Wednesday marks A Day to Listen, a partnership between the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund (DWF) and radio stations dedicated to amplifying Indigenous voices.
With more than 500 radio stations across Canada participating, stories will be shared from Indigenous leaders, artists, storytellers and residential school survivors.
“The entire breadth and spectrum of Indigenous voices in Canada is being represented. (It’s) an opportunity to listen, learn and to act,” says educator and activist Bob Watts, who lives in the Six Nations of the Grand River territory.
With the recent estimated discovery of 751 unmarked graves at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School — which Al Jazeera called a “forced assimilation institution” — Watts says Canadians need to meet and better understand one another.
“For Indigenous people, it’s felt pretty lonely,” he says, “and over the last couple weeks this outpouring of support, emotion, outrage (and) frustration from everybody — Indigenous and non-Indigenous — I think is making us think and act and consider things in a way that we never have before.”
We have been provided with an opportunity to make reconciliation more than just a conversation within parliament, he adds.
To ensure the conversation continues, Watts recommends resources from the DWF website, your local Indigenous friendship centre and local organizations, as well as joining book clubs.
“Read a novel about the Indigenous experience in Canada,” Watts says. “Read the TRC (Truth and Reconciliation) 94 calls to action.”
Downie, a musician and the late lead singer of The Tragically Hip, was an advocate for Indigenous communities before his death in 2017 from brain cancer. When it comes to the power of music and storytelling and its ability to heal, Watts says artists are leading the way.
“We have some real leaders in that world,” he says.
For more information on A Day to Listen, watch the full video above.
Anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience can access the 24-hour, toll-free and confidential National Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419.
For a list of Indigenous charities to donate to leading reconciliation efforts and supporting Indigenous communities, you can find a list on the CanadaHelps website.