Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Monday, January 25, 2016

A Time to Listen

Like everyone else who heard it, I was horrified when I heard the news coming from La Loche, Saskatchewan. I have been to La Loche, as I grew up in Saskatoon and had been there on occasion when I was much younger, and I have known people from La Loche. Even if I had not, though, my heart would have ached for the people of a small community where everyone knows everyone, and where this kind of tragedy cuts deep and hard for every single resident.

There were people who asked if I planned to write about La Loche, curious as to what I might say. And to be honest all I can say is very simple: there is a time to speak, and a time to listen, and this is a time to listen to the people of La Loche, and all the communities who face challenges similar to those in La Loche.
Over the past few years I have had the privilege of spending time with some First Nations elders. What I have learned from them is the importance of opening your heart, your mind and most importantly your ears, and listening to the voices of the people who know what they know through first hand experience.

Middle class white people like me can opine on and on about La Loche and other First Nations communities, and some of us even have some experience with them – but we have not travelled that road or lived that life, and the time has come for us to simply shut up and listen, not speak to hear the sound of our own voices.
I have spent time in First Nations communities in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Ontario. While I am cognizant of some of the challenges they face I am in no way familiar with them enough to even hint at having an opinion of any sort. All I can do is grieve with them over this most recent loss, and open my heart, my mind and my ears.

I hope people across this country, those of us who have not grown up in communities like La Loche, do the same and listen instead of speaking right now. I hope we hear what is being said by the elders, the youth, the adults and the leaders of those communities. I hope our governments are listening too, because they need to hear what they are being told by the people who live in these communities and who are the experts in this regard.
If I learned anything from the elders I am so honoured to know, I have learned there is a time to speak, and a time to listen. This is a time for people like me to listen and learn. Heart open, mouth closed. Just listening.

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