Reconciliation is about forging and maintaining respectful relationships. There are no shortcuts. (Justice Murray Sinclair)

The ticket price was outrageous! Nonetheless there I was in BC Place on May 12 taking in the U2 Joshua Tree Tour opening night. This was the concert I had wanted to see for 30 years. Ever since I missed the original tour back in 1989. It was a long wait but it was worth it! U2 were (and still are) great performers and the concert was truly spectacular! I will not soon forget the opening drum solo that ushered in Sunday Bloody Sunday—a far cry from the more familiar introduction: “There’s been a lot of talk about this next song, maybe too much talk…”

There’s been a lot of talk about reconciliation this past summer, particularly as it pertains to our relationship with Canada’s Indigenous People. In this case not too much talk; rather not enough clarity. What do we mean when we say reconciliation? Do we understand this concept? And if we do, is reconciliation something we want? Are we really willing to surrender aspects of our identity and culture to re-imagine a new relationship with Indigenous People?

Several years ago I wrote a short paper evaluating Canadian attempts at reconciliation. Allow me to reprint part of my conclusion: “It is by no means clear that [European-Canadians] actually desire reconciliation. This would require a deeper honesty and a greater openness to change than has been exhibited to date. There are a number of factors informing this ambivalence: ‘One set of obstacles is inwardly focused through the socialization we have received. The other is more outwardly focused in our material interests and how we pursue them.’ (Denise Breton)”

What Breton is pointing toward is the assumption that all people—perhaps especially Indigenous People—want to adopt western ways of being in the world. This is precisely what drove colonialism in the past and what hinders reconciliation in the present. Indigenous People have their own culture, language and belief systems (much like other people groups). Expecting them to abandon their values and fully adopt ours is not reconciliation; it is cultural arrogance. If Canadians really want a renewed relationship with Indigenous People, we must be willing to listen, learn, and move forward together. Or as Breton suggests, it “means doing what it takes to build respectful relations with other peoples and nations—peoples and nations who are not us and more important, have no desire to be us, assimilated with us, or subsumed under us.” Reconciliation cannot mean that others change and I stay the same. So I invite you to listen and learn…

Gord Downie, Secret Path

Jennifer Manuel, The Heaviness of Things That Float

Chelsea Vowel, Indigenous Writes

Richard Wagamese, Indian Horse

Richard Wagamese, Medicine Walk