Orange heart reads "truth comes before reconciliation" and "Ganu tlalire lax" (don't forget) and kaeda gangananam (for the children)

Exploring allyship and personalizing Truth and Reconciliation

September 28, 2022

Words from VIU's Communications and External Affairs team

Allyship is a key aspect of both truth and reconciliation. Defining oneself as an ally means supportive association with another person or group. For Canada to move closer to real truth and reconciliation, allies are required to support, share, bear witness and hold members of their own communities to account. Asking people about their journeys, listening to those stories and sharing them helps grow understanding and increases the number of allies around us. As storytellers for VIU, we have found ourselves reflecting on our roles as allies and how we can be better. Below are some of our thoughts on our own journeys and how we can deepen our personal commitments to truth and reconciliation. We invite anyone who wants to share their allyship journey with us to reach out and we will add your voice here. 

Alyson Winks, Internal Communications Specialist

My journey as an ally has been regrettably short for my 40 years of life. As is the case with so many in my generation, my education was thoroughly lacking in teaching me the true horrors of the residential school system and all aspects of the cultural genocide inflicted upon Indigenous peoples across these lands by governments, religious groups, and society writ large. My ignorance has made me complicit, as has the ignorance of my family in the generations that came before me. My pledge this Truth and Reconciliation Day is to ensure this cycle stops with me. My children will grow up understanding these facts of history and how it shapes their world today in a far more profound way than I did and I will accompany them on this journey. In addition to the activities they participate in through their schools, we will attend events on September 30 to honour those affected by these horrific systems. Throughout the year, we will seek out and take the opportunities we find to celebrate Coast Salish culture as well as those of the other Nations we are honoured to come into contact with. We will listen to stories and read stories. We will bear witness and we will continue to act to end racism and bigoted attitudes when we see or hear them. I will continue to teach them to use their voices and privilege in constructive, healing ways. Next September 30, I will write a reflection on how we have changed.

Jenn McGarrigle, External Communications Manager

I didn’t start to learn about the horrors of the residential school system until I was an adult, and when I did, I felt betrayed by the education system, which had left so much out when I was in public school. I also felt a deep sense of shame. While the Social Studies curriculum of my time fell short of educating me on the truth of the cultural genocide that had occurred in the country with the reputation of being “nice,” I wish I had gone further and taken more responsibility for my learning. The information was out there, and I witnessed the racism and stereotypes while growing up. My journey as an ally in recent years has been focused on listening and learning, and the more I learn the more shame, frustration and anger I feel about what happened and all I didn’t – and still don’t – know. Over the next year, I would like to focus on becoming a more vocal and courageous ally. I commit to speaking up and addressing racism when I witness it happening. I also plan to continue my re-education. Last year, our Office of Indigenous Education & Engagement provided a resource list that I am slowly making my way through. Reading these documents is not easy work; it is not supposed to be. But – as much wiser people have said before me – truth comes before reconciliation.

Gillian Robinson, Strategic Communications Director

Deepening my personal commitment to Truth and Reconciliation

As a former journalist, I am drawn to people, their stories and what they have to say. As I have learned more about the Truth and Reconciliation, I have been striving to seek out, listen and learn from Indigenous people by doing a lot of listening and reading. Seeking out Indigenous voices in journalism, books, documentaries and on social media has been critical in deepening my understanding of the truth of and ongoing legacy of residential schools in Canada as well as the ongoing injustices faced by Indigenous people every day. 

I think one of the ways I can be a more active ally is to encourage non-Indigenous people in my life to listen, read and learn by seeking out resources that share and highlight Indigenous experiences. So, if you are wondering where to start, I would encourage you to listen to Unreserved on CBC Radio or find the podcast on Spotify or your Apple podcast. Visit APTN News on their website or Twitter and Facebook and finally, support Indigenous authors by heading to a bookstore. There are many excellent lists on the internet recommending books by Indigenous authors. Most recently I read Brandi Morin’s Our Voice of Fire: A Story of Survival and Pursuit for Justice.

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