Honouring Residential School Survivors and the Restoration of Identity at the IRSS Legacy Celebration

by Paula Messina

For a few special days in October, Toronto’s Nathan Philips Square was transformed with the sound of traditional drumming, singing, and dancing and a colourful display of teepees and an Indigenous Artisans’ marketplace. And at the centre of it all was the life size replica of a turtle sculpture, designed by Anishinaabe artist Solomon King, which was unveiled for the launch of the (IRSS) Indian Residential School Survivors’ healing garden: “an inclusive, accessible space with year-round programming held by Elders, traditional teachers, educational institutions and like-minded organizations and working with people of the four directions.”

(Courtesy of Toronto Council Fire)

The 3-day event, which began daily with a Sunrise Ceremony and Restoration of Identity Reaffirmation Walk, also comprised wampum and medicine wheel teachings, ceremonies, and workshops, along with the distinctive opportunity for the diverse Indigenous community to restore their identity and legacy.

The IRSS Legacy project responds to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) Call to Action 82:

“…to commission and install a publicly accessible, highly visible, Residential Schools Monument in each capital city to honour Survivors and all the children who were lost to their families and communities.” In addition to marking this significant milestone, the IRSS Legacy event was a cultural gathering that offered an opportunity to honour residential school survivors and celebrate Indigenous cultural resiliency and diversity.

Several members of Righting Relations’ Central Hub were fortunate to participate in the celebration. Our marketplace booth provided a popular space for visitors to reflect on and discuss their thoughts on building relations between settlers and Indigenous peoples. We collected responses to the question: What does it mean to be an Ally in Truth & Reconciliation? And using a dot-mocracy process, visitors helped identify the most critical Indigenous issues that newcomers and settlers alike need to learn more about.

Mind Map of People’s Responses at Righting Relations Table

The most important objective of these activities was to start conversations that hopefully continued with friends, family and colleagues long after the last teepee was taken down. Most encouraging was the number of people who signed onto our mailing list (over 90!) to be advised of future events that will provide opportunities for topics like these to be discussed in more depth.

It was a positive and worthwhile experience for the Righting Relations members volunteering at the booth as is evident from their comments:

It was such a great day to learn more and have been there in solidarity with Indigenous people” – Najia Zewari

“I personally really enjoyed it, but most importantly I think it brings us closer to where conversations and collaboration are happening around reconciliation. Having a more action-oriented network would allow us to tangibly measure our impact as Adult Educators” – Diana Grimaldos

“…we were well received by attendees, this was apparent from the numerous extensive, personal, honest, critical, reflective conversations that I saw and participated in while I was on site.  People wanted to share their reflections in response to our questions and were more than willing/interested in participating in our polls.  I hope that the feedback we collected will continue to guide our work in the Central Hub/Southern Circle” – Kaydeen Bankasingh

About the Restoration of Identity Sculpture

Titled Restoring Our Identity, the sculpture will be the centrepiece of the space that will be located at the southwest corner of Nathan Phillips Square. The province is contributing $1.5 million and the city, $500,000. The overall cost is expected to be around $5.2 million, with the remainder being fundraised. Having the Indigenous healing space and statue in a public space outside of City Hall will offer an opportunity for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to learn about the history represented through the project.  

(Courtesy of Toronto Council Fire)

“The sculpture features the snapping turtle climbing over a boulder. Etched in the boulder will list all the residential schools operated in Ontario.

The turtle symbolizes Mother Earth and acknowledges residential school survivors, nations and clans, rooting them back to their rightful place within creation.

This design is based on the traditional Indigenous creation story of Turtle Island. The turtle shell tiles represent the 13 moons in the Indigenous lunar calendar and the 28 surrounding tiles represent the number of days between the new moons. To acknowledge the First Peoples of this region, 13 tiles honours and recognizes the 11 Nations, the Métis Peoples and the Inuit.

The turtle sculpture will be 6 feet tall, 6 feet wide and 9 feet long.”

“With the engagement and interaction of residential school survivors and inter-generational members and collaboration with the City of Toronto, Council Fire is developing a Teaching, Learning, Sharing and Healing (TLSH) space as the home site for our Turtle. The TLSH will be a place for reflection, learning and building of good relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.”

(Courtesy of Toronto Council Fire) 

To learn more and support this initiative visit: https://irsslegacy.com/celebration/

Building Relationships, Facilitating Decolonization – Righting Relations Ottawa at Kitigan Zibi

by Fathiya Warsame

Forty-five women with diverse backgrounds and organizations travelled together to Kitigan Zibi community, in Maniwaki Quebec, to deepen their understanding of colonization and strategies for decolonizing our work. This event was organized by the Ottawa Righting Relations Circle and coordinated by the City for All Women Initiative (CAWI), which seeks to enhance the skills of women facilitating social change.

We are extremely grateful to be welcomed by Algonquin Elder Claudette Commanda to the Kitigan Zibi cultural centre and to have been taken on a tour of the community. At the beginning of the day we heard from Elder Claudette Commanda, Elena Abel, Michelle Penny, and Delores Peltier who shared personal stories on how they were impacted by the sixties scoop, residential schools and moving to an urban area. This was followed by an interactive exercise to name our ancestors experience of colonization as Indigenous, immigrant, racialized and white women. We were all urged to take action and continue to be more aware of ways we may have benefited or marginalized by colonization.

Manvitha Singamsetty then provided us with a presentation on the history and belief system behind colonization.

“We grant you (Kings of Spain and Portugal) by these present documents, with our Apostolic Authority, full and free permission to invade, search out, capture and subjugate the…pagans and any other unbelievers and enemies of Christ wherever they may be, as well as their kingdoms, duchies, countries, principalities, and other property (…) and to reduce their persons into perpetual servitude.” – Papal Bull, issues to Afonso V by Pope Nicolas V

 We were also invited to join in traditional cleansing and prayer ceremonies as well as participating in open and closing prayer songs. We all came together to build bridges as we are all a part of the solution process. By listening to everyone’s ideas, thoughts, stories and concerns we can begin to engage community members and organizations to work with an inclusive and de-colonizing lens.

Educonnexion lance son nouveau projet: Agent.e de Changement!

Educonnexion a le plaisir de vous annoncer le lancement officiel de notre nouveau projet Agent.e de Changement (AdC).

AdC offre aux citoyen.nes un réseau, ainsi qu’un espace de formation et de réflexion en engagement et participation citoyenne, ainsi qu’en changement et impact social. La série de formation comprend un tronc commun de base de 10 modules qui, complétés, offrent un certificat officiel émit par l‘Université de Montréal.

Depuis cinq ans déjà, 150 organismes ont fait confiance à Educonnexion pour renforcer leur capacité en changement et en impact social. Aujourd’hui, nous ouvrons au public. Ils ont pour but de renforcer les compétences personnelles et citoyennes afin de développer une conscience citoyenne critique et d’agir individuellement et collectivement sur nos sociétés.

Avec le projet AdC, nous voulons aller plus loin et redonner aux citoyen.nes l’espace pour se connecter, s’entraider, s’outiller, se former et créer des solutions innovantes pour une transition socio-écologique réussie.

La première cohorte de citoyen-es engagé-es sera formée et outillée dès septembre 2018, à Montréal. Elle pourrait bénéficier grandement de votre soutien!

Pour en savoir plus sur ce projet, sur les différentes manières d’y contribuer, ou pour parrainer des participant-es, nous vous invitons à consulter notre brochure ci-joint.

L’inscription se fait ici :  www.educonnexion.org/fr/inscriptions 

Également, nous avons lancé une campagne de financement participatif sur la plateforme La Ruche et recherchons des partenaires de diffusion. Nous vous serions très reconnaissants de la partager autour de vous et sur vos réseaux sociaux.

Avec tous mes remerciements,

Bien à vous

 

Righting Relations Ottawa Circle Presents: White Allyship Toolkit, May 24, 2018

Where: Somerset West Community Health Center, 55 Eccles
Avenue, Ottawa
In this workshop expert facilitators will discuss how white women can be better allies. Tools for topics such as overcoming white guilt, dealing with white privilege, building allyship etc. will be discussed.
The venue is located in Centretown and is easily accessible by bus routes 4, 11, and 14. Free parking is available.
Please note that this workshop is for all those who identify as white and as women. It is an attempt to create a safe space for women to discuss and learn to manage white guilt, defence mechanisms, overcome privilege and build allyship.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.
We hope to see you all there!
Manvitha Singamsetty
Righting Relations Ottawa Circle

We are Hiring a Central Hub Coordinator for Righting Relations!

                                     

Working for Change in support of the Righting Relations: Strengthening Adult Education for Social Change, a women-led initiative in partnership with the Catherine Donnelly Foundation is seeking a Central Hub Coordinator. The purpose of Righting Relations is to strengthen the capacity of adult educators and adult education to bring about radical social change through political and economic literacy for a just society in Canada.

This is a one-year contract opportunity for a dynamic, creative and skilled person interested in coordinating and advancing regional development on behalf of a national adult education program for social change.

The Central Hub Coordinator manages and administers the Central Hub of the Righting Relations program and facilitates the various working groups/circles associated (and emerging) within the Hub: including program facilitation and implementation, coordination and administration, as well as communications and public relations.

  • Successful candidates have three to five years relevant experience within the adult education/popular education field;
  • Experience in facilitating adult education process from a systemic approach;
  • Awareness of immigrants/refugee exclusion (comprehensive knowledge of the settlement sector);
  • An anti-oppression perspective and inclusionary approach;
  • Demonstrated experience of engagement in social concerns;
  • Experience in exploring and/or working with Indigenous communities (theoretical and practical)
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills;
  • Demonstrated ability in strategic/organizational and participatory planning;
  • Knowledgeable of the computer programs for word processing, accounting and spreadsheets, email, internet;
  • Ability to use key social media, and an understanding of its importance;

The Central Hub Coordinator is a part-time, one-year contract with flexible hours. It is anticipated that this would be a 21 hours per week commitment.

*Preference is given to candidates within a reasonable commute to Toronto, Ontario.

Closing date: February 20th, 2018

Please submit resume, a letter describing interest in the contract, and the contact information for three references to centralhub@rightingrelations.org

For more information on Righting Relations visit www.rightingrelations.org

Please no phone calls. Working for Change and the Righting Relations Steering Committee would like to thank all who apply; however, only candidates selected for interview will be contacted.

 

Righting Relations Ottawa Launches in Partnership with City for All Women Initiative

by Manvitha Singamsetty

Photography by Karim Ghaltaee

On 7 November 2017, a crisp Autumn day, the Ottawa chapter of the Righting Relations Network was launched in partnership with City for All Women Initiative (CAWI). The Righting Relations Ottawa Gathering brought together around 60 women/trans facilitators from across the City of Ottawa to share and learn facilitation techniques for enhancing social change. The gathering received active participation from women and trans-people who were Muslim, Indigenous, Immigrant, people of colour, allies, union employees, educators, community health workers, volunteers, and facilitators with CAWI, among others.

The day opened with an Indigenous prayer and song conducted by Ms. Michelle Penny, RJ Jones, and Ms. Elena Abel. Then there was an Indigenous teaching, conducted by Ms. Elena Abel, that highlighted the commonalities between and the relevance of the popular-education spiral and the medicine wheel for facilitating social change. This was followed by an interactive, theatre-based exercise facilitated by Ms. Naomi Tessler of Branch Out Theatre, and highlighted the role of bodily engagement in facilitating for social change.

The latter half of the day consisted of three parallel workshops on the topics of Islamophobia, Anti-Black Racism and Indigenous history in Canada. The workshop on Islamophobia was facilitated by Ms. Gilary Massa of National Council of Canadian Muslims and highlighted the importance of recognizing Islamophobic behaviour and suggested activities for facilitating bystander intervention.

The workshop on Anti-Black Racism was created from scratch by Ms. Melanie Jubinville-Stafford, Ms. Andrea Balfour and Ms. Ketcia-Peters with professional input from Ms. Seema Lamba and Ms. Terri-Lee Rayvale.It focused on situating Black women’s experience vis-à-vis social structures, and highlighted the ways in which others, who may not identify as Black, could be strong allies by assisting in helpful ways. The brilliant facilitators used the metaphor of a bird cage to talk about the systemic oppression faced by Black women.

The Box Circle exercise was conducted by Jackie Tenute, an Indigenous counsellor and facilitator, who facilitated an embodied, experiential activity about the impact of colonialism on breaking down the family and community structures in Indigenous communities of Turtle Island. It highlighted colonial policies, some of which still exist.

The gathering concluded on a very energetic and insightful note as participants shared their learning of the day as well as the ways in which they wanted to take this work forward. Keeping in regular touch through weekly and monthly events, taking this equity work to school boards, connecting with the national database of the Righting Relations Network, making spaces more welcome for trans-people, and having mentorship sessions for facilitators are just some of the exciting activities that the Ottawa chapter looks forward to in this new year!

 

Finding Home: The Story of the Righting Relations Central Regional Gathering

Finding home

by Suzanne Doerge

She had wandered for so long,

wondering where she belonged,

her ancestors pulled from one land

to be pushed to another,

shoved into ships on a quest not their own,

their youth scooped up and caught

in the winds of promises broken,

the word they called earth denied,

keeping afloat on the waves of history,

resisting the forces that tossed them

from shore to shore.

 

It was in a quiet valley of Ontario,

allowing the clear stream to flow

through her life blood, sweetgrass

clearing a path for stories to be told,

that she lay her mountainous body down,

her proud hips, a horizon for the rising sun,

her breasts still dripping with milk and honey

of the promise land,

her waist dipping into forgotten ravines,

her legs stretching strong into slopes

from which the eagle soared,

her arms wrapped round all who passed,

tending the roots of the trees that grew there,

cradling the seeds of what was yet to become,

the fire lit.

 

Listen

the clear stream gushes

from one expanse into another,

resilient people finding home.

Farah Ahmed and Sahar Ibrahim

This poem was written during the Righting Relations Central Regional Gathering in Treaty 18, Mono, Ontario, Nov 24-26, 2017.

From many different homelands, 35 change-makers from across Ontario, who use transformative/adult education processes for radical social change gathered for two days along a spring-fed stream, flowing from the rolling hills of the Hockley Valley. We are leaders, equity facilitators, mothers, sisters, aunties, grandmas, activists, organizers, artists, people of Immigrant and Indigenous ancestry to Turtle Island. We came together as the Righting Relations Central Regional Network to explore our identities, solidarities, the impacts of colonization, creative and collective care and rebuilding our connection to the land.

Our talking circle

We sang songs and convened with our ancestors, we listened to each other’s stories, we shared pieces of our histories, struggles, questions, and yearnings to find home. Who Am I? Deeply listening to each other’s stories in circle, we were able to understand ourselves better, for each one of us holds a piece of the collective story of disconnection, displacement, colonization, resistance, resilience, seeking, longing and reconnection.

Objects that connect us to who we are, our culture and the Earth

We were able to remove a mask, and witness each other with open hearts.

We are so different. And yet, so similar.

We experienced an Indigenous way of sharing through a talking circle, where time slows down and everyone is given equal space to share their truth. And then we experienced another model, a Western approach to dialogue – popcorn style, hands raised in the air to speak – and time sped up. It became harder to process what was being said, and harder to listen as we crafted our responses to people’s points as they spoke…

Having these two experiences back to back was profound as we could see more clearly the impacts of different approaches to hosting conversation. How do we want to hold space for dialogue? What kind of conversation do we want to have? Juxtaposing an Indigenous and Western way, side by side was good information for us to have as we move forward.

We spent time connecting to the land and Earth wisdom. We listened…

Natalie Abdou, Urpi Pine and Lyndi Woo

Now, how do we want to walk together? How do we nurture our network of relations?

This is what we saw:

We come together again and again, we learn more about one another, we map ourselves in the web of our Righting Relations network so we can each connect to one another and collaborate.

We continue having generative dialogue, in person and online, reflecting together and supporting one another.

We continue to do the inner work of decolonization and unpacking white privilege.

We show up as allies to one another and our communities’ events and struggles. We advocate.

We widen the circle and invite new people in.

Thank you to each person who is walking this path with us. We are truly inspired and humbled by your beauty and strength. Let us continue to walk side by side, learning, unlearning, reconnecting and making this world more whole and just for the present and future generations to come. We make the road by walking.

by Rehana Tejpar

What Does Women-Led Look Like to Us?

 A reflection on the experience of the Righting Relations Southern Ontario Hub

By Rehana Tejpar

Where do the strong women go for support, when everyone goes to the strong women for support? They go to the other strong women – Righting Relations Eastern Hub Member

 We came together today, each one of us carrying a bit of the world on our shoulders. As women and people across genders in Righting Relations, we often carry more responsibility than our bodies can hold. Today, our meeting began with many of us feeling overwhelmed with the weight of our responsibility to our children, elders, organizations and communities. “I’m tired. So tired.”

Many of us thought we couldn’t make it. Many of thought we couldn’t stay. And yet, we came. And we stayed.

We begin by a check in, and we breathe. We eat. We laugh. We cry.

And then…we organize!

Today we’re designing a workshop on Community Organizing and Popular Education to offer our community of practice of transformative/popular educators in Southern Ontario who work primarily with marginalized, immigrant and refugee communities. We listen, ask critical questions, give feedback, offer thoughts, tools, methodologies and design processes that can facilitate a deeper reflection on our praxis (theory + practice) and move our communities and our world towards greater justice. We are motivated by love and passion.

What does women-led look like? We’re learning as we go. It looks like people being able to show more of their whole selves, even the vulnerable parts, and be seen. It looks like uplifting each other’s ideas, and seeking to build upon them, rather than breaking them down. It looks like feeding one another, checking in, laughing, playing and sometimes crying. It looks like rigorous thought, critical action and hope. It looks like thinking about those who are most impacted by systems of oppression. It looks like doing the best we can, with what we have, even when it’s hard. It looks like doing it together.

It’s not everyday that we get the space to stop and reflect on our praxis and learn together, bringing our whole selves in. Righting Relations is becoming a sacred space that truly recognizes how much we need each other in order to be strategic and healthy in our work. And although it’s sometimes hardest to come when we most need the support…we are grateful for the space and the door held open for us to come.

 

 

Making the Road by Walking

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Margaret Mead

We filled the United Steelworker’s Hall in Toronto that day with sixty predominantly female-identified people who are fierce, passionate and committed to dismantling oppressive structures and building up more just ways of being, with marginalized communities. For many of us it was healing to come together, to have critical conversations in the open, to say radicalout loud and talk about what that means, and to remember that we are not alone, that adult education for social change is alive and well, and that together we are a force to be reckoned with.

What could a women-led network of adult-educators for social change in Southern Ontario look like?

We certainly didn’t try to answer this question alone – we asked the group body to help us understand what needs to be created and how. With the thoughtful and skillful facilitation of Creating Realities, we harnessed the collective wisdom of the group that day and walked forward with rich stories, visions, questions and inspiration to channel into the designing of the network.

From there we invited all participants from the Day Long Reflection Journey to submit an expression of interest to join a Working Group that would make meaning of the wisdom collected that day and transform it into a roadmap for our work together.

We made the road by walking. A dozen brilliant practitioners from all walks of life showed up because they were moved by something that day and felt a pull towards building this women-led movement. We were strangers at the beginning. And of over the course of six months we became friends and collaborators. We took the time to get to know each other, to hear our stories, to break bread, to play and to have vigorous discussions. We lay a strong foundation in our way of coming together that embodied a heart-centered way, a way that invited our whole selves to be present, that gave space for multiple truths and participatory leadership.

It’s been an amazing experience at so many levels. On the group level, the bonding, and sharing helped me work honestly and openly. At the personal level, I felt like a sponge, absorbing the information being shared, I felt empowered as well as felt getting more wiser. At my work level, it made me see the contribution I was making to bring back the information from our learnings at our group to my coworkers and reaffirming the importance of this work.

Lubna Khalid, Coordinator, Women Speak Out, Working for Change

We went to the root of understanding our present moment. What is the colonial history on this land? How has colonialism impacted migration, and how do we build bridges between Immigrant, Refugee and Indigenous communities towards truth and reconciliation? What is the neo-liberal economic context we live in and what does that tell us about how we do this work of radical adult education? The questions opened doors of new questions…

And at some point we began to converge our ideas into action. What do we need to learn and what do we need to do at this time to make more justice and wellbeing in the world? The group emerged with four learning themes they want to explore in the coming year: Community Organizing, Advocacy and Popular Education; Decolonization; Healing and Wellness and Labour Justice.

We look forward to continuing walking this road together, and hope you will walk with us.

Rehana Tejpar

It has been something that I have been asking the universe for years – working towards Truth and Reconciliation with peoples of colour. I met amazing facilitators, made friends and co-conspirators, I met people that believe in social justice and radical change and now we have a plan to work together and conspire against all forms of oppression.

Maria Antelo, Hamilton Justice