Reckoning grapples with Canada’s irreconcilable past
The last residential school closed in 1996. Beginning in the 1870s, children were starved, shamed, segregated, served spoiled goods, subject to electric shock, sexually assaulted, and that’s without leaving the letter ‘S.’ One hundred thirty such schools existed across Canada.
In 2006, survivors of these institutions brought the Government of Canada to court, in what was then the largest class action settlement in Canadian history. The Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission began two years later and released its final report in 2015.
Reckoning, a theatrical performance created and produced by Indigenous artists Tara Beagan and Andy Moro, aims to redress the inadequacies and truths that weren’t expressed in that commission.
“It’s quite a thing to approach something that has really happened in your own family and to many of your friends,” Beagan says, “to fictionalize that account. I was given this teaching once that was, ‘It’s not that in theatre we’re telling a lie in this world. We’re telling the truth in another one.’ … Through that, you start to realize what your own people have endured is unfathomable.”
The play consists of three parts, each dealing in its own way with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The first revolves around the adjudicators who listened to survivors’ stories. The second revolves around the daughter of a survivor on a date. The third is a survivor telling their story.
Presented live, and with video and text, Reckoning questions whether or not the process of reconciliation has even begun. Beagan and Moro are justifiably skeptical.
“The reconciliation process is really a marketing ploy,” Moro says. “It’s packaged for the aggressor. It’s packaged for the colonizer. It really is about eliminating guilt. It’s not constructive or even working in any way for the victims of that process. Reckoning tries to look at that in terms of going between the cracks of what that package is actually doing out here.”
Beagan and Moro first ran across each other in 2007, while Moro was working with the Da Da Kamera theatre company. The pair joined forces and released their first project in 2013 as Article 11. Their name refers to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, on which Canada maintained its objector status until last year.
Since coming to Alberta, the arts-activist company has created a bit of a provincial stir, even provoking a neighbourly Twitter spat between Mayor Don Iveson and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi over which city could play the better host.
While there is some catharsis in shining a light on the suffering of the ancestral past, and the suffering of the present for that matter, Reckoning isn’t satisfied with nods and gestures towards reconciling.
“The main thing that we’re hoping people will start to question is have we even begun the process towards reconciliation?” Beagan says. “It becomes quite evident when you see our piece that we think no. It’s so hardly just begun that it’s not even the tip of an iceberg … It’s really about how there’s so much more work to be done.”
Wed., Dec. 13 – Sun., Dec. 17
ATB Financial Arts Barn – Westbury Theatre, $22