Mansfield Sept. 30, 2023
September 30 certainly didn’t go unnoticed in Mansfield this year, and it had nothing to do with the highly unusual balmy weather on that day. No, the cause came in the form of a simple yet touching ceremony organized by the Pontiac Native Community in support of the Truth and Reconciliation Day initiative.
A commemorative ceremony to, in the words of Lise Romain, President of the Pontiac Native Community, “reflect on the harms, injustices and intergenerational traumas that Indigenous peoples have faced and continue to face because of the residential school system, the Government of Canada and the Catholic Church.”
Participants of the ceremony needed not look very far to comprehend the fate endured by the Indigenous peoples for too many years. Indeed, a dedication plaque to honour the memory of Jacob Wawatu greets visitors to the Healing Garden. Jacob was an Algonquin Elder and leader who attended residential schools and later committed suicide.
To Ann-Marie Sullivan-Urbaitis, a member of the Pontiac Native Community, events such as the Truth and Reconciliation Day ceremony are essential if we are to right the wrongs of the past. “They serve to pause, learn, reflect and honour,” she said.
Lise Romain concurred and stressed the importance of engaging young people “through education, so they can take on the challenge of improving relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.”
The healing process will clearly be long. The hurt endured through the death of so many (more than 3,200 children, at last count) is far too great to disappear quickly. But important first steps have been taken.
So reminded Jane Toller, Warden of our MRC, to the small crowd gathered last Saturday. “A terrible secret has been exposed. And it has led to a major and much needed shake up in our country. We must now begin to move forward,” Toller said.
The hour-long ceremony came to an end with a smudging followed by the distribution of treats and refreshments.
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