Like many people and organizations, the YMCA of Greater Toronto is learning more about the history of Canada’s Indigenous Peoples, and wants to consider all of our roles in facilitating healing. It is important that we share more about this history with our staff and that we continue to learn, honour, and connect as part of the YMCA’s commitment to diversity and social inclusion.
At the YMCA of Greater Toronto, we are committed to building greater awareness about the history of local Indigenous cultures and current issues facing First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples. One of the ways we are doing this is through the Kairos Blanket Exercise. Fifteen years ago, the Aboriginal Rights Coalition worked with Indigenous elders and teachers to develop an interactive way of learning the history most Canadians are never taught. The Kairos Blanket Exercise emerged out of this need as a teaching tool to share the historic and contemporary relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada, from treaty-making to the present day.
On June 7, a group of Y staff participated in the most recent Kairos Blanket Exercise held at the Central Grosvenor Street YMCA. “Participating in the KBE was a fantastic experience!” says Marta, one of the staff members who took part in the exercise. “I have not stopped thinking about the exercise and the talking circle afterwards. The feelings and thoughts shared made me think about what I can do within my capacity to ensure that all people are treated fairly.”
Additional afternoon programming included a session delivered by Michael Etherington, Cultural Program Manager at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto (NCCT) focused on building a foundational awareness of Indigenous peoples and enhancing self-awareness. This session included elements of the one day training that is offered at the NCCT.
In addition to various learning sessions and resources being shared, YMCA staff have also been encouraged to learn more about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC)’s 94 Calls to Action (recommendations) and to understand how we and all Canadians are being urged to move from apology to action. At a recent Mosaic Institute discussion on TRC Where We Are Now, The Hon. Senator Murray Sinclair, Former Chair, Truth and Reconciliation Commission emphasized that “Reconciliation is about forging and maintaining respectful relationships. There are no shortcuts.” The Y is honoured to connect and learn from and with our communities, groups, and individuals to be a part of this learning and healing process.