In my Nov. 23 column, I wrote about the apology to be offered to members of the LGBTQ2 community by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over past wrongs committed by the Canadian government against them. This followed a similar apology the previous Friday to survivors of residential schools in this province who had been left out of a previous apology and settlement by Stephen Harper.
Both apologies came across as being very sincere and they brought up a wellspring of emotions within me as I listened to the words being said and the history behind the need for the apologies. It made me realize that most Canadians do not have a true understanding of the history of the LGBTQ2 community or our Aboriginal Peoples, and this needs to be remedied for true reconciliation and healing to occur.
In an interesting twist of fate, on the Monday and Tuesday following the apology in Labrador, I was privileged to attend a training session on the topic of intergenerational trauma in Inuit culture. This training was provided by four members of the trauma team of the Nunatsiavut Government and was tailored specifically on the trauma inflicted on their community in Labrador.
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While there were many valuable aspects to this training, the part that really struck home for me was what I learned about the history and culture of Labrador Inuit before contact with Europeans, how it changed when European culture was imposed upon them and how today's Inuit are trying to reconcile the two while reclaiming what was lost. It was a powerful experience to hear this history directly from the people who are living with the impact of it and their stories and examples provided a clear illustration of the traumatic impacts that their people have endured.
The presenters also spoke quite openly and sincerely about their feelings around the Trudeau apology, which was still quite fresh in their memories. Some had directly experienced residential living and could comment personally on how it affected them while others shared stories from family members and how their lives were impacted by residential schools. While there was no general consensus, most indicated that they felt the apology was sincere and that it would help lay the groundwork for future healing. The real healing would come from within their own communities as they regain pride in their culture and history as a necessary part in healing from the various traumas that have affected their people.
It was with this powerfully emotional training just completed that I returned home last Tuesday and listened to the coverage of the apology to the LGBTQ2 community offered by Prime Minister Trudeau. My head started making connections into how LGBTQ2 people had also experienced intergenerational trauma through centuries of being taught that we were not good enough, were perverts and sinners, and that we needed to hide who we were to remain safe.
We are healing in Canada now and working on building a better community. To continue this healing, we need to ensure that our presence and contributions throughout history are brought into the light so that we can claim our history and culture with pride.
Just as my understanding was increased when I learned some of the history of the Labrador Inuit, both their history and the history of the LGBTQ2 community needs to be included in the history curriculum taught to our children. This would not only help heal our communities but also help prevent similar things from happening again. Canada is an inclusive society and it is important that we include everyone. In that spirit, I will try to always use LGBTQ2 in the future — 2 referring to 2-Spirited, a term used to describe our community in many Aboriginal cultures. No matter who we are or how far we may have come, we need to keep being aware that there is always something new we can learn, and we will never be able to build the Canada we desire as long as part of our society feels excluded.
Brian Hodder is an LGBTQ2 activist and works in the field of mental health and addictions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.