A Focus on Reconciliation

by Josh Kerr | Apr 14, 2023


Upon his retirement from government, Clayton Sandy joined the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, allowing him to hear the stories of many indigenous people across Canada. Many high-profile people attended these conferences, ranging from former prime ministers and governors general to media personalities.

At one of the conferences, Sandy had a chance to chat with a former prime minister of Canada who explained to him that now, as a retired politician, he was sitting and listening to the stories from residential school and 60’s scoop survivors for the first time. Much to his disappointment and frustration, he was not aware what the schools were truly about.

This got the wheels turning in his head.

Sandy gathered up a few of his friends, and they spent the next two years developing the Turtle Island Project blanket exercise. The exercise takes its participants through history, and is broken down into three parts: the first 150 years after contact, the resurgence of indigenous culture, and a group-sharing experience.

“It’s an opportunity for people to start healing,” Sandy explains. “The reconciliation part is on the shoulders of the Canadian public; they must start hearing and accepting these stories. They don’t have to do anything, just listen, and acknowledge that it happened.”

“We want them not only to hear the history but the story of our resurgence and the plan for our future,” says Sandy. “We provide examples of role models in our community and show a path for the next generation of our people to make it clear that we are succeeding everywhere you look.”

A sharing circle concludes the program. Sandy explains that the goal is to make the space as safe as possible, where people can share their stories, ask questions, and learn together.

Recently the staff of the Jewish Foundation participated in the Turtle Island Project blanket exercise, a crucial “listening” step to reconciliation.

When Sandy and his team entered the Asper Jewish Community Campus to make their presentation to the staff, they passed by the Jewish Foundation’s Endowment Book of Life kiosk. They were thrilled and amazed at the collection of stories there and felt an immediate connection between our culture and theirs.

Every person in every community has a story. Each story is unique to its teller, though we find common themes throughout them. Themes of laying the foundations of family, overcoming atrocities to create a better future for the next generations, and themes of love and the feelings that bond us with our kin.

The indigenous community is no different. Their stories are full of colour and rich with tradition. We simply need to ask to hear them.

For more information on the Turtle Island Project or to book the ‘Experiential Exercise’, please call 204-698-6881 or email [email protected].