function, to do what they, what they're intended to do and reclaim the language, yeah.

Ry Moran:

[02:01:21;05] And just really quickly cause ah, you know, the big thing too is that how something like this helps is by bringing people into the conversation and by trying to rally the country to actually start to change its priorities and change its focus. You know, Senator Sinclair said it last night: We need to get to the point where we teach indigenous languages as easily and as enthusiastically as we teach French in the school systems. 

[02:01:49;20] And that only comes through Canadians embracing preservation of indigenous histories. But Canadians first have to understand that there's so much richness and so much value here that needs to be honoured. And we need Canadians helping us really preserve this. Because frankly, we've been trying to do it forever, um you know. And it, it's been really hard because we haven't had a lot of support and we need Canadians helping us now. 

[02:02:19;21] And, and the path to that is trying to open up a little bit so that you can understand just how big and how harsh this machine has been in Canada for so very long. 

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[02:02:33;19] Thank you. We have one more question and then we'll wrap it up. So next question.

Michael:

[02:02:40;28] My name is Michael. I'm ah pre-ancestry. I'm a residential school survivor. I went to two residential schools. Ah the last residential school closed its doors in 1996 and ah I learned that the ah residential school system was as huge national secret and a national crime. And reconciliation means acknowledging genocide and taking action to end colonialism. Thank you.

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[02:03:15;11] Thank you for your words.

Jesse Wente:

[02:03:15;02] Thank you, sir. (applause)

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[02:03:25;15] Oh we have one more question.

Man:

[02:03:28;06] It's more of a short comment. I'm also a residential school survivor. Maybe a lot of people here never heard a story from an actual residential school survivor. But just on a topic of healing, reconciling, me personally I never needed treaties to be respected. I never needed for political systems or policies to be implemented for me personally to hear, for me.

[02:03:56;15] I, when I was on that healing journey,  made a decision to say to myself, no matter what, I will forgive, no matter what's not respected , what's not honoured in my own personal life. I will still forgive. 

[02:04:12;01] I didn't need the apology to forgive when the Prime Minister made the apology. I didn't need that for me to forgive. I forgave. And on that healing journey, when I forgave, all the stuff – a lot of the stuff, all the stuff that, that was burdened and was weighed on me, left. Because I made that choice to forgive. So I didn't need a whole bunch of lists in order for, for the federal government or anybody else for me to cross off in order for me to forgive. Cross this out, okay, I've got a few more lists in order for me to forgive. No, I didn't need that list. I just chose to forgive.

[02:04:50;07] And now I'm standing here, I stand here as a free man, because I chose to forgive. Thank you. (applause)

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[02:05:10;14] Thank you for that. So I just have one last question. What's the conversation you hope people are having when they lay in bed tonight thinking about The Secret Path? Jesse, I'll start with you.

Jesse Wente:

[02:05:28;05] I hope they're thinking about um what a new Canada looks like. 

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[02:05:35;21] What do you hope they do about it tomorrow?

Tasha Hubbard:

[02:05:39;22] I hope that those people who have the ability to make a difference for children, I think that we absolutely have to acknowledge what's happened to the children – indigenous children through history, but realize that, you know, that children are still struggling in different ways. The residential school system as it existed is not there, but it sure knows how to shift into other spaces. And we see that in child welfare, in the amount of children who are in care and the lack of support. And Cindy Blackstock's fight for, you know, for children to be able to stay in the home and the home be supported as opposed to removing children. It's just a continuation of the same system. Um that's what I hope.

[02:06:34;16] I hope that children have clean drinking water. I hope that children have a warm home and are with their families and can be educated in their communities and can dream. 

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[02:06:49;12] Anything to add, Ry?

Ry Moran:

[02:06:52;23] Um yeah, I hope, you know, people are laying in bed tonight that, you know they can – they can say a little prayer, however – however they do that, whatever that means to them. You know, that Chanie can find some peace and that he can go on now and ah that he doesn't have to ah, that he doesn't have to stay stuck anymore I think. Because I think, I would hope that people can say a little word of thanks for Chanie too for – for teaching us a little bit more about who we are as a country. 

[02:07:28;12] But you know, I think it's – why we're here is because for whatever reason he's a really strong little kid and his family is really strong. And he wasn't able to find peace and we're not able to find peace as a country I don't think until we remember all those other kids that are out there and there's a whole bunch of other ones that are waiting for us still.

[02:07:52;05] But I hope tonight we can just pray together I think that the Chanies – Chanie can rest.

Host, Melanie Hadley:

[02:07:59;23] Thank you. And thank you, everyone online for joining us. Um if I can say two things the first thing is please visit thesecretpath.ca. We do have a call to action to donate. And also I heard Murray – Senator Murray Sinclair speak last night and he talks about the recommendations similarly to how Jesse put it. And it's the best thing you can do is read them. Read them and pick one. Pick one that you can live, pick one that you can stand for. Thanks again for joining us. Have a good night.  (applause)