The Mason family and many others are mourning the loss of Dr. Raymond Mason after he passed away on Sunday.
Kyle Mason is the son of the late Dr. Raymond Mason, a voice and advocate for survivors of residential schools not only in Manitoba, but across Canada. Raymond had been battling cystic fibrosis for a few years.
Kyle's Early Memories of His Dad
"My dad's legacy is hard to keep short because he had such a varied life," says Kyle. "Some parts are really tragic and some parts really exciting. Starting off by being forcibly abducted as a 6-year-old child and forced into a residential institution."
For 12 years Raymond survived through trauma and abuse in a Manitoba residential 'school.'
"After aging out he moved to Winnipeg and he struggled hard. He didn't know what life was supposed to be like. After a couple of years, he entered into the military, the air force because it was regimented. He also was a champion boxer and apparently he also spend some time briefly being the goalie of the Brandon Wheat Kings in his youth, but he got hit in the face and became puck shy."
Raymond lost a few of his front teeth from the puck. Kyle fondly remembers his father taking his front teeth in and out to playfully startle the neighbourhood kids, making them laugh.
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"He kind of had part one and part two of his life. Part one is when he was deeply impacted and traumatized by being forced into the residential institutions. He was not a happy man and struggled with alcohol, anger."
Kyle shares that his father wasn't around for much of his childhood, and the two had a strained relationship when Kyle was young.
"It wasn't until my early 20s and I was going to school, through counselling and some people in my life I got challenged on the idea of undeserved grace. At the time I was angry at my father because I didn't understand what he had been through. But I felt God the Creator reminding me of undeserved grace. I chose to offer grace to my father and build a relationship with him."
After going through years of counselling and therapy, Dr. Mason started what Kyle calls the second half of his life.
"He started his decades-long passion to fight for justice and recognition for school survivors and the children that didn't make it out of these institutions. I remember him telling me that he was sitting there in the House of Commons when the Prime Minister of the day issued a formal apology. He took about 10 seconds to say, 'Okay, this is a good step.'"
Dr. Mason spent the last 15 years working toward getting justice for all the people that were left out of that agreement and apology.
"He did this up until the day, Thursday, he was making phone calls, advocating. Then Thursday night, in the middle of the night is when things turned. It was a big passion for him. He spent 40 years fighting for justice and never got paid a dime."
In October, Raymond received an honourary doctorate of law from Queen's University for his work advocating for other survivors. This included his involvement in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement and the Federal Indian Day School class action.
Raymond also had the honour of having his memoir, Spirit of the Grassroots People, put on display in the Manitoba Museum.
His Last Days
Dr. Mason was a big fan of hockey and the Winnipeg Jets.
"Knowing and seeing things starting to worsen, I was speaking with Mr. Chipman with the Winnipeg Jets. He asked about my father. He offered tickets for me, him, and my eight-year-old son to go to a game. A few weeks ago we went to a game and it was a wonderful evening where three generations of Mason men got to have fun. It's a memory my son and I will treasure for a long time."
Dr. Mason's health took a turn for the worse last Thursday when the family transported him to a local hospital, the Percy E Moore Hospital in Peguis First Nation, in the palliative care unit.
"On Friday evening, he and I, along with his wife, watched the Jets game," says Kyle. "We watched the Jets lose to the Boston Bruins and even though they lost we enjoyed the game and had a lovely evening together. I'd like to thank the staff for taking excellent care of him the last few days."
There will be a public wake service and private ceremony for family in the days to come, although no date has been set.