Association for Bahá’í Studies Conference

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Honouring the children: social action for truth, reconciliation and justice

In 2021 the discovery of mass graves and unmarked burials of hundreds of Indigenous children have been reported in Canada. These mass graves, of which it is anticipated many more will be found, are part of Canada's legacy of colonialism, and in particular the residential school system. The goal of this system, much of which was run by religious institutions, was to "civilize" Indigenous children, and destroy their Indigenous identity. For many generations, Indigenous children were removed from their families, forced into the schools, and subject to widespread abuse, assault and death. Thousands of children never returned home. The discovery of these mass graves is a long overdue reckoning for Canada. But the fact that Canadians, and many around the world, are shocked by this discovery reveals an important challenge in determining what action we need to take as individuals and groups in response. There is only shock because the predominant historical narratives and discourses of settler colonial societies, including Canada and the United States, rest upon fictions about the lands that make up their countries, the Indigenous peoples who were here before Europeans arrived, and what violent and racist systems were put in place.

When we come to understand that the stories we tell about ourselves are not true, it challenges us to change. This live panel discussion will explore the social, cultural, legal, political, and spiritual dimensions of the challenge of building discourses grounded in truth, and taking social action that can achieve justice and reconciliation, in responses to the discovery of these mass graves.