The verb “reconcile” is a portent word. In my copy of The Concise Oxford Dictionary there are five definitions for this verb and when taken all together, they prescribe a course of action:

  1. make friendly after estrangement
  2. purify by special service after profanation or desecration
  3. make acquiescent or contentedly submissive
  4. heal, settle (quarrel, etc.)
  5. harmonize, make compatible, show compatibility of by argument or in practice

As is the case everywhere in our country, after too many years of  horrifying  treatment forced upon our sisters and brothers in First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities, those of us outside these circles are being called to reconcile, to heal sorely strained relations.  In the process, due to our differing world views, we must re-examine our own assumptions about most everything in life.

Here at the DSC we are mandated to give care: care to the animals we take in and care to the land on which our organization sits.  The ongoing welfare of the animals and the land is our primary concern and given this fact, we can never stop thinking about their future.

Indigenous philosophies are all about the future as well.  They charge us to plan for seven generations down the road.  Seven generations.  A long term approach like this one reminds us that we are mere links in a chain that existed long before we arrived and that will carry on long after we are gone.  Instead of owning the land and owning the animals, indigenous communities remind us that we are but their caretakers.  Whatever we do today will echo over decades to come.

In daily life, this philosophical long view is too often ignored.  Demands of the present can seem so urgent regardless of their impact.  To break these habits, we have to remind ourselves on a daily basis that we hold the future in our hands.  Indigenous teachings are particularly helpful in this regard and that is why, earlier this summer, we posted the following statement in our Education Centre.  As well, it is read now at the beginning of our Board Meetings:

We acknowledge that we are conducting this meeting on the current treaty land of the Mississaugas of the New Credit and ancestral territory of First Nations, Inuit and Metis.

We thank them for the use of this land and we are committed to performing our tasks in the best interest of the land, the wildlife that resides on this land, as well as The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada.

These, of course, are but first steps on the road to reconciliation.  They are a beginning, though, and if there is one thing we have learned over the years at the DSC, it is that small steps accumulate.  Healing can take place.

Sandra Pady, Founder




The land where the DSC is located was first settled by Europeans in the 1840’s.  By mid 1860 the original log cabin was replaced by the construction of a lovely stone house that is the centrepiece to this day among the barns, sheds and shelters that dot our 200 acres.

The house is large, 4500 square feet. One half is a residence while the other is now the location of offices and meeting rooms.  All of the day to day administration of the Sanctuary goes on within its walls.  The house serves us well but over the past century and a half its exterior has been pounded by storms and frost. As a result, countless small openings have developed where the roof meets the walls.  These gaps are particularly attractive to animal and insect life. Mice, snakes, birds, raccoons, chipmunks, squirrels, cluster flies: all have found ways to get inside.  There is never an end to the little holes which have to be plugged.

Since they began working in the house,  staff members  have become accustomed to the sudden appearances  of scurrying creatures in the rooms, racing along the floors, hoping not to be seen.  Given that history, people were not  surprised when, earlier this year, bees made their appearance around desks and computers. At first there were only a few bees buzzing around  but when the numbers increased we  realized that something had to be done. Investigations began and up in the attic it was discovered that a very large beehive had evolved  over an unknown period of time.  A beekeeper was called.  Subsequently, thousands of bees were corralled and transported to a more appropriate location. Afterwards, two hundred pounds (!) of honey were removed from the hive.  Problem solved – or so we thought.

In late August, it developed that repairs  had to be done to the house’s old chimneys.  Craftsmen were called but when they arrived to begin work they discovered yet another beehive located inside one of the flues.  Once again, the beekeeper’s help was sought and this time 60,000 (!) bees were moved to another site.  100 pounds of honey were taken out in turn.

These bee ‘excavations’ have been costly and we have come to recognize the obvious, which is that the bees find in our fields much of what they need for making their honey.  Next spring we will install several boxes for beehives at the edge of the fields – but far from visitors, of course.

At this moment, the old house appears to be free from little, unwelcome residents.  However,  colder weather is on the way and so it goes without saying that from inside the walls sounds of scurrying feet and buzzing insects soon will be heard.  Over the course of the winter we expect that sundry creatures will have to be moved from the house; at this point, though, we don’t expect them to be bees.

In our crowded world, accommodation is the order of the day.

Sandra Pady,  Founder