EDITORIAL: Words wound, but can also heal

Last week, the News published a story about the Greater Victoria school district’s implementation of SOGI, the sexual orientation and gender identity resource aimed to inform curriculum thereby supporting LGBTQ students. The week previous, we wrote about one local First Nations man’s quest to see an Indigenous Walk of Fame brought to Bastion Square.

A lot of opinions have surfaced regarding both communities, long oppressed and marginalized through complex systems designed to make them appear and feel inferior. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made reconciliation a priority for his term, and on Friday he travelled to Goose Bay, Newfoundland to make a formal apology to residential school survivors left out of former prime minister Stephen Harper’s apology in 2008.

Yesterday, members of the Canadian Armed Forces and other civil servants who were fired for being gay, also received an apology from the prime minster.

While no one is naive enough to think these statements right the wrongs of horrific practices in Canadian history, what these actions are doing is changing the course of that history and actively standing on the right side of it going forward.

Words matter.

The world is, sadly, tuned to the Twitter account of the president of the United States whose often outlandish 280-character rants have informed Americans in everything from their voting policies to their opinions of the media.

Our leaders are elected to set a precedent for how the rest of us should engage with the world around us. When Trudeau stands up and says that what happened to our Indigenous and LGBTQ communities was wrong, impressionable ears of all ages are listening.

There is no doubt a ton of work lies ahead to achieve equality for all Canadians. And, these apologies don’t change what happened. But, they make sure these events are not erased from history and they mark a decidedly different path forward.

As the saying goes: “Words are like weapons, they wound sometimes.” It’s true. But they can also heal.

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