“Reconciliation begins and ends with you.”
—Shelley Joseph

As the co-director of community engagement for Reconciliation Canada, Shelley Joseph is all too familiar with the lingering effect residential schools have on the survivors’ loved ones. In a candid and emotional closing address for Truth and Reconciliation Week, held on campus from September 19 to 23, Joseph recounted her father’s experience with the residential school system, which he attended from the age of six to 17.

She spoke about the years of abuse he faced and how that abuse carried forward to his family, including her and her siblings. But Joseph’s reality changed shortly after giving birth to her first daughter. This was her “teachable moment,” the moment she committed to being the best version of herself and providing a better life for her children. “I share my story to help us move forward,” Joseph says.

Throughout her address, Joseph outlined three ways we can all do our part to give meaning to truth and reconciliation and help heal the wounds of the past:

  1. Be open and accept people for who they are

Joseph encouraged audience members to be open and receptive to others’ perspectives, beliefs and experiences. She also reminded us to let others understand us, stating “human connection is the key to breaking silos.”

  1. Share the story

“We all have a story to tell,” Joseph says. She believes that sharing the stories of those impacted by the residential school system is the first step in educating people about the past, allowing us all to “truly move forward with peace in our hearts.”

  1. Fill your heart with self-love

“You have to love yourself more,” says Joseph. For many years, she struggled to truly recognize her own self-worth, believing instead that her life circumstances defined who she was. “I realized I had to love myself first, and that love would extend to others.” She believes that if we spend more time recognizing our own self-worth, we will learn to accept our weaknesses as well as our strengths, have more compassion for ourselves as well as others, find our purpose and live our values.

Final thoughts

Before closing her address, she posed one last question to the audience: In what area of your life do you need reconciliation? “Focus your energy on your own reconciliation and you will become who you are meant to be,” says Joseph.

Submitted by Communications & Marketing

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From left to right: David Kirk, Clay Little, Shelley Joseph, Ernie George and Richard Gale.