As I sat in the auditorium where the Forum on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) was held last weekend, I was struck by one of the groups of attendees. In a room where many were spread out, leaving one seat in between their neighbours, there were four learners sitting right beside each other. Early in the Forum, one raised her hand to make a comment, identifying herself as a nursing student. I assumed that she was sitting with other nursing students – they seemed to know each other quite well.
Nearly 18 months ago, the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic completely upended our lives, and altered the ways we teach and learn, deliver healthcare, and interact with one another on a daily basis. In the dark times and the long months when we wondered how we would get through this, we stumbled upon unexpected innovations, creative solutions, and serendipitous discoveries. Romance novelist Julia Quinn describes this phenomenon by noting that “the unexpected moment is always sweeter.”
Across Canada, flags have flown at half-mast for the entire month of June, honouring children who died at residential schools. As we prepared for the month of June 2021, we knew there would be activities to recognize Indigenous History Month and Pride Month. It turns out the entire month has been shaped by the tragedies that have spurred our collective conscience. It was in late May that leaders in Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, British Columbia, announced the discovery of a mass grave with the remains of 215 children at the site of a former residential school.
They were 215 children. The children had names. They had parents. They had a future. The children were taken from their homes and forced to participate in an institution that was designed to control them; to assimilate them into the dominant culture; to separate them from their land, their language, and their lineage. They include children as young as three years of age.