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LETTER: Reconciliation is not an act of contrition

Editor: It has been a time of reflection for me. In what seems like the hopeful and waning days of COVID-19, we now confront both the horror of a mass unmarked grave of Indigenous children in Kamloops and the murder of a Muslim family in London. And

Editor: 

It has been a time of reflection for me.

In what seems like the hopeful and waning days of COVID-19, we now confront both the horror of a mass unmarked grave of Indigenous children in Kamloops and the murder of a Muslim family in London. And while I am ensconced in my privileges in Canmore, surrounded by people and the natural world I cherish, I acutely feel the pain and confusion these recent events bring.

As a middle-aged man who is both gay and Jewish, I grew up in a time when I experienced hate first hand for simply being who I am. Yet I have no advice for those directly affected by these nightmares. I simply hope you find peace in your anger and pain.

I do have a message for those that have never experienced such hate, and it is a message I have recently learnt to articulate from my consulting work with Indigenous peoples in Alberta.

Reconciliation is not an act of contrition. Nor is it an apology, per se. Rather, it is self-reflection and an acknowledgement that whether through active prejudice or simply indifference to its impacts – past or present – we prevent opportunity and justice for others. Good people need to realize that we often, if unintentionally, get in the way simply because of who we are as a consequence of the world we grew up in.

It's hard to step out of that world, especially when we don't realize we are standing in it. But that is our obligation – to reflect on who we are and at the very least, we need to stand aside without fear. And preferably when we stand aside, we can actively welcome others different from us to come stand bedside us.

It may seem difficult at first, and certainly uncomfortable, but it is actually easy – just focus on a smile and laugh or a shared ambition. Once that person is standing beside us, and we feel no fear, we can turn to them and let them know in whatever fashion you are comfortable you are glad to stand with them.

Times have changed since I was young. Social justice issues have risen to the forefront in society and more people find themselves recognized as rightly deserving respect and opportunity. I want to believe we are evolving for the better.

But I get the pain felt by many this week. I get the feeling when you are not in control of how others see you or how they treat you. I simply ask those who don't really understand what it is to be a target – to recognize how lucky they are they don't understand.

If looking inside is simply too awkward – I get that, too. But at least when you see or hear something in your gut feels wrong – stand up and say it to anyone who will listen. Say it with kindness, but say it clearly without fear.

My life has taught me indifference of good people is the real crime. That privilege is something to be shared. And that reconciliation is not something we ask of others.

Rather it is a self-awareness each of us needs to strive for.

Michael Shugarman,

Canmore