This guest blog post is written by Rev. Elaine Poproski, pastor at the Walmer Road Baptist Church.
TAS and the church are partners in the redevelopment of 38 Walmer Road. Plans for future project include the adaptive reuse of the existing sanctuary, to include a new space for the church, a community cultural hub as well as a new condo building.
Do you know what a Legacy Space is? Maybe you already do. I’d never heard about them until this year, but I’m excited about what I’m learning and even more excited that I get to be part of creating one where I work.
I live and work on land that is part of Treaty 13, also known as the Toronto Purchase, the roots of which go back to the late 1700s. It’s a Treaty that was ill-defined, repeatedly broken and that evidences the colonizers’ disdain for the Indigenous people of the area. I get to live and work in this city I love in part because of those colonizers’ bad faith. But this legacy does not have to continue to define relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. We can help create a new legacy – a legacy of truth, understanding and reconciliation. That is what Legacy Spaces aim to do.
The Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund exists “to build cultural understanding and to create a path toward reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.”1 One of the ways they do this is by partnering with others to create Legacy Spaces, which are “safe, welcoming places dedicated to providing education and spreading awareness about Indigenous history and our journey of reconciliation.”2 As the pastor of Walmer Road Baptist Church, I am excited to be part of introducing a new Legacy Space, in partnership with TAS and the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund, in front of the church. This outdoor space was launched on June 17 and will be a permanent fixture, including art installations by Indigenous artists, conversations about Indigenous history and all sorts of opportunities to learn about and from the Indigenous people we live and work alongside in this city.
A couple of years ago, I, alongside countless other Canadians, was horrified by the news of hundreds of unmarked graves at the sites of residential schools across the country. I’m still horrified. And I’m ashamed.
I’m ashamed that I had no idea about any of this. I’m ashamed that for most of my life, I lived less than an hour from the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford, Ontario, but knew nothing about its history – nothing about Indigenous history at all. I had heard about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and knew that Canada’s treatment of Indigenous people throughout our history was contemptible. I think I knew that residential schools were part of that contemptible history, but I had no understanding of the scope of the atrocities.
I don’t know if I’ll ever fully comprehend the genocide. But I am, and expect I will always be, thankful that the men and women for whom this history was a lived hell have not stayed silent. I am thankful that these men and women have continued to push for the truth to be known. I am thankful that my ignorance doesn’t have to be the last word – that I can learn, and that in that learning, I can, perhaps, become part of making the truth known.
Where I live and work, in the Annex in Toronto, Indigenous people have lived and traded for thousands of years. The land upon which this city was built was a meeting place where many different languages were spoken, alliances were made and cultures intermingled. The people who gathered here included those of the Anishinaabeg nations, which includes the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, and the Huron-Wendat nation.
It has been said that there can be no reconciliation without truth. This new Legacy Space will be a place for truth. It will be a place for understanding. In time, I hope it will be a place of reconciliation.