Sukhvinder Kaur Vinning remembers receiving a phone call from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) two years ago.
The TRC was looking to engage the Canadian Sikh community in the reconciliation process. Without a moment’s hesitation – or consultation with her fellow board members at the World Sikh Organization Canada (WSO) – Vinning responded, “Of course we will help.”
Knowing how important it was as a Sikh to stand up for the rights of their neighbours, she knew it was an important project.Luckily, the board felt the same.
With the goal of effectively connecting with the diverse Sikh community, WSO decided to produce a video.
Their short film “It Matters: The Legacy of Residential Schools” explores the concept of reconciliation with regards to the residential school system. It addresses the topic’s importance from several angles, including why it matters as Sikhs and as Canadians.
With nearly 10,000 views, featured in 2 film festivals, and utilized in a number of educational settings by other organizations, the film has been a huge success. When asked why the short film struck such a resonating chord in the hearts of a diverse cross-section of Canadians, Vinning thought it was the fact that each speaker in the video spoke from their hearts as they passionately and compassionately addressed this dark chapter in our Canadian history.
The experience has also taught Vinning a great deal about reconciliation and its value for all Canadians.
“Many survivors of Indian residential schools have tools and best practices that they have found useful as they shifted from victim to survivor to thriver. The process of reconciliation is creating a strong knowledge base to help others in their painful journeys of darkness. The unfortunate truth is that there are many Canadians who are survivors of rape and abuse and many Canadians who are survivors of genocides from around the world. And these survivors can benefit from the pooled wisdom of the survivors of Indian residential schools.”
The film’s success has impacted Vinning’s involvement in other reconciliation projects. One that she is particularly passionate about is a young adult program funded by the Inspirit Foundation called “Through Our Eyes”, which involves workshops put on in part with Reconciliation Canada.
The program engages young adults to explore their leadership and reconciliation skills. “It’s been a transformative experience for the young adults involved,” she says. “The tools they learn here can be applied to so many other areas of their lives.”
As a Sikh, Vinning is deeply moved by the process of reconciliation. There are many Sikh survivors in Canada who have lived through the Sikh genocide in India and are actively working to heal devastating wounds. Vinning sees inspiration for Sikh survivors in the wisdoms of her Indigenous sisters and brothers.
Sikhs from around the world were inspired when Reconciliation Canada chose to honour a Sikh survivor of the 1984 genocide at the Walk for Reconciliation. “For the first time in the world, a survivor of the Sikh genocide was recognised,” says Vinning. “This simple but profound act has inspired other Sikh survivors to start to break their shackles of silence. It is incredibly humbling to hear Sikh survivors who have kept their silence all these years talk about sharing their experiences with others. Thank you Reconciliation Canada for your bold and courageous leadership.”
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