Friends and neighbours: Grassroots done right

BRANTFORD – 94 recommendations within the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is a lot to swallow all at once. Perhaps too much.

That’s why Friends and Neighbours Brantford, a grassroots organization that encourages and helps people navigate their way towards reconciliation, is trying to raise awareness to the fact that if people focus on the recommendations individually it is likelier for them to be implemented faster.

“Having 94 recommendations simply means that there is at least one recommendation for each person to focus on at a time,” said Brodie Parker. “Instead of fighting for all 94 to be changed in one go, people can choose one or two that they can devote time to. If everybody does this at the same time, the recommendations become much more manageable.”

Parker referenced recommendation number six of the TRC, which is a call to repeal a section of the criminal code of Canada and how long that process would take for just the one recommendation to ever be applied. “To expect that the Federal Government will be able to pull off all 94 of them in an appropriate amount of time is a little bit too much for any institution to handle,” he said

Parker is a 21-year-old community organizer, who, along with his girlfriend Laramie Bradovka, 20, partnered with Friends and Neighbours back in November because they see the importance in reconciliation. Not only reconciliation through the Federal Government’s promises, but reconciliation through community involvement. Parker said we all need to “work together”.

The two organizers have been asked by other members within Friends and Neighbours to go to different schools, churches and universities and tell people who want to help the many different ways that they can. They use their platforms to run meetings and presentations that are designed to educate. There is no official membership ritual to be a part of Friends and Neighbours, no fee and no tests. The organization stands open for those who simply want to be a part of doing the right thing.

“One of the biggest things we’re trying to do is to educate — especially the youth,” said Bradovka. “When this kind of history has been swept under the rug for so long, people feel bad for not knowing about it. When in reality, they were never intended to know.” Bradovka said that now is the time to work together.

“We’re not trying to rush or move things too quickly,” said Parker. “But we want to get people on board who either don’t know anything at all about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission yet, or those that have heard about it but don’t know what steps to take next.”

Parker said that much of their presentations are about showing how things connect and how easy it is to make things happen when the ball gets rolling. Parker and Bradovka want to see other Friends and Neighbours organizations start up in other cities and communities across Canada.

Having only been with the organization for a few months, Bradovka said that she has already learned a lot.

“I’ve learned that people care more than they don’t,” she said. “It’s a matter of being out there to connect with them. When you have a passion that’s as contagious as ours it’s kind of hard to ignore and it definitely is infectious. People are inspired by it and it makes them want to go out and do something.”

Friends and Neighbours is partnered with the Woodland Cultural Centre for its “Save the Evidence” campaign. The centre is raising money to restore the Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School.

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