Truth and Reconciliation of Canada Review
Historically, Canada has appeared on several occasions for disrespecting the culture and traditions of its indigenous people. Among the many native communities whose tradition has been overlooked are the Aboriginal people as set forward by (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2015). Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRCC) presents the final report on the six-year investigation on the abuse of Aboriginal children in the residential school system. Despite the commission’s efforts to bring into light the facts that could lead to reconciliation, it is still debatable whether it was able to meet its mandate. As such; this review examines how TRCC has achieved its mandate and describe the range of impacts of the Indian Residential Schools with references with the book. The review will also cover two of 94 Calls to Action and explore how they are being executed or how they can be carried out.
Final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada sets forth the residential schools’ system history and legacy and the Commission’s recommendations that should be implemented to address the issue arising from the said school system. As per the reports of this book, the history of the Canadian residential schools have been overlooked in Canadian history. The book unravels the facts in relation to the 6-year commission mandate. In doing so, the book uses the testimonies from the Survivors to document the painful experiences of the residential school system that forced learners in the educational institutions where they were subjected to untold suffering. For example, the students were required to do away with their clothing, and instead adopt the wear suggested by the school, they were disallowed to speak their native language, and they were provided with inadequate food, accommodated in poor housing facilities, subjected to emotional, psychological and physical discomfort and forced to work when they should have been studying.
The above mistreatment went hand in hand with harsh punishment as well as sexual abuse. The book also highlights how the increased rates of the abuse of alcohol and drugs were rampant when the Aboriginal children were forcefully separated from their families. Thirdly, the book has documented the fast decline of the indigenous language even in the wake when the Survivors and other people are working hard to maintain their governance, culture, and traditions. To revive the lost culture of the indigenous people and arrive at reconciliation; the book recommends 94 calls to action that should be implemented by the government, non-Aboriginal Canadians, public institutions and churches. The residential Canadian school system acts amount to cultural genocide, and this can be corrected by adhering to the recommendations and 94 calls to action offered by TRCC.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Mandate
TRCC was created in 2008 under the conditions of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. Upon the establishment of TRC, the commission was to undertake a number of activities. Firstly, to tell the truth to the Canadians about the complicated ongoing history of the church-operated residential schools. The commission was to reveal the truth by documenting the collective and individual wrongs committed against the Aboriginal people. The commission’s report was also to honor the courage and resilience of the communities, families and former students in withstanding the abuse of the educational system. Secondly, the TRCC was to offer guidance and inspiration in the process of telling the truth to ensure healing and reconciliation of Aboriginal people with the government, churches, non-Canadian Aboriginals and Canadians at large. In the process of reconciliation, the commission’s goal was to realize respect, mutual understanding, and inclusivity of all the Canadian citizens.Apart from meeting the above mandates, the commission had the specific objectives of holding seven National Events. The commission was to collect statements and documents about residential school history and legacy. TRCC was to finance the truth and reconciliation activities at the grass root level. Thirdly, the commission was given the responsibility of suggesting commemoration initiatives to the government for financing. Forth, the commission was supposed to establish a research center that will be used for the permanent housing of the commission’s documents and records in the efforts to create a long-lasting legacy of the commission’s work. Finally, TRCC was mandated to present a report with the recommendations on the best way to realize reconciliation.
Meeting the TRCC Mandate and the Impacts of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement
To a certain degree, TRCC met its mandate as illustrated by its activities during the six years’ work. The commission held events in all parts of Canada, hence fulfilling the mandate of holding seven national events. For example, the book reveals that between 2010 and 2014, 155, 000 visits were registered in all the seven National events and 9,000 Survivors of residential schools had already been registered to attend these events as well many other undocumented individuals (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2015, p. 23). The commission built public interest by organizing regional events in Whitehorse and Victoria. Besides, the commission also held a 238-day local hearing in seventy communities in Canada. TRCC eased the interaction with the respondents by sponsoring the town halls where the interviewee could offer their testimonies. The commission heavily encouraged the members of the public to share their views as well as reveal the measures they were undertaking to realize the process of reconciliation.
As stated earlier, one of the mandates of the commission was to gather information about residential school history and legacy. The commission executed this mandate appropriately because before it was established, very little was known about those who had been affected by the residential school system. For example, the former students experience in residential schools was missing from the Canadian’s historical records. The commission offered every person a chance who was at one point a participant of the residential school system to share their experiences. For example, TRCC obtained approximately 6,750 records and statements from the residential school Survivors, their family members and other people who were willing to speak about the experiences in the residential school systems including its history and legacy.
The commission gathered the records and statements through Sharing Circles and public Sharing Panels at Community, Regional and National Events as well as during the Commission hearings. TRCC also collected information through secret conversations and from the correctional institutions. For example, in the correctional facilities of Yellowknife, Ontario, Kenora and Northwest Territories, the commission was able to unravel the experience of the Aboriginal people in the residential school system that led to the high incarceration rates. It was established that the school environment had contributed to the personal struggles that were behind the imprisonment of many Aboriginal people. The interviewing of the residential school system victims went alongside with the help of the professional therapists, cultural support experts and health-support workers to offer counseling or any other support whenever needed. The commission decided to include the moral support showed its agitation in ensuring it solicited all the required information as well as help the victims to understand the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation.The commission was obliged to gather all the information about the residential school experience. As a result, it found it appropriate to collect statements and records from the former, staff of the residential schools. For example, with the help of the Settlement Agreement and churches, the commission was able to conduct over ninety interviews with the former staff members and their students. Besides, the commission also invited the former staffs to share their experiences during the commission’s Community Hearings, Regional and National Events. The commission relied on the terms of the Settlement Agreement to request the churches and the federal government to avail the statements and records in their possession to them. Even though the churches obliged, the federal government was reluctant to cooperate, and it called for the intervention of the court before the documents in the hands of the government were handed to the commission (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2015, p. 27). The information collected from the former residential schools’ staff, their children churches and federal government formed a vital contribution to the collection of records and statements about the history and legacy of the residential schools. The inclusion of all stakeholders involved in the residential school in the gathering of the statements and testimonies made sure all the important information would be included in the commission’s report.
TRCC was mandated to influence all the Canadians irrespective of the social class to familiarize themselves with the residential schools’ legacy and be part of the reconciliation efforts. To achieve the above, the commission employed the education outreach program to create awareness to the public about residential schools legacy and encourage them to participate in its public activities and events. For example, the Canadians participated in over 900 separate events including the special events organized by TRC to engage the Aboriginal people, the Survivors, faith communities, women, youth, new Canadians and philanthropic community. The commission also called upon the international community through several university law faculties — International Center for Transitional Justice and the United Nations to participate in sharing the information.
In meeting the commemoration and community events financing, the Settlement Agreement played a major role by providing $20 million to execute the commemoration initiatives (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2015, p. 33). The remembrance strategies were meant to honor, memorize, educate and act a sign of paying tribute to the former victims of the residential school system, their families as well as their communities. The commission speeded up the reconciliation process by funding the community projects that were geared towards healing and reconciliation efforts to explain the impacts of the residential schools on former learners, their families, and their communities. At this point, the commission did not only fulfill its mandate of creating the remembrance of the residential school system victims but also encouraged others to engage in commemorative initiatives using their resources. For instance, the Canadian Government memorialized the Indian residential schools legacy by the permeant installation of glass windows in the Center of Block Permanent Hill.
TRC established the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) to keep all the records, materials and statements received and created during its six-year term. The center was intended to be accessible by the Survivors, students and their families, communities and the general public. The commission showed its efforts to meet the establishment of the center by sending several call proposals and later selected the University of Manitoba as a suitable place to house the center. TRC met the mandate of creating the National Center of Truth and Reconciliation in summer 2015 when NCTR became the permanent store for all the materials, documents and statements collected by TRC during its term in office. The NCTR offered a provision for the inclusion of additional Indigenous collections in the future.
The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation marked a crucial step in the realization of mutual understanding and respectful dialogue. The center has been effective in fostering reconciliation and eliminating issues that hamper the healing process. The reconciliation center has created a platform where the Survivors and their communities can access their histories. Secondly, it offers a starting foundation for the researchers for an extensive study about the residential school system experiences and legacy. Thirdly, educators can access the residential school system history and share it with the new generation of learners. Fourth, the center has accelerated the process of reconciliation since the public can easily access the statements and records about residential school history. Finally, the NCTR is an ideal custodian of the residential school system legacy and history.
Two Calls to Action
The commission in its report suggested 94 Calls to Action that should be adopted to speed up the process of reconciliation as well as seek redress to residential schools legacy. Since the TRC’s recommendations, a number of the calls have been in the process of implementation while others are either in the initial plans for execution or no plans for them to be implemented. Among the many calls to actions; this review will examine only two: education and language and culture. In the exploration of the two calls identified above, the review will discuss and analyze how they are being implemented.
The education call to action was intended to empower the Aboriginal peoples to access more educational opportunities as well as reduce their incarceration rates (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2015, p. 320). The ministry of education has been very contributive in ensuring that the recommendations on the field education are implemented. For example, with collaboration with indigenous people, the ministry has revised kindergarten to grade 9 curriculum in 2016/2017 academic year. Grade 10 curriculum was executed in 2018, and grade 11 to 12 will be implemented in 2019/2020 (Ministry of Education, 2018, p. 3). In the revised and proposed curriculums, the content will capture some of the aspects related to the indigenous people history and residential school system era. The ministry has gone further by producing teachers’ guide about the Aboriginal perspective and worldviews and providing funds to encourage the professional development of teachers who are familiar with the proposed curriculum. The changes in the education sector have gone beyond post-secondary education as from 2012. For example, in 2012 teachers graduating with teacher education programs are supposed to have completed three credits on the historical context of the indigenous communities. The ministry has also been at the forefront in ensuring the funding of Aboriginal schools including teaching methods and indigenous knowledge in the classroom. In addition to the government funding of the First-Nations-run schools, the province has also financed the indigenous education in a number of ways. From the beginning of 2008/2009 school year, The Province has been paying reciprocal tuition to the community-operated schools in the event they serve learners who otherwise qualifies for non-chargeable B.C public school education. Tripartite Education Framework Agreement (TEFA) has made it easier for the B.C to share learning resources and expertise with First Nations and the government to assist in building the educational system capacity of the First Nations. The ministry of education has advanced its efforts to meet the education call to action by creating Equity in Action project to seek the best ways to boost the indigenous students’ performance and eradicate the “racism of low expectation” which is rampant among the indigenous students (Ministry of Education , 2018, p. 4). To make sure the goals of the revised education system contains the interests of the First Nations, the ministry of education always involves the indigenous people in its decisions.
Language and Culture
The language and culture call to action calls upon the Canadian government to recognize the Aboriginal rights including their language rights. As such the federal government was supposed to enact the Aboriginal Languages Act that will contain principles about the value and the fundamentality of the Aboriginal language in the Canadian culture (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2015, p. 321). The above principle was also supposed to ensure the perseveration of the indigenous people culture. The government was to ensure that Aboriginal language rights are documented by the signing of treaties. The federal government was required to fund the preservation and revitalization of the Aboriginal people language. The fourth principle provided that the preservation and strengthening of the indigenous will be best maintained if they are left in the hands of the Aboriginal people. The financing initiatives of the Aboriginal language was to include the diversity of the indigenous languages.
The Canadian Government has shown some efforts in recognizing the Aboriginal peoples’ as well as other First Nations language rights. For example, in 2016 after the release of the Truth and Reconciliation report, the federal government removed its objection to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) that was voted by the General Assembly in 2007 (Queen’s Printer for Ontario, 2019). The UNDRIP provides for the recognition of the indigenous people collective rights including cultural and ownership rights, language, identity, language, education, health, employment and any other issue that may concern them. In the journey in revitalizing and strengthening the indigenous people culture, the federal government has been funding projects aimed at preserving their language including art activities and the establishment of archaeology. The government has also supported the indigenous language symposium in the bid to identify the community language priorities and offer the necessary support needed to advance the indigenous people language. Other measures that government has initiated to restore the lost respect of the Aboriginal people’s culture include reflecting the term ‘indigenous’ in government programs and ministries, discouraging the use of names that can offend the indigenous people and revising the education system to integrate the culture and traditions of the indigenous people.
The book is a perfect illustration of how indigenous culture, tradition, and language can be rendered meaningless if there are not robust measures taken to preserve them. The book has described the emotional and physical mistreatment of the Aboriginal people of Canada. The Commission established to look at the Indigenous people issues, and more so in relation to the residential school system has met its mandate by presenting 94 Calls to Action that government should be in the forefront in making sure they are implemented.