The recent release of the report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has once again exposed mistreatment of Aboriginal peoples in Canada as one of the core drivers of homelessness for this population. For some Canadians this open and brutally honest assessment of the devastation wrought by this century long policy is generating their first real understanding of the impact of colonization.
Although many of these stories are making their first public appearance, the impact of the residential school system has been visible for some time. An article written in 2010 by Andrew Leach neatly summarized how residential schools contribute to Aboriginal homelessness in Canada. Key points included how removing Aboriginal children from their families led to a loss of parenting skills, how residential schooling alienated Aboriginal Canadians from education and how it prevented them from learning their own culture and yet kept them alienated from mainstream education. These all combine to contribute to the inter-generational trauma that first peoples are only just beginning to recover from.
The real goal of this report however is not just to lay bare the mistreatment of the past – to point fingers at ourselves and create guilt. We expose these crimes for a reason. This report will best serve us if we accept it, learn from the past and move forward.
The most important lesson is that “we”, the royal we, those who came late to this land must stop assuming that we know best. We must stop looking at the drivers of homelessness created by colonization and then telling Aboriginal peoples what they should do about it. Clearly, “we” do not know best.
That is why we are creating the Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness. Only through the guidance of the first peoples themselves will we, Canadians collectively, be able to generate the culturally specific solutions required to end homelessness. It is time for the broader community to stop saying “let us help you” and start asking “can you help us?”
– Andrew Wynn-Williams, Executive Director of the Coalition