Reading and reconciliation

July 1, 2018 | Society

An English prof's perspective on reconciliation


As Canadians, we have to continue learning and talking about reconciliation until the people who are racist just turn around and say "I can't escape this. This has become the recognized truth." That's the only way.

I’ve been teaching Canadian literature for many years, and way back – maybe 15 or 20 years ago – I began including Indigenous texts in my courses. Gradually, Indigenous literature has become more and more popular, and the books out there are making a real difference. That’s the purpose of writing them. To make a difference.

When you’re reading a book, it’s a private experience. You’re not sharing it immediately with others. You can take time to deal with your feelings. But this year, we did something different. My Canadian literature class took part in the university’s interdisciplinary dialogue focused on reconciliation. Listening to people speak, following Indigenous protocols, having a sometimes emotional reaction and then talking about it immediately after were all part of encountering a different culture in a very immediate way. It was intellectual, it was experiential and it was very profound.

Students really feel like they are learning something important. That’s good, but it’s also unfortunate because these issues should not be news to any of us. Many students hadn’t heard about residential schools. They don’t really know much about the whole colonial system and its impacts, or the movement toward reconciliation.

These are things our students want to know about, and they are things we must keep allowing them to learn.

Jack Robinson, Associate Professor, English


Continuing the conversation

Jack is a member of the organizing team for the Interdisciplinary Dialogue, which will be focusing on Truth and Reconciliation once again in 2019. The team includes staff and faculty from across the university, including kihêw waciston, the university's Indigenous centre. Read more about this year's dialogue.


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