Sunday, January 28, 2018
IofC spreads awareness of Aboriginal experience with Blanket Exercise

The Blanket Exercise is a simulation activity aimed at sensitizing participants to the Aboriginal experience. Marie Emilie Lacroix from IofC Quebec, herself an Aboriginal (Innu) describes her experiences as she took it to several Quebec communities and Mexico.

The Blanket Exercise journey continued throughout Quebec and beyond. At the end of May 36 people, including some First Nations participated at Cap-de-la-Madeleine.

On Parliament Hill in Ottawa, we were several teams helping 800 people to experience history from an Aboriginal perspective. There were no sharing circles, but the participant’s reactions and faces spoke for themselves.

On June 4, I went to Cuernavaca, Mexico to share the BE in Spanish. On June 21, National Aboriginal Day, the exercise was carried out with 45 participants at the Dominican Pastoral Institute in Montréal.

In Quebec City, Lise Gauvreau, Katy and I were welcomed by 130 employees of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. On July 6 in Grondines, emotions ran high with the 35 participants. Teenagers were moved and promised to better inform themselves in the future.

In August in Uashat, the Côte-Nord, the blanket exercise was done at the Shaputuan museum in the presence of several media representatives.  I was delighted with the participation of chief Jean- Charles Piétacho, Léopold and Delvina Hervieux. During the sharing circle, First Nation attendees mentioned how the exercise did them good. This was comforting and encouraged me to continue.

Later in August in my community Mashteuiat a group including of three First Nations and six French participated.  It gave me even more hope for the future.

In September, Joseph Vumiliya and I facilitated the exercise in Montreal at the Joseph-Papineau high school, with 96 youths of diverse origins living a chapter in history they will never forget.

One of the best moments was with the 30 Quebec National Park wardens. There were cries but especially the firm decision to honour their role as guardians of First Nations territory in Quebec. They wish to adapt their program according to what they have learned from their experience.

September 21 in Victoriaville, 12 participants were touched. On September 27, on behalf of the Quebec Anglican Clergy Conference, Pastor Cynthia Patterson invited the IofC team to do the Blanket Exercise at the Augustine Monastery —a first bilingual presentation. Wonderful quilts were shown, works from North Hatley women for Naskapis families. These were important moments of healing and reconciliation.

On the shores of the St-Laurent river in Rivière-du-Loup at the end of September, Lise Gauvreau and I presented the exercise to 60 people who were moved by this experience.

On Friday, October 13, we did three blanket exercises in 15 hours; starting at 8:30 PM with 15 people. Then at 3:00 am, we discussed for two hours the conditions of First Nation’s people. Finally, we did a bilingual exercise with an interesting group at Le Concorde hotel in Québec City with Jessie, André Georges, Lucie Pagé and Renée. The sharing circle was rich with 16 university professors from the ten provinces.

 I was stunned to hear that one person had never heard of residential schools. One more reason to continue, inform and invite people to create a future that we will build together.

Marie Émilie Lacroix, Quebec