How would one define or try to understand social justice?
This is a very broad and complex matter that involves everyone from infant to adult to grandparents and the community in general. Not an easy conversation to engage in, but with a collective attitude we can come up with ways of finding a path in ensuring social justice is front and centre in our daily dealings. Let’s see if we can find some common ground…
There was a time when hard times hit that affected the whole settlement or community, and people pulled together in comforting or supporting the directly-impacted family and extended family through visits, food, and just being there for them. There is a time and a place for many words to be spoken and there are other times when no words have the same effect around the circumstance.
From the days of nomadic existence to the supposed organized community we have learned and adapted to some very dramatic changes. Through all of these changes, the dynamics of the family structure has been impacted drastically. A significant impact happened as a result of residential schools across this country. The trauma that has crippled many has been passed down from one generation to the next and hopefully with all the support mechanisms and covered under the umbrella of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, we can move forward in healing and more importantly to reconcile with oneself.
I mentioned the changes in the family unit and this is critical in ensuring best practices are implemented through programs, services and support/follow-up in the journey of reconciliation. Many valuable concrete lessons can be learned through the knowledge of early existence of Indigenous peoples across the North. They showed respect, caring, awareness, so ready to help and so on.
Today’s society is so different in almost every way. We want to help, but what’s in it for me? When are you going to pay back? Why should I get involved?
We need to come out of me, me and me, and truly become engaged in support of others. I think I understand how and where some of us have come from and it is very hard to let go and to trust again. So where does this term of social justice come into the picture?
We’ve heard many times how everything is relative or connected and social justice is the umbrella that connects. People need to know they have the right to all basic needs, including food, shelter and clothing. If none of these basics are met, then something is wrong with our social structure, our social institutions, our social obligations to our youth, elders and shut-ins. I believe the Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit Principles are the foundation of social justice; respecting others, relationships and caring for people; fostering good spirits by being open, welcoming and inclusive; serving and providing for family and community; decision making through consensus; development of skills through practice, effort and action; working together for a common cause; being innovative and resourceful and respect and care for the land, animals and the environment.
There is a thread of connection and absolute inclusiveness throughout the eight principles outlined.