Fr. Daryold Winkler

Fr. Daryold Winkler

July 25, 2011

ST. ALBERT — The whole purpose of reconciliation is so our children and our children's children don't have to experience the same kind of pain that we did, says Basilian Father Daryold Winkler.

Speaking on forgiveness at a the fourth annual Directions on Aboriginal Ministry conference, Winkler, an aboriginal priest and academic from Ottawa, described reconciliation as a spiritual way of living that allows us to heal and move forward.

There are no steps to follow in reconciliation. "It's not a process where you follow a schedule. It happens organically," he said. "But it has to be genuine on both sides and it has to be mutual."

Reconciliation also needs an apology either between human beings or between nations. "You first have to say 'I did it. I lied about you.'

"You must acknowledge what you did was wrong. You have to say 'I'm responsible for an action that I did. I did it knowing full well what I was doing.' And then in the apology you must say, 'I'll never do it again.'"

The residential schools' apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper two years ago was an official apology - an act of diplomacy between nations, said Winkler, a member of Kateri Native Ministry in Ottawa.

The natural response to an apology is forgiveness, which Winkler defined as "a decision to not be controlled by what happened to us (in the past). In the process, we unlock our painful past so that we can experience freedom again."

Difficult as it may be, we must let go of our desire to seek revenge. "As long as the desire for revenge is present, reconciliation is impossible," Winkler pointed out. "Reconciliation has no chance against revenge."

Truth-telling is another aspect of forgiveness mentioned by Winkler, a former professor at St. Joseph's University College in Edmonton.


One purpose of public truth-telling, he said, is to uncover the denial that has allowed both victims and oppressors to cope with wrongdoing. Many people deny their pain, saying, "No, this didn't happen to me. I wasn't really abused."

Truth-telling begins with listening to the victims' accounts and its whole purpose is healing.

"You have to talk your suffering out. That's why people go to therapy; to talk about what happened to them. And this allows people to feel human again; it restores their dignity and they can put the past to rest so it doesn't haunt us forever."

Reconciliation cannot be accomplished without justice. "There has to be restitution," Winkler said. "Restitution will never fully compensate for the magnitude of your loss, but it does attempt to make amends in some measure for the harm inflicted."

The priest said we also need examples of people who have experienced reconciliation so we can learn from them.

"Some elders say 'I'm healed' and yet they want revenge," lamented Winkler. "How precious these people are who have attained reconciliation. They are a real gift to our communities."

Commissioner Mary Wilson, a member of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, said if we are going to survive as a nation, reconciliation must be an ongoing individual and collective process.

That process must involve residential school survivors and their families, the churches and the people of Canada. "This is a moment in our national history where we can be givers of life and hope," Wilson said.