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  • Writer's picturevilmablenman

Apology & Analogy

At last. An apology—from the Pope himself, standing on Canadian soil, on First Nations grounds.

And yet…so many questions still linger, so many wounds still bleed. This historic Papal visit for the purpose of delivering an apology for the atrocities people in the Catholic church perpetuated in running residential schools in the name of God, at the behest of the Canadian government, stirs deep thoughts and feelings. At least I hope it does—in all Canadians, in all people everywhere who hear the news and know the history.

What are your thoughts? What are your feelings?

Me—I want to weep. Not that my weeping helps anyone but me or changes anything except the dryness of my eyes—a recurring problem. But weeping seems appropriate.

I weep for the survivors, those still reeling from the effects of trauma seeds sown in the unholy halls of those wretched residential schools where they were taken to as captive children. There they wept for their missing mothers, fathers and siblings who could not console them in their weeping.

I weep for the children of those survivors whose lives are scarred and marred by generational trauma—the dark shadow that travelled down through the genome, through the umbilical cord, out of the womb, into playgrounds, then followed into teenage spaces, stalking the emerging adult, throttling missing and murdered women…and on and on wreaking havoc.

I weep for the loss of innocence and beauty buried in unmarked graves, covered in more than soil, covered in secrets and documents hidden until they’re forced to be handed over. And even then, only some given—grudgingly, the keepers citing all sorts of bureaucratic reasons and confidentiality clauses. Come on.

I weep for the impotence of apologies without actual actions to redress wrongs in concrete ways such as the proverbial, “Put your money where your mouth is” kind of action. Restitution must accompany recognition of wrongdoing.

I’m weepy also because this weekend coming is the Emancipation Day long weekend—formerly Simcoe Day, named in honour of John Graves Simcoe, first Lieutenant Governor of the former Upper Canada, now Ontario. No, Simcoe did not free slaves, but Simcoe paved the way for some freedom practices in Canada—a slave-holding nation. In 1793 John Graves Simcoe passed the Act Against Slavery aka Act to Limit Slavery. The act ended the sale of slaves by Canadians to Americans, liberated slaves entering Canada from the US, but did not free adult slaves already in existence in Canada. Did they weep as they waited and waited?

Ironically, I get weepy just thinking of the implications of the word, "emancipation." Such a long word. Such a long road to and from August 1, 1834, when the Slavery Abolition Act passed in the British Parliament in 1833 came into effect and slaves were freed in most of the British empire--including the place I was born to descendants of slaves. South of the Canadian border emancipation had a different timeline. The waiting and weeping went on until 1865 when the Emancipation Proclamation, issued in 1863, finally took effect for the last enslaved people on the continent of North America.

Apologies aside, atrocities and their aftermath abound. Then and now. Traumas and triggers are real and recurring. How does one proceed with this history in the making? How does one hear and process, for example, the Pope's apology and still hold hope?

This morning I rubbed my eyes and walked outside into sunlight to watch morning glories trailing up and over and all around my garden. They remind me that there is still the colour purple when the interior and exterior landscapes seem all grey. It was, I think, Dostoyevsky who said it, “The world will be saved by beauty.”

Today, every day, I must look for that beauty. I must hold both hope and caution in both hands—carefully. An apology does not erase the effects of a painful past, but it trails alongside the present’s possibilities for healing, and we must all commit to healing.

How about you? What are you holding or hearing as you process the Pope's apology?

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