June 9, 2008 LISTEN

As I drove to Anishinabe this morning there was an interview on CBC radio with Belinda van den Brooke (sp?) who was commenting on Residential Schools. She said she could not speak for everyone else who is a Residential School survivor, or “in general.” Everyone’s experience was different. Her personal experience is not a blanket description of what happened. She talked about how she often acted as an advocate in the school, and it resulted in quite abit of trouble for her. I chuckled when she said that she would be proud to have a TM (trouble maker) after her BA if it meant she was helping people.

As I sit in the parking lot at the center I remind myself to 1. LISTEN 2. Expect to find God in the unexpected 3. Be a witness 4. Remember names!

The Rev. (the Reverend Margaret Mullin) has three people in mind for my Ministry Reflection Group. One is a residential school survivor who attended Cecilia Jeffrey in Kenora, Ontario. She is a Christian working in the Presbyterian Church in Canada (PCC), and making a claim for her experiences at CJ School which was administrated by the PCC. Another member is a AA co-ordinator, 20 years sober. The third is a lovely and very wise staff member, who has a beautiful spirit and a gentle way about her. All are aboriginal.

I learn that when speaking with a First Nations person, you should not stare. It is concidered extremely rude. In my ED100 class back at VST we read that looking down when someone is speaking indicates you are concentrating on listening, removing the distraction of sight and thereby gives honour to the speaker. It’s really hard! I have been brought up to look people in the eye when speaking to them, and occasionally watch them mouth their words so as to not miss any. I never realized how much I read lips and tend to doing so at the center because some of the dropins do not speak English very well and if I am not watching I miss so much I don’t have a clue what they are saying.

It is also rude to point, at anything, not just people. Its another cultural challenge, you try not to point for a day.

We distribute emergency food kits. They contain a canned protein, a vegtable or soup, a fruit and a starch (usually Kraft Dinner). People are eligible for only one a month and must show their health card to receive it. Some have been banned from receiving them because they take the food and trade it to some of the local food retailers for “sniff.” Anishinabe keeps a record of who receives food and this is remitted to Winnipeg Harvest who supplies us with the kits. Winnipeg Harvest distributes 10,000 loaves of bread a day to various social agencies throughout Winnipeg. Daily hot meals are provided by the Union Gospel and Siloam Missions on Main Street, four blocks away from our location. Siloam feeds upwards of 300 people a day.

It is mind boggling to consider the scope of poverty that exists, and infuriating that certain retailers with a goal to make a bigger profit, only enable people with addictions.

June 8, 2008 Thinking about tomorrow

Tomorrow is my first day at Anishinabe. On the 11th of this month, Wednesday, the government of Canada is issuing an apology to First Nations people for the legacy of the Residential School System. All the communications media are flooded with stories and opinions about the past and the expectations for the apology. I am going to be in a unique place to observe this momentous occasion when Prime Minister Harper speaks on behalf of the Canadian government.

I have actually just returned from Ottawa. I was there for a week to attend the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church as a resource person on behalf of St. Andrew’s Hall and Vancouver School of Theology. While there I had a disturbing conversation with my sister’s coworkers, members of the RCMP. The attitudes towards First Nation’s people was alarming, sterotypical and less than humane. How can relationships improve when some people (professions?) have such a disregard for a segment of our society?! I asked one why he wanted to be a police officer. “To do good and fight evil!” was his response. I came away wondering what his conception of evil was…

It’s all very discouraging to think that those hired to ‘serve and protect’ would treat people that way and expect society to become ‘good’!

I expect the coming week is going to become a very emotionally charged experience.

June 7, 2008 An Introduction

I am a second year theology student at Vancouver School of Theology, an affiliate college of the University of British Columbia. I am doing my final field unit at Anishinabe Place of Hope, a mission of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, operating in the inner city of Winnipeg, Manitoba. It is a 20 unit residence that offers safe housing for people serious about staying alcohol, drug and substance free, upgrading education and seeking gainful employment. The residents are predominantly First Nations. On Sundays there is a worship service. Monday to Thursdays there is also a drop in center that provides coffee, shelter from the elements, advocacy, emergency food kits, linens, a local telephone line, information on various social agencies, councelling, occasionally a hot meal, and so much more. I invite you to drop by once in awhile and discover the “so much more.”