Monique Pat’s relationship with truth and reconciliation is a multi-generational, multi-layered journey that takes another step forward with each passing day.
Pat, a member of the T’Souke First Nation, will emcee the Orange Shirt Day of Truth and Reconciliation on Friday (Sept. 30) at 12:30 p.m. at the Vancouver Island Regional Library in Sooke.
“It’s very important to get the message out about the significance of Orange Shirt Day,” said Pat, Indigenous liaison for Island Health, where she also serves as the Truth and Reconciliation and Every Child Matters ambassador.
“We can’t reconcile without truth-telling, and truth-telling is the important stage we’re in now regarding truth and reconciliation.”
Pat was deeply influenced by her mother, Linda Bristol, former T’Souke Nation art and cultural manager and revered elder. Bristol was recognized for her work as a driving force in truth and reconciliation by Premier John Horgan in the B.C. Legislature before she died in 2018.
Pat recalls making an Every Child Matters presentation with her mother in 2018, and how proud they were to see the community of Sooke stand together with them against racism and oppression.
“Sooke has a very unique relationship between the T’Souke Nation and the community,” Pat said. “My Grandpa, the late Norman Dick George, and my mom and I never had to go to a residential school and like many T’Souke Nation members, had a different experience than most First Nations on the South Island who went to residential schools.”
Pat is very familiar, however, with those who did and the trauma residential schools created through the stories shared with her by residential school survivors during her 15 years of work with Island Health
“Most of the First Nations on the South Island would have been sent to the residential school on Kuper Island (near Chemainus),” Pat said. “I’ve heard many stories over the years, and many children have referred to it as hell or Alcatraz. There is still a lot of healing needed.”
Although Pat hasn’t finalized her presentation and the stories she will share on Friday, she said her message would be delivered directly from her heart. “I will try to make it a local message for the T’Souke, Beecher Bay and Pacheedaht Nations.”
T’Souke First Nation elder Shirley Alphonse will give the blessing to begin the ceremony.