Who needs a "healing garden"?

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Added: Wed, 02/24/2021 - 11:12pm
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Fred Ryan
Éditorialiste Invitée
Guest Editorialist

The recently announced plans for a “healing garden” along the Chute Road in Mansfield & Pontefract, on a small piece of land deeded over by the municipality, designed mainly for veterans or survivors of the residential school system, is an excellent and positive project for the Pontiac as a whole.  
Although dedicated, of course, to Indigenous people - the targets of the residential schools program - it is a place, a garden, where healing of the soul, as Leonard Cohen might say, can take place, or begin to take place, for anyone. This is a convincing reason to support the project, in word and in contributions, and it’s also a solid reason to actually use the resource, once it's up and growing. Even non-Indigenous people will be accommodated, I am told, and for them/us it's the “healing of the soul” that’s attractive. Survivors of the residential schools, such as they were, bear life-absorbing burdens in keeping their souls healthy, but all of us,
with due respect and honour to the main participants, can be a part of this generous and rather grand experiment.  We all need healing, of some sort, and we must seek out our own venues for this - without crowding or damaging the original beneficiaries.
It’s unfortunate that Indigenous populations have their internal disputes about local and organizational governance and historical processes; it’s just as unfortunate that there are some non-Indigenous people who try to pass as Indigenous, or who allow their disputes with leadership to boil over into the public arena. There are organizations in conflict within the aboriginal population just as there are in the non-aboriginal. This is the nature of politics, especially within a society nominally open to most ideas and expressions. Such political and jurisdictional disputes should not harm projects such as the healing garden - this is not the arena for those larger disputes, in fact this is not an arena for any dispute at all, unless it’s the very personal ones which arise in “the long night of the soul” faced by those dealing with their histories, personal and societal.
“The Pontiac Anishinaabe Healing Garden project is in line with our goal of advancing reconciliation and renewing the relationship with Indigenous
peoples,” commented Will Amos, Pontiac's MP, in announcing $38,500 federal aid. We all recognize that the healing goes both ways, goes in a multitude of ways, in fact. As Canadian society self-examines and removes as much racism and prejudice as possible, healing will be needed. We will need many more healing centres. Let's support this Indigenous one for a start, here in the land named after Chief Pontiac.