While We Can

Jul 29, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

Tuesday’s Rochester Democrat and Chronicle carried an article about Pope Francis’s six-day visit to Canada starting at the west coast. His historic apology brought tears to some, applause or silence from others. The damage to over 150,000 Native children in Canada who were forced from their homes and families was done from the 1900s to the 1970s. Deep scars remain.

The DandC’s article was from the Associated Press by Nicole Winfield and Peter Smith. It was good to read a longer article on such a formerly ignored topic. The Catholic Church ran 66 of Canada’s 139 boarding schools. It must have been a life-changing occasion to watch the Chiefs procession, the elders dancing, and the crowd cheering to war songs, victory songs and a healing song. As a result of a lawsuit, Canada has paid billions in reparations to about 90,000 survivors. Pope Francis acknowledged how Catholic missionaries actively and silently supported forced assimilation by governments of the time.” What our Christian faith tells us is that this was a disastrous error, incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal had an article by Francis X. Rocca that gave a good overview of how religious boarding schools in Canada stripped Native children of their culture, language and families in forced assimilation. The details of what Natives were requesting from the Pope and specific comments were satisfying.

It seemed so timely that I caught up on the issue of The Christian Science Monitor Weekly of July 11 & 18, which featured Indigenous Renewal in Canada. The article about Bear Clan Patrol,  a community program reaching out to women lost to the streets of Winnipeg was both sobering and uplifting. The topic of contradicting stereotypes and put-downs and how specific people push back was short and strong. The harsh truth of how people get by on the Navaho Nation was well said. The gap between what university forestry graduates understand and what Natives know, see and feel is as wide as the sky. The larger piece on Hudson Bay Company donating its flagship store, a 650,000 sq. ft. building in Winnipeg to 34 First Nations communities was fascinating. What do you do with a white elephant of that size? Massive grants will help restore it as an arts center with 300 affordable housing units. Winnipeg has the largest urban Native population in Canada: 92,000 out of a city of 750,000, with a third living on next to nothing. The red-and-black mural by artist Peatr Thomas for the center was powerful.  

The AARP Bulletin (July/August) feature, “Your AARP, Where We Stand” by CEO Jo Ann Jenkins focused on the shift some were calling the Great Resignation, to what has become a “Great Reflection.” The need to think about work, retirement and the balance of mental and financial health will continue to trickle through society as an aftermath of the pandemic. The Center for the Digital Future in Southern California shared research results showing that people are valuing closeness to family and friends more than ever. AARP knows that people are reevaluating work, leisure and learning in an adjustment to aging. The AARP’s Employer Pledge Program is designed to identify companies that hire older workers and offer flexible working conditions.


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