Reconciliation is not a noun. It is not an event. It’s a verb.
– Roberta Jamieson
Today we honor the lost children and Survivors of residential schools, their families and their communities.
History must be heard. The tragic news of the unmarked graves recently found at former residential school sites is a stark reminder of the violence inflicted upon Indigenous children. No words can adequately capture this grief, and no greater crime exists than a crime against a child.
The findings were not a “discovery” for many Indigenous people. They had been speaking this truth for many years. It is only now that the world is listening.
We must do more than talk about reconciliation. We must act.
We must practice reconciliation in our everyday lives. In our own hearts and minds. In our families. In our communities and in our workplaces.
Reconciliation is a Verb
For non-Indigenous groups, reconciliation starts with listening. With self-reflection. Acknowledging personal gaps in knowledge and entering into partnerships with Indigenous peoples with humility and respect. Then taking sustained action. Reconciliation cannot be a one-time effort. It must be deep and ongoing.
In the words of Perry Bellegarde, “There can be no reconciliation without transformation.”
As the leader of a Canadian company, I have been thinking about what actions we can take. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada lays out a clear call to action for businesses—build respectful relationships with Indigenous peoples, drive awareness around Indigenous history, and provide equitable access to jobs, training and education.
One of the most impactful actions we can take as companies is to create jobs.
To this end, OpenText has formed a partnership with Lakehead University on a new internship program, one that will create pathways to digital jobs for Indigenous students. Our goal is to provide a modern internship experience—with mentoring, career planning, networking, and direct engagement with OpenText’s leadership. As well as skill development that interns can apply in their own communities. But we will also learn from these students. I am excited to welcome them to our organization and hear their thoughts on how to make our company more inclusive, and how their unique skills and perspectives can make us stronger.
Diversity drives innovation. The technology industry needs Indigenous points of view.
OpenText is passionate about a work environment that encompasses everyone. But we also recognize that we have work to do and much to understand.
Today, I’ve invited Roberta Jamieson to speak to our employees, so that we can further our learning. Roberta is a Mohawk woman who is a leader, speaker and advocate, as well as the first woman to be Chief of the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. I look forward to hearing Roberta’s perspective on the importance of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, the transformative impact of education, and how non-Indigenous groups can create networks of trust with Indigenous peoples.
As she has observed, “Indigenous people have moved from truth to reconciliation in a way that is demanding structural and systemic change—no longer looking for a seat at the existing tables but looking for new tables.”
The Path Forward
Two of the greatest myths in this world are: (1) it can’t happen to me and (2) it does not affect me.
But history impacts us all. It has impacted us all. We must remember the children who never came home, and the families and communities they left behind. We need to use this moment to hear the truth and begin the process of reconciliation.
By listening to Indigenous perspectives, we learn truth and gain the strength to act.
Listen. Learn. Act. This is how we begin the journey.
Resources for Further Learning
- National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation
- National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
- Orange Shirt Day
- United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- Assembly of First Nations
- Lakehead University Global Indigenous Speakers Series
- Lakehead University Indigenous Events
- Stories from the Land
- Tanya Talaga: Anishinaabe Teachings About Life
- CBC Unreserved