I was honored to help facilitate a Trustbuilding training weekend in Quebec in early March just before the Covid-19 lockdown. The trustbuilding project comes at a key moment in Quebec and Canadian history, with the rise of Islamophobia and discrimination against indigenous, black and ethnic communities. The diverse group included anglophones and francophones, a First Nations elder, and immigrants from around the world. Together, we explored issues of history, identity and the role of the individual in building trust.
The dialogue was vigorous, and people felt free to express their experiences and emotions honestly. The program gave people tools to hold spaces where such honest conversation could take place in a constructive way. Several participants noted the challenge of listening to people and remaining open when different or conflicting views were shared. One person said at the end, “I expected people to shout at each other, but this did not happen.”
Another participant wrote, “the collective space allowed us to hear other perspectives and to start building something in common; this makes my soul feel better.” Another said they gained “a new awareness of the complexity of Canadian history.” For one person, a high point was “when someone else ‘got me’ – understood me.”
A highlight was an exercise led by a First Nations elder exploring the history of indigenous people and the experience of colonialism. My colleague Tee Turner, an African American from Richmond, Virginia, deeply moved participants when he spoke from his personal experience about the “three-legged stool” of reconciliation, which he described as a process of acknowledging history; apology and repentance; and accountability and working together.
The workshop highlighted the importance of personal reflection and understanding of oneself. One person summed up their experience this way: “The content and the way the workshops were set up brought me to reflect and to want to change.”
I came away greatly inspired and energized by the strong sense of community that developed over the weekend. The diversity of the cohort is a tribute to the trust that the project leaders have developed in their outreach to the community. Because of the Covid situation, future face-to-face workshops are on hold, but the Quebec team is moving ahead vigorously in developing online activities. Watch this space for more updates! (To read about the Initiatives of Change International Trustbuilding Program click here https://www.iofc.org/trustbuilding-program)
(Lead photo Annie Lessard IofC Canada)