On Wednesday last, my ECMP class was cancelled for the express purpose of attending Justice Murray Sinclair‘s lecture on the legacy of Residential Schools (recording here). That idea is outside the scope of your average university professor – what could be more important than their lecture? – and it’s one of the reasons I’m taking my Education degree at UR: as a faculty, it cares about reconciliation.
The Justice was an excellent speaker. He was warm, funny, clear, concise, and meaningful – all the things I hoped for. However, while I went to the lecture to hear him speak, I left thinking about how he listened. As a justice and as the head of the TRC he has spent a great deal of his professional life listening to people, and does a spectacular job.
Justice Sinclair spoke for less than an hour. He was preceded by three layers of introductions, and followed by question-speeches from the audience. Throughout the evening, he was patient, conscientious, attentive, and never once interrupted – no matter how meandering a question. He had an air of empathy, he made each speaker feel welcome, and he ensured each knew how much their individual stories mattered.
So often, when we try to advocate, we speak for a person; what we need to do is get out of the way and let them speak for themselves. Justice Sinclair is an exemplar of allowing others to speak, and letting their voices be heard. One day, I hope to be able to listen as carefully, and with as much empathy, to my students.