Want to be an ally for Indigenous people? Here's how you can help

Ever since the shocking news out of Kamloops, B.C., several days ago, Canadians have been doing some soul-searching -- wondering how they can help their Indigenous neighbours towards healing and change.

Fran Morrison has been an ally to First Nations people her whole life.

For years, Morrison has been going to powwows and other events in Indigenous communities.

When she heard of the horrific discovery of the remains of 215 children near the Kamloops Residential School, she decided to attend a vigil Sunday evening on the Shubenacadie First Nation.

"Somebody said to me before I went, 'Aren't you nervous about going there?' and I said 'why would I be nervous?' 'Well, you're probably going to be the only white person there,' and I looked at them and I said, 'that's the kind of thinking that we have to stop.'"

Kelly Serbu is a Halifax-based lawyer whose work with residential school survivors -- along with his Metis heritage -- has given him a unique perspective on this.

"I adjudicated claims in Indian residential schools across the country for a decade," Serbu said.

He says plain and simply, the time to wake up is now.

"Silence is no longer an option, and it should never be an option," Serbu said. "If people hear derogatory comments made about Indigenous people, or stereotypical comments about Indigenous culture, speak up. And let people know that that's not acceptable anymore."

Samanta Krishnapillai is founder of the On Canada Project, an organization that's started a nation-wide initiative called "Settlers Take Action."

"We, as non-Indigenous people who live on this land, do have a responsibility for reconciliation," says Krishnapillai.

She says there are four steps her group is calling on people to take.

"Learn the land, do the research, understand what truth and reconciliation is, and connect with your elected officials and demand better," said Krishnapillai.

Some are wondering whether Kamloops will be a wake up call we'll look back upon years from now -- or whether the mistakes of the past will wind up being repeated?

"The time for change is now, but it was before now, quite frankly," Serbu said. "It's not enough to show outrage and shock and dismay and then, you know, not do anything a month or two months later. I think the foot has to stay on the gas pedal, and we have to right the wrongs of the past."

Serbu says for anyone still unsure on how exactly to be an ally, he suggests at the very least writing their MLA or other politicians and to their church.

If they have kids, try to educate them or make a donation to one of the several groups that helps residential school survivors.