Justice is Healing


Justice is Healing

On Thursday, Feb 17th 2024, Elders (kihtehayak) Jerry and Jo-Ann Saddleback from Maskwacis First Nation were presenters for The Star of the North’s Reconciliation Through Justice session in St. Albert.  Jo-Ann is Elder advisor for the Edmonton Public Library, the City of Edmonton, Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse (CRISM), and the Dreamspeakers Festival Society. Jerry is Elder-in-residence for Maskwacis Cultural College, where he was Dean of Cultural Studies on and off for decades. He was Spiritual Advisor to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and is an Elder for many organizations including the City of Edmonton.

The 70 or so participants, on-line and in-person, greatly appreciated their dynamic presentation on the topic of Reconciliation in the Light of Treaty 6. Treaties are sacred documents, they said, witnessed by the sun, the moon, the grass, mother earth and the rivers.  Culture is a world that is invisible to us, which opens through ceremony, we were taught. Both Jerry and Jo-Ann stressed that reconciliation begins with the truth of colonization and colonial policies that broke up families, severely damaged the culture, language and spirituality, and robbed people of their dignity.  Jo-Ann added that reconciliation does not happen in one gathering like this one. There is a million-mile journey to be taken to where the Indigenous find themselves today by those who want reconciliation.

A striking statement was that justice is healing, and doing the work of healing is justice. Participants in the room picked up on that and expressed delight in being able to be in the presence of these wise and giving elders, who had spent all day with students in a local school.

The next day, that statement was affirmed by the prophet Isaiah in the first reading of the liturgy, where he asserts that when we do the work of justice, our “light shall break forth like the dawn, and our healing shall spring up quickly” (Isaiah 58:8).

A unique feature of this session was the presence of Chris Stuart from APTN (Aboriginal Peoples’ Television Network) who interviewed the presenters and filmed the whole presentation. A clip appeared on the APTN national news the next evening, including comments from some of the participants. We greatly appreciated that he announced our next RTJ session would be Thursday, May 23rd.

Presenters for that session, entitled Healing in a Traumatized World, will be Laurette Goulette and Colin Levangie in person, and Sat Dharam Kaur on line from Ontario, who works closely with famed Vancouver psychologist Dr. Gabor Maté in structuring and delivering their Compassionate Inquiry training process.

By + Sylvain Lavoie, OMI and Lucie Leduc