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Letters to The Sun, Oct. 16, 2021: Reader finds power in Truth and Reconciliation ceremony

Opinion: Letters to The Vancouver Sun, Oct. 16, 2021.

There is power in ceremony, especially on a day born out of intention to reconcile, writes Steve Andrews.

Last week I had the immense honour of joining Squamish Nation Hereditary Chief Gibby Jacob on a journey to Alert Bay where we joined his longtime friend Bob Joseph — or “Uncle Bobby Joe” as most called him — for Canada’s first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.

Being a first-generation Canadian, I always had issues with identifying myself as being a beneficiary of an apartheid system. As a young boy our house backed onto the Capilano Indian Reserve and I had firsthand experience of the dichotomy of heavy emotion felt on-reserve versus off-reserve. It helped shape my perception of what it means to be a citizen of a country that came into power through exploitation of natural resources and outright genocide. So the guilt I harboured on behalf of the majority came with me to that event.

Yet throughout the day I joined in on the gamut of emotions as we marched through Alert Bay to the former site of the now-destroyed St. Michael’s Indian Residential School. Survivors of the institution shared stories of their experience and offered prayer and song as everyone collectively worked toward healing. Afterward, we all moved into the Big House where we feasted and joined in celebration of culture, dance and song. Jacob equated the longhouse to a giant womb that we will eventually emerge from transformed. The embers of the fire within symbolized a release of all the hurt, pain, fear and trauma that had built up over the years.

Before the event I didn’t think that I had healing to do. Yet as I joined the group and took on the waves of emotions that transitioned from sombre to joyful, I too left that longhouse forever changed. There is power in ceremony, especially on a day born out of intention to reconcile.

Which led me to this letter — and the encouragement to everyone to not let reconciliation occur on only one day. Hopefully many here in the Sea to Sky were able to use the time to begin or continue their own reconciliation process. Whether Indigenous or non-Indigenous, we all have the duty to look within and identify what we can release into the fire. As that happens we can reshape our society to one that honours our First Nations instead of casting the culture aside or tokenizing it. Indigenous wisdom will be the key to healing our broken society and dysfunctional relationship to our Mother Earth.

I could go on about my experience for much longer than space allows here, but it’s important to add one more piece for now. It’s the biggest lesson I learned while spending time with these wise elders, many of whom have endured unspeakable traumas over their time on this earth. But they all shared a consistent emotion: pure, unadulterated joy. They giggled like children with each breath, and found humour in every situation. Perhaps it’s the answer to coping with such abject horror and coming out on the other side as leaders. So in everything you do, and through everything you face, choose to be joyful. I’m pretty sure it’s a key ingredient to the meaning of life.

Steve Andrews, Whistler 

Despite the potential for a short-term staff shortage — although I can’t believe that many health workers would actually refuse vaccination to secure their jobs — medical facilities shouldn’t have staff who intentionally compromise not only their own health, but also that of their colleagues and patients.

Lee E. Harding, Coquitlam

Concerns about proportional representation

It’s time that the first-past-the-post electoral system ends. I can’t, however, support proportional representation, and prefer a transferable vote system; which was the choice of almost 60 per cent of B.C.’s electorate in a past referendum.

My concern with proportional representation arises from our unique, increasingly diverse and multicultural society, which is a strength of our country. I believe multiculturalism should be strengthened and enhanced with an emphasis on respect and shared democratic values.

However, I fear that proportional representation may lead to the rise of political parties based on ethnic and or religious grounds rather than on differing policies and platforms concerning issues that concern all.

Already there are 26-plus registered political parties in our province. Representation by population may lead to many more; perhaps based on cultural/religious/ethnic beliefs rather than good governance for all.

A transferable vote electoral system would ensure that our government would be elected by a majority whose first or second preference determined the outcome.

A proportional representation system may lead to a government comprised of many silo parties leading to division rather than common purpose.

Tarry Grieve, Port Moody

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