FineDay, Lamoureux singing off same song sheet even if approaches differ slightly
Their respective presentations as keynote presenters at the Saskatoon Teachers’ Association Annual Convention were unmistakably distinct from one another, but there was no questioning the similar messages presented by Max FineDay and Kevin Lamoureux in discussing truth and reconciliation.
Both share an Indigenous background, although in both cases it was one parent, and so they have had the shared experience of seeing life through a different lens. While FineDay’s message was filled with self-deprecating humour as the younger, more hip of the two, Lamoureux brought his wealth of knowledge from the world of academia, highlighted by his assessment that “you didn’t create this problem but you can be part of the solution.”
Both presenters underscored the critical role educators can play in charting a better path forward as opposed to the divisiveness and broken promises that history has confirmed only too starkly. The two also shared another interesting belief in that they are convinced the ills of residential schools can be overcome in the future, while reminding those in the audience that reconciliation is for everyone.
As the first of the two presenters, FineDay, who was born in Saskatchewan on the Sweetgrass First Nation, put it very succinctly to those attending when he invited them to think about “what does reconciliation mean?” He also suggested that talking to Elders and Knowledge Keepers would be an ideal place to seek clarity.
“It is incumbent on all of us who love this province to gain a better understanding because this place is still suffering from colonization. My greatest mission is to get this place back to the shared peace and prosperity we had when the treaties were signed in good faith.
“By design, when those treaties were signed there was a common vision and understanding. Somewhere along the way we got lost on this journey,” he lamented.
Lamoureux, who has brought his wisdom and perspective to Saskatchewan teachers previously, offered that while it is understandably difficult for people to grapple with the trauma associated with residential schools and the experiences that have subsequently followed, silence is the worst-case scenario.
“One of the best days of my life was to be in Ottawa when the final report on truth and reconciliation was released and there were Indigenous and non-Indigenous people who had come together. It filled me with a sense of pride and hope. We were given a gift with the 94 Calls to Action. As a nation, that is our road map home.”
Lamoureux added that if not for the courage and dignity of the residential school survivors, “we wouldn’t be here and that gives us such intergenerational strength and love. I would ask you to read all of those Calls to Action. Then ask yourself why this is being asked of us. Our communities will all benefit from the fulfillment of these Calls to Action.”
According to Lamoureux, “we have inherited the damages and consequences from this broken relationship, and as a nation we are sicker because of this lack of fairness that has existed. But when you look at the racism and prejudice, I don’t believe it is genuine hatred. It is more a lack of knowledge, and I absolutely believe it can be healed,” he said.
In their dialogue regarding otherness, FineDay insisted it is inaccurate to suggest that the best way forward is to treat Indigenous kids the same. He recited a heartfelt story of how years of poverty and neglect have victimized many Indigenous youth.
He likened it to a failing marriage where the partners stopped talking to each other, adding that those resulting bad relationships play out in your classrooms each and every day.
FineDay’s olive branch of hope was that 75 percent of 1,200 Indigenous youth believe reconciliation can happen in their lifetime–and moreover, 68 percent of non-Indigenous youth share that belief.
“That tells me there is reason for optimism and that people care. It is why your job as educators is so important. Young people have their hands extended to you as educators, and your role is to reach back and grasp the strength with kindness,” he said in an impassioned tone that resulted in a standing ovation.
Lamoureux was in wholehearted agreement, noting that “schools can be a place of healing and the opportunity we have here is potentially magical. We have the tools to deconstruct what we did over three generations. We were meant to be in a very different place and let’s make sure we are the last generation having to deal with this.
“When I see the things that are happening in our schools, it fills me with joy and optimism and hope.”