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Ways to take part in Truth and Reconciliation in Burnaby

There are a number of resources that can be used to enhance learnings all year

Jasleen Sidhu, Soraya Janus, Brenda Morrison, and Macaela Bradley-Tse pose for a photo during the Sept. 24 Learning to Unlearn event at SFU. Lubna El-Elaimy.

While Sept. 30 is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, the act of reconciliation is ongoing: it is not just tied to one day, week, or year. There are many ways to engage with reconciliation: the range includes events, education, the arts, and literature.

Helpful resources

Burnaby is located on the unceded territories of several Indigenous nations, including the Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Kwikwetlem nations. One place to start is to consult the City of Burnaby’s website for information about the Indigenous history of Burnaby. The city recently published a guidebook that is a useful starting point for anyone interested in learning more about the subject.

If you want to go more in-depth into Indigenous history, the Burnaby Public Library has an excellent collection of books you can borrow free of charge with your library card. The selection includes creative works by Indigenous authors, like novels, short stories and poetry. In addition, there are many non-fiction books such as memoirs and even the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation commission that comes in several volumes, as well as an abridged version. Many of the books at Burnaby Public Library are available as e-books and audiobooks, so you can borrow them in the form that suits you best.

Burnaby Truth and Reconciliation events

A number of Truth and Reconciliation events took place in Burnaby this week. On Sept. 25, The Social Echoes, a group affiliated with SFU’s Centre for Restorative Justice, organized the Learning to Unlearn event at SFU. Created by a number of students, alumni and their professor, The Social Echoes seeks to provide resources, education and awareness about the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. What started as a class project during the pandemic grew into a grassroots movement that organizes events at places like libraries and university campuses in Metro Vancouver. “The whole idea of The Social Echoes is that we have to keep on amplifying it. There’s a lot of work to do in the context of reconciliation…It has to stay alive in the imagination of the general public,” SFU Professor Brenda Morrison told The Beacon.

Some of the former students involved spoke about the necessity for improved awareness and education about Truth and Reconciliation saying that their own schooling was deficient in this regard. One of the alumni involved in the project, Macaela Bradley-Tse, told the Beacon about how she went about educating herself about it, “I’ve always had a lot of questions and this is a great way to engage with a lot of those questions, and find some answers and connect with people who have lived experiences with this, and hear their stories and make meaning through it.”

Jasleen Sidhu told the Beacon about how her cultural background helped her connect with reconciliation, “I come from a Sikh Punjabi background and I realized there are a lot of things I can apply to my own life. We talked about the red dresses for instance, they have such a strong symbolism in themselves and in my community and culture. It's huge because a lot of our brides wear red and to see it represent women who are murdered and missing, it’s very, very touching. These are the moments we learn the most from, not the theories, being connected to it from head to toe.”

A red dress display at the Sept. 24 Simon Fraser University event. Lubna El-Elaimy.

The Social Echoes has been successful in taking their effort off campus and into the wider world. Soraya Janus, PhD candidate at the SFU School of Criminology told The Beacon about the connections they made, “We’ve connected with Indigenous studies, we connected with the museum and we’ve received wonderful support. They have been phenomenal, really supportive of this event in particular.”

This week, the Burnaby School District also unveiled a new Coast Salish House Post at the district’s administrative headquarters. “Revealed during Truth and Reconciliation Week, the house post represents the house of education for the Burnaby School District. It is permanently displayed outside the front entrance of the District Administration Office,” an official statement said. Master Carver Xwalacktun Rick Harry from the Squamish Nation led the effort to create the carving. “During its creation, the Master Carver worked for many months with students, school, and district staff at Burnaby South Secondary and the BC School for the Deaf. As they carved the red cedar welcome pole for the District together, he shared stories, teachings and culture,” the statement added.

Upcoming events

Other events taking place in Burnaby include plays and other film screenings at Shadbolt Centre for the Arts, as well as events at SFU throughout the month of October. On Oct. 4 Orange Shirt Day Founder Phyllis Webstad will be speaking at SFU Burnaby. Admission is free, so be sure to get your tickets ahead of time before the event is fully booked. Brentwood Mall is also exhibiting art by Indigenous artists, so be sure to check it out until Sept. 30.

This piece was made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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