I've just spent the last few days attending my first meeting of the British Columbia Teachers Federation Committee for Action on Social Justice (it's so cool that my union values social justice), as an environmental justice representative.
Our meeting coincided with the Truth and Reconciliation events being held here in Vancouver, and so we spent a day there, taking in the Education Day events.
Stories of the abuses that happened in Canada's "Indian" residential schools are harrowing. It's frightening to learn what Canada and its religious institutions did to 150,000 First Nations children who were stolen from their parents. We all need to serve as witnesses and acknowledge this horrifying legacy — and the intergenerational pain and dysfunction it has caused in many families and communities. Part of the pain, and the perpetuation of this pain, has been the denial that these things ever happened.
But the student events that I attended were filled with hope and healing. I started wondering about the right age for children to learn the history of residential schools ... and global climate change. Here's what I realized.
We can and must tell children about the residential school legacy (even though a new First Nations friend was called a liar when he presented this truth during a workshop a few months ago). It's something that happened in the past. And through acknowledgement, witnessing, listening and hearing, we can contribute to reconciliation.
But how do we tell children about something abusive and harrowing that's happening to their planet right now, something that's killing their future? Something they just can't fix. What do we tell them? There's no hug, no comfort, no witnessing, no reconciliation in the world big enough to make this right for the children as long as we adults remain in denial and disaction.
That's the truth.