On Wednesday evening, May 15, the Diocesan Indigenous Justice department sponsored the first of two evenings with Yvonne Rigsby Jones, Ambassador for Reconciliation Canada and former Executive Director of Tsow-Tun Le Lum alcohol and drug recovery center just outside of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.
Yvonne began the evening by showing the film “Hidden Legacies”, produced by an Aboriginal woman who spoke in depth with several young men and women about their personal experience of the intergenerational trauma passed down from the Residential School experience. The young people shared freely and very emotionally about their growing up years, and also about the event in each of their lives that gave them the will to overcome their victimization and create a new life for themselves.
Yvonne, herself the child of Residential School survivors, and the wife of a Residential School survivor, also spoke openly about her own life, and the healing that her family has done, and is still doing. Now retired, she had many, many years of running an alcohol and drug treatment center for Aboriginal men and women. She also had a contract with Corrections, and worked with men and women coming out of prison. Yvonne observed that every single person she encountered in the criminal justice system, was a survivor of childhood trauma.
Yvonne has such an amazing breadth of knowledge and experience that the Wednesday night sharing could have taken many directions. The participants were very interested in hearing about childhood trauma, particularly in Aboriginal families, and the importance of Trauma Informed Practice. Yvonne spoke about the pervasiveness of trauma, and its impact on individual health and relationships. One of the main ‘givens’ in Trauma Informed Practice is that we must recognize coping mechanisms, including alcohol and drug use, for what they are. Yvonne is passionate about the need for all workplaces to be aware of trauma, and its effects on the physical, mental, emotional, and social aspects of the whole person so that we can create cultures of safety for all.
In her work as an Ambassador for Reconciliation Canada, Yvonne had high praise for the Ecumenical ‘Day of Reconciliation’ workshop that was held in Vancouver in the last year or so. She was enormously impressed by the number of caring people invested in learning about and working toward Reconciliation.
Yvonne also had high praise for those who came out on Wednesday night to share with her. She is convinced that that is how Reconciliation happens – one passionate person at a time, who will then go out to share with others, and to challenge the things that are in the way of just and equal relationships.
Yvonne will be speaking again this coming Wednesday, May 22. She is totally open to your questions, and your concerns – the sharing will be guided by what you want to hear about. So please come and be one of those passionate people who will help make Reconciliation a reality!