TRUTH & RECONCILIATION
Posted by strattof on February 16, 2017
It’s been more than a year since the release of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The result of a six-year study of the history and legacy of Indian residential schools, the report documents the harsh truth about Canada’s residential school system:
- More than 150,000 children attended the schools, many of them forcibly removed from their families.
- Mental, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse was rife.
- Food was often insufficient and of poor quality; and many schools were poorly maintained and overcrowded.
- At least 6,000 children died at the schools from malnutrition, disease, and abuse.
- The schools were part of the Canadian government’s policy of cultural genocide toward Indigenous peoples.
The TRC report also includes 94 calls to action. A year later, how much progress has been made toward implementing these recommendations?
MORE BROKEN PROMISES
In the run-up to the 2015 federal election, the Trudeau Liberals promised to implement all 94 TRC calls to action. How well is Prime Minister Trudeau doing?
TRC Recommendation #1: “Commit to reducing the number of Aboriginal children in care.”
2007: The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations filed a human rights complaint against the federal government, alleging that Canada is racially discriminating against First Nations children by providing less child welfare funding on reserves.
2007 – 2015: Through litigation tactics and appointments, the Harper government attempted to derail the case.
2016: The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled that the Canadian government is racially discriminating against First Nations children and ordered it to stop immediately.
2016: The Trudeau government increased funding for child welfare on reserves, but the Human Rights Tribunal found there were still sizeable funding discrepancies and issued compliance orders.
TRC Recommendation # 8: “Eliminate the discrepancy in federal education funding for First Nations children being educated on reserves and those First Nations children being educated off reserves.”
According to a December 2016 report by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the federal government still spends $6,500 – $9,500 less per student at schools on reserves than the provinces spend on the education of children.
Treaty Promises: A key demand of many First Nations when signing treaties was for education. Under Treaty 4, signed in 1874 and covering all of southern Saskatchewan, including Regina, the federal government promised “to maintain a school on the reserve, allotted to each band, as soon as they settle on said reserve.” Instead the government implemented the genocidal residential school system.
UN DECLARATION ON THE RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
TRC Recommendation #43: “Fully adopt and comply with the principles, norms, and standards of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for reconciliation.”
The Declaration recognizes the individual and collective rights of Indigenous peoples, including the right ●to health, education, and employment ●to freedom from discrimination ●to cultural identity and self-determination ●and to withhold consent from proposed projects that may affect their land and resources—the right of “free, prior, and informed consent” to development.
In May 2016, Canada formally adopted the Declaration, with the Trudeau government committing to fully implement it in the near future. By July, however, the government was backtracking and declaring the adoption of the Declaration as Canadian law “unworkable.” The main sticking point was the “free, prior, and informed consent” requirement.
Since then, the Trudeau government has, largely without “free, prior, and informed consent,” approved a number of developments that will affect Indigenous land and resources:
- The Site C Dam in northern BC
- The Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline, from Edmonton to Burnaby
- The Enbridge Line 3 pipeline, from Edmonton to Superior Wisconsin, passing just south of Regina
RECONCILIATION: SORRY ISN’T ENOUGH
- 2008: Prime Minister Harper apologized for the federal govern-ment’s residential school program. Nothing else happened.
- 2015: Soon-to-be Prime Minister Trudeau promised to implement the TRC’s 94 calls to action. Little has happened.
- 2017: The 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation would be a really good time to implement all 94 calls to action, a first step toward redressing the legacy of residential schools and advancing the process of reconciliation. Otherwise there will be nothing to celebrate.
- Tell Prime Minister Trudeau that, as part of the Canada 150 celebrations, you want his government to implement all 94 of the TRC calls to action, including the right to “free, prior, and informed consent” to development on Indigenous land: email@example.com or 613-995-0253.
- Send the same message to the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Carolyn Bennett: firstname.lastname@example.org or 613-995-9666.
- Read the TRC report. A one-volume summary is available for about $22. The report is also available online: http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/index.php?p=890
- Watch The Secret Path, by Gord Downie and Jeff Lemire: http://www.cbc.ca/beta/arts/secretpath/gord-downie-s-secret-path-airs-on-cbc-october-23-1.3802197
- Learn about the Kairos Blanket Exercise: http://kairosblanketexercise.org/