Staying silent is not an option

A truth and reconciliation gathering in Merritt left Steve Rice pondering the dangers of saying nothing.

My TNRD journey has been full of surprises, both good and bad. I have been honoured to meet some very wonderful folks, from volunteers and community champions to provincial ministers who really are trying their best to do the right thing within budget constraints that sometimes just handcuff them. There is also the dark side where folks “spin doctor” important issues, where politicians take a wrong turn, where a personal issue takes on an ugly tone and accusations fly: accusations that a simple fact check would dispel as untrue. Good people and good families are hurt and discredited; unjustifiably so.

On the flip side, as a TNRD director I get invited to many events, and also sit on many boards. I am fortunate to have a voice in many important issues; issues I take very seriously.

An invitation not long ago to a truth and reconciliation gathering in Merritt was an invitation that changed my life. I left that Merritt gathering with a new perspective. It was a graphic and disturbing, eye-opening experience surrounding residential schools.

I came home and immediately put pen to paper. That is how I sort my thoughts when I have trouble wrapping my head around something. The residential school horrors seemed unimaginable. How did this happen?

The following is how this pained me, though I can never possibly understand the pain. However, I do better understand how much we love our children, and the waking nightmare that permeates the souls of residential school survivors every single day.

Imagine, if you will, a beautiful day; your beautiful children‚

Life is good to thee; as so it should be.

Your children, your universe‚

Your children, they always come first.

You wake every day: good morning, my children, you say.

The world around you may be falling to pieces‚

But you have your children; your nephews, your nieces.

And then one day the unspeakable descends:

Strangers at your door; these are not your friends.

They have come for your children; your nightmare begins.

Kicking and screaming; desperate and crying‚

Children pried from the loving hands of Mom.

Life will never be the same: your children are gone!

We heard many stories that days. I met many who had spent the most formative years of their lives in residential schools. We broke into sharing circles and each of us talked, one at a time, without interruption. I closed my eyes many times. I envisioned my children, my grandchildren in a place where no child should ever have to go. I cried many times.

When my turn came to speak I knew I had been part of the problem. When I had heard things in the coffee shop, at campfires, or at parties with friends—things like “Why don’t they just get over it?” or “It’s time to move on”—I remained silent. I was guilty, as all those who stood silent with me were guilty. My silence ended that day in Merritt.

The despicable, disturbing history of residential school abuse is not something you “get over”. It is a part of your life that will always be etched in your mind. We may be able to move forward, but it will be more than government and meetings that will move us forward. It will take you and me to speak up.

When we hear “Get over it” we need to speak up. We need to share a coffee and conversation with residential school survivors. We need to envision our own children ripped from our grasp and placed in an abusive, nasty place, with no way to help them, no way to comfort them. A living nightmare!

I can in no way imagine what the pain, the hurt was like, but to even think that this could have happened to our children is light years beyond disturbing. It is a shocking tragedy, a heavy, horrendous load that families will carry with them their entire life.

If you get a chance to talk with a survivor, please do. See the pain, the terror, and hear about the destruction of the family unit up close and personal. If, after the visit, you think you could “get over it”‚ maybe you weren’t listening.

Just Posted

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

Okanagan Lake (File photo)
Thompson-Okanagan ready to welcome back tourists

The Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association expects this summer to be a busy one

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

The Sacred Hearts church on PIB land burned Monday morning. (Theresa May Jack/Facebook)
Two churches on First Nation land in South Okanagan burn to the ground

Sacred Hearts church on Penticton Indian Band land was reduced to rubble

Tl’etinqox-lead ceremony at the site of the former St. Joseph’s Mission in Williams Lake, B.C., June 18, 2021. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
‘We are all one people’: Honouring residential school victims and survivors

Love, support and curiousity: Canadians urged to learn about residential schools and their impact

Indigenous rights and climate activists gathered outside Liberty Mutual’s office in Vancouver to pressure the insurance giant to stop covering Trans Mountain. (Photo by Andrew Larigakis)
Activists work to ensure Trans Mountain won’t get insurance

Global campaign urging insurance providers to stay away from Canadian pipeline project

In the first election with public money replacing corporate or union donations, B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau and B.C. NDP leader John Horgan take part in election debate at the University of B.C., Oct. 13, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. MLAs ponder 2022 ‘sunset’ of subsidy for political parties

NDP, B.C. Fed call for increase, B.C. Liberals have no comment

Investigators use a bucket to help recover human remains at a home burned in the Camp fire, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in Magalia, Calif. Many of the missing in the deadly Northern California wildfire are elderly residents in Magalia, a forested town of about 11,000 north of the destroyed town of Paradise. (AP Photo/John Locher)
‘Forever War’ with fire has California battling forests instead

Five of the state’s largest-ever blazes seared California last year, as authorities tackle prevention

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and IOC President Thomas Bach, on a screen, speak during a five=party online meeting at Harumi Island Triton Square Tower Y in Tokyo Monday, June 21, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics will allow some local fans to attend when the games open in just over a month, Tokyo organizing committee officials and the IOC said on Monday. (Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Pool Photo via AP)
Tokyo Olympics to allow Japanese fans only, with strict limits

Organizers set a limit of 50% capacity — up to a maximum of 10,000 fans

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Most Read