On Canada Project Opinion: A settler's guide to Truth and Reconciliation

Why has Canada only completed 13 of the 94 calls to action since 2015?

A Settler's Guide to Truth and Reconciliation

It's almost been over two years since 215 children were recovered in a mass grave outside of Kamloops, B.C.

On May 28, 2021, the Tk'emlups te Secwépemc people recovered the remains of 215 children, some as young as three years old, outside of Kamloops, B.C.

The fourth wave of COVID-19 and the standstill nature of the pandemic forced Canadians to pay attention to an issue Indigenous communities have been telling us about for years: the truth about residential 'schools.'

As these hundreds (now thousands) of children were recovered in Kamloops, we collectively became aware that our so-called 'civilized' country took children away from their families, communities and cultures to "kill the Indian in the child".

A Settler's Guide to Truth and Reconciliation
A Settler's Guide to Truth and Reconciliation

So what exactly is the Truth and Reconciliation Report?

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was formed as a means of reckoning with the devastating legacy of residential 'schools.' From 2007- 2015, the TRC carried out extensive research, including hearing from residential 'school' survivors, their families, community members, former staff and others.

This Indigenous-led effort documented the experiences of over 6,500+ residential 'school' survivors and resulted in the Canadian government handing over 5 million records, which included claims of sexual and physical assault.

The full report, published in 2015, includes stories from people with lived experience and 94 'Calls to Action' to continue reconciliation efforts with Indigenous Peoples.

The government of Canada accepted this report via Prime Minster Trudeau in 2015.

94 Calls to Action

The TRC Report shared the devastation and violence experienced by Indigenous folk and gave the government a cheatsheet to reconciliation and demanded 94 Calls to Action.

When our government accepted the TRC report in 2015, there was an official acknowledgement of the violence Canada committed against Indigenous Peoples.

Yet, from 2015–2020 only 10 of the 94 Calls to Action were enacted.

In 2021, an additional three calls to action were implemented within record time following the public outcry at the discovery of unmarked graves containing the remains of Indigenous children who were part of Canada's residential 'school' system.

The speed at which the calls to action were implemented begs the question: if they are that easy to do, why haven't we done them already?

A Settler's Guide to Truth and Reconciliation
A Settler's Guide to Truth and Reconciliation

At this rate it will take 42 years to complete all the Calls to Action

A Settler's Guide to Truth and Reconciliation
A Settler's Guide to Truth and Reconciliation

No seriously, The Yellowhead Institute, based at Toronto Metropolitan University actually said it will take 42 years, or until 2065, to complete all the calls to action at this rate.

"We've been tracking the calls to action for quite a few years now and continue to be shocked by the glacial pace of Canada's progress," wrote Eva Jewell and Ian Mosby, who edited the status update report released by the group.

Looking ahead at Truth and Reconciliation in Canada

“If we were in a chapter of a book on reconciliation– we are, today, on the first sentence of that book.”AFN National Chief RoseAnne Archibald

The last residential 'school' may have closed in 1996, but today in Canada, Indigenous human rights, sovereignty and treaty rights are being violated. We cannot allow ourselves to have Indigenous Fatigue, because the violence and oppression against Indigenous Peoples has not stopped.

If we are not actively standing in solidarity with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, then we, as white and non-Indigenous POC Canadians, are complicit in Canada's colonial violence against Indigenous Peoples, which makes us no better than the colonizers of the past who thought residential 'schools' were acceptable.

It's time to step up and show up

As treaty partners, we are responsible for enacting these 94 Calls to Action in our own lives and demanding that our leaders enact all 94 Calls to Action. Not to mention that Truth and Reconciliation involves so much more than just these calls to action, including the MMIWG 231 Calls to Justice and addressing the climate crisis, which disproportionately affects Indigenous peoples.

We need to remember the overwhelming and collective sense of grief that we, as a nation, felt when the first bodies were recovered in Kamloops, B.C. two years ago.

Remember the commitments we made in solidarity with Indigenous folks. Remember that grief and commitment are just as important now as they were then because nothing has changed.

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