Winding down from my first day of talks at the 2016 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences. Reviewing the day, I note how much of Congress’ programming is linked to reconciliation this year. I thought about how many sessions have Blackfoot Elders providing opening ceremonies, and panel participants and attendees from various Indigenous nations. I thought about how, elsewhere, there are panels taking place on Japanese Canadian history of internment and how Japanese Canadians are chairing, participating, and listening to these talks. I remembered the time that I attended the TRC’s Atlantic National Event where I witnessed an elderly man gazing at black and white class photos from a residential school exclaim: “THAT’S ME! …and that’s my buddy John… and that’s…”, to which the TRC reps came running and had the man write his name and those of all the students that he could identify by name on the print. I thought about how I often feel my heart clench when I read academic articles, attend talks, see new projects’ websites on Japanese Canadians because I am scared to see pictures of MY family in there.
Is there enough talk/consideration given to the effects of encountering photos of one’s family in the public eye? While, I would guess, the vast majority of people have their childhood and/or family memories contained in plastic photo albums or boxes in their private homes, some have at least a portion of them them in institutional archives, museums, databases, and as part of public records. While, I would guess, the vast majority have the choice of pulling out those old photos of self, relatives and ancestors at their leisure, many thousands of Indigenous, Japanese Canadian and other peoples who’ve been corralled by the Canadian state at one time or another might encounter these photos for the first time at public events such as those mentioned above. I would like to know what you feel about seeing or potentially seeing your family/friends in these moments of public speaking or remembrance and what you do with it? I find it very difficult.