We Are All Treaty People

Unitarian Congregation of Saskatoon talks how reconciliation involves everyone

  • Published - 15/03/2016
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  • Posted By - By Geraldine Malone
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It was a different kind of service for members of the Unitarian Congregation in Saskatoon in February. They brought in speakers and held events dedicated to reconciliation.

The month of deep thought, discussions, and inward understanding came from a statement from the Canadian Unitarian Council submitted at the final national Truth and Reconciliation Commission event in 2014 in Edmonton, Alta.

“First of all it was acknowledging the truth of what had happened, but one of the commitments we made in the statement was that we would educate ourselves, that we had a responsibility to do that,” Rev. Karen Fraser Gitlitz, Developmental Minister at the Unitarian Congregation of Saskatoon, said.

She is part of the Unitarian Social Action group that formed after the TRC event to address and take action on the commitments. On top of developing a curriculum for children and adults around reconciliation, the group declared February a month of reconciliation for Unitarian congregations across Canada.

“We want to educate ourselves with the gain, at some point, to be more effective allies because we realize that as allies, we need to have a deeper understanding of what was going on,” Gitlitz said.

To take steps towards that goal, the Saskatoon congregation brought in three speakers - a surgeon, a residential school survivor, and a former residential school teacher.

“It doesn’t matter where you are and what you do in your life, reconciliation affects you,” Gitlitz said. “You have to find, as an individual - whether you are in sports, medicine, theatre, whatever - there’s going to be an aspect of reconciliation you can act on.”

Gitlitz said the survivor was able to bring the congregation into what it was like to live through the Residential School era and demonstrate the intergenerational trauma left behind. The surgeon spoke about how the medical system fails Indigenous people by not understanding their culture or traditions. The former teacher spoke about how she was slowly coming to terms with her role in the dark chapter in Canada’s history.

After the services, the congregations gathered to discuss what had been learned.

“All these stories came out about frustration,” Gitlitz said. “We became really aware with how stuck people are, they just don’t know what to do.”

The congregation has planned more events involving guest speakers, book clubs, movie nights, and introducing the curriculum they’ve developed. Gitlitz said her advice for other faith groups is to recognize that people are often at a different understanding and openness when it comes to their journey with reconciliation. But she said it’s important as people work through the different entry points that the understanding continues.

“We have a chance to make a difference,” she said.

“There’s not many moments in the history of society when you can say right now there’s a chance to make a difference on a particular issues, but I think this is one right now where we can make a difference.”