Beyond Reconciliation

Winnipeg’s shameful past shows the way forward

The city I once knew doesn’t exist ­anymore. My mom was twenty-­one years old when she packed our clothes into her beat-up car and we headed to the big city: Winnipeg, or, as it’s known in the Cree language, Win‑nipi in Nehiyawewin. She woke me up when we hit the outskirts late at night. Winnipeg arrived into my consciousness in the form of highway lights on the outskirts of town — orange orbs of light racing past a deep blue car window. I was four.

I hardly knew my mom at the time, and perhaps I still don’t. She found herself pregnant with me at seventeen. She was just a kid. My biological father had other plans, so what choices did she have? She chose adoption for me but was swiftly talked out of it by my grandmother and great-­grandfather. They stepped up to help raise me, since they didn’t want me adopted out. My mom was told to work and to bring home the bacon.

We had come from 190...