Image by Miranda Haughian, Acadia Friendship Circle September 30
Acadia Place resident Ginny Tremblay, a mother of four who is Anishinabe, believes it’s critical for Calgarians to come together to change the future for Indigenous people.
“There are a lot of scars there and the issue is deep,” says Ginny, who is on the planning committee for the Acadia Friendship Circle, formed last year for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to come together to learn more about Indigenous culture, traditions and reconciliation.
“With these groups, which are raising more awareness, it’s bringing more people together and gets you more involved with the community. It’s amazing. It’s a wonderful two hours once a month when you get together. It’s comforting and inviting,” Ginny says.
Acadia resident Courtney Robertson is another Acadia Friendship Circle committee member who joined the Friendship Circle because she wanted people to “start thinking about what kinds of actions we can do as a community to make things better. There’s such a lack of knowledge and awareness about the intergenerational trauma that First Nations people have experienced, beyond just residential schools – it’s more the whole history of colonization that is still going on,” says Courtney, who is non-Indigenous.
She hopes that more people who want to be a part of the conversation will come out to Acadia Friendship Circle events or start Friendship Circles in their own neighborhoods, focusing on how Calgarians “can move forward in a better way in relationship with each other in this place that we all share.”
She has been surprised about the level of interest and engagement the Acadia Friendship Circle has seen in the past year. “My hope is that we’ll be able to continue to learn together,” she says, noting that in addition to the Friendship Circle’s focus around reconciliation and shared learning opportunities about Indigenous culture and history, there’s an interest in cross-cultural learning as well.
“I feel really proud and excited about the way things have been going. We encourage people to come out and learn with us and share their ideas.”
Courtney’s daughter, Tirzah Rivas, age nine, attends the Acadia Friendship Circle meetings and events alongside her mother and is an active volunteer with the group.
“I feel like the Acadia Friendship Circle is bringing people together as a community. We get to meet new people each time,” Tirzah says. “What we learn about is not told in schools, so it’s important we are learning about this, to have another perspective on our history and what some people went through in the shaping of Canada.”
The Acadia Friendship Circle was established last year as a result of a social strategy and community planning meeting facilitated by Viviana Reinberg, a community social worker with the City of Calgary. It is supported by the Acadia Strong Neighbourhood Initiative and McDougall United Church.
“People are passionate about learning about these issues,” says Viviana, who hopes that the Acadia Friendship Circle will be able to make strong connections with established groups, “so that people can use their power in a positive way to advance the issues of Indigenous people.”
The Acadia Friendship Circle meets once a month at McDougall United Church, 8516 Athabasca St. SE. Everybody is welcome. The next gathering will take place on Friday Nov. 17 at 6:30 p.m. with a film screening of Elder in the Making. There is no charge for admission; donations are welcome. Visit the Acadia Friendship Circle on Facebook for more information.
“Please come out and check it out. It’s such a fun filled evening. And there’s more to learn – we’ve got exciting adventures up ahead,” Ginny says.