Kairos Kitchi Blanket Exercise honours Indigenous community

East Lynn Park event featured stories, letter-reading and role-playing

As dozens of blankets were laid out at East Lynn Park, participants and witnesses slowly gathered to watch the Kairos Kitchi Blanket Exercise take place.

The event came just in time to mark the 10-year anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People.

Originally developed over 20 years ago, the exercise was created to engage ordinary Canadians “on an emotional and intellectual level, as the Blanket Exercise effectively educates and increases empathy” for participants, according to the organization’s website.

It was held to teach Canadians what the Indigenous person experienced, whether they are in the roles of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, as the European settlers came to Canada.

MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith and MPP Arthur Potts, both representing Beaches-East York, and Ward 32 councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon hosted the Sept. 13 event.

During the exercise, dozens of blankets were laid out to represent “the land” of the Indigenous people. Some participants read excerpts from letters written by Indigenous people, while others played the role of the European colonizers. Stories were also told to illustrate what Indigenous people were forced to deal with and the lasting effects of colonization by European settlers.

In June, a similar kind of exercise was held at Parliament Hall to build reconciliation and commemorate the importance of Indigenous history as Canada turned 150.

“The point of this exercise and bringing Kairos to East Lynn Park is to raise awareness and ensure that in raising awareness we can better hold this government and future government to account,” Erskine-Smith said.

McMahon takes about how we can begin rebuilding a relationship with the Indigenous community and the significance of moving forward.

“As chair of parks and environment, I have asked the city to report back on Indigenous places to be make in all our parks,” she said. “I’d like that to be part of any renovation to our parks. We need to engage with the Indigenous community.”