On the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Baháʼís across Canada held diverse commemorations to reflect on fundamental relationships, foster solidarity, and support mutual learning.
These gatherings were in response to encouragement from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baháʼís of Canada to Baháʼís across the country to “continue to educate themselves and to build on the wave of prayers that had surged in response to the awakening of so many to this tragic history [of Indian Residential Schools] and its continuing effects.”
A few friends in Montréal hold a regular devotional gathering every Monday morning. On the day of Truth and Reconciliation they decided to commemorate this important date with a special event. The program was simple and unstructured, beautifully diversified with prayers in Arabic, a multi-faith song, and a Baháʼí prayer in French and Innu.
This special program ended with one of the participants, originally from the Congo, describing his service in northern Québec, facilitating used items being sent to second hand stores in Kuujjuak. He is currently trying to guide a series of consultations with the various representatives of Nunavik to design a project of healing and reconciliation with the Inuit population. The friends expressed their gratitude for having ended the devotional with this element of action.
On the same day, members of the Cobourg Baháʼí community gathered for prayers at the grave of Evelyn Loft Watts, a long-term resident of Cobourg and the daughter of Canada’s first Indigenous Baháʼís, Jim and Melba Loft. The visit to Evelyn’s grave was followed by a lively discussion on the shores of Lake Ontario. Later that afternoon, Evelyn’s son, Bob Watts, presented a warm informative talk offering many insights and suggestions for moving reconciliation forward.
At the heart of the Northumberland community is an Ojibway community, Alderville. Baháʼís in that area attended three of its events on September 29th: a guided 2-hour walk through the Black Oak Savanna where Indigenous practices are used to maintain the grasslands; a talk by elder and translator Melody Crowe; and an evening event in Cobourg’s Victoria Hall.
“The most important thing for us to do is to listen and learn from the native communities”, one of the friends said about the importance of taking small yet consistent steps in this process of reconciliation.
In New Brunswick, brothers Steve and Jeff Zaat along with First Nation musicians from the Wolastoqey territories released the song ‘Unceded’ in time for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
The song was partially composed on September 30, 2021 by singer and songwriter, Steve Zaat. After seeking direction from Elder Maggie Paul and others the song was completed and is ready for release a year later. Steve Zaat mentioned, “The process of having the song reviewed by Indigenous collaborators was a great learning experience… The principles of consultation can go a long way to encouraging a constructive approach to problem solving. It is hoped that the song will become an anthem for truth and reconciliation and assist in the reflection and action required to move this issue towards justice.” The song can be found on YouTube and Spotify.
In Boundary, British Columbia, Baháʼís participated in a program hosted by the Boundary All Nations Aboriginal Council (BANAC). The Baháʼís presented a gift of a quilted wall hanging, expressing their own commitment to walk the path of truth and justice together. The chair of the BANAC remarked her appreciation for support given by the Baháʼí community as the only local faith group present at the gathering.
Baháʼís in Hamilton, Ontario, invited friends to a community discussion to reflect on the implications of the Baháʼí teachings for processes of reconciliation. The group was offered many resources to study and committed to reconvene in a few months to reflect on the learning and see how to advance on this topic and keep it in the forefront of the participants’ awareness. Another prayer gathering was held, connecting the Baháʼí teachings, Indigenous traditions, and topics of discussion.
In West Hants, Nova Scotia, the ‘Wave of Prayer’ devotional gathering was initiated on September 30th of last year. Over the past year, approximately 200 people were invited to join each week. Overall, friends from Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Cape Breton Regional Municipality, Halifax Regional Municipality, Colchester County, Berwick, and Yarmouth participated. The devotional, which included the arts and meaningful conversations, was carried out for the 52 weeks of last year and the group is beginning this year’s second year of a ‘Wave of Prayer'.