October 04, 2022

Article at respectnews.ca

Two aspects of reconciliation

The bookkeeper for one of our advertising customers called us last week. It seemed they had paid their bill twice, and wanted us to double-check our books to see if that was the case. It was, and we refunded their overpayment.

The process of verifying accounts is called reconciling: making sure the entries match. It’s what we all do when we balance our household cheque books.

“Reconciliation” is also used to describe two parties—friends, business partners, spouses—who may have split up over their differences but found a way to get together again.

When we think of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, we may be referring to the latter definition. Our lives and our cultures are distinct and separate, and reconciliation is the process of bringing us together in a new relationship.

But we should consider the other definition first. Our different versions of history do not match, and they need to be reconciled. The facts, just like the numbers in a financial accounts, have to add up.

That was the work of the 2008 – 2014 Truth and Reconciliation Commission headed by then-Justice Murray Sinclair. The Commission sought out the truth about Indian Residential Schools through documents and testimony. It assembled a picture of what happened, what are the consequences, and who is responsible. It shocked Canadians with an undeniable truth about residential schools policy and its ongoing effects on survivors and their descendants.

The reconciliation phase is ongoing. Canada has to come to terms with its past, certainly; but we also have to address the present and the future.

The Commission did not issue “recommendations,” as such commissions usually do. Sinclair and the other commissioners knew too well of similar efforts whose recommendations were given a place of honour on a dusty shelf in a dark storage room, never to be read again—much less acted upon.

The TRC instead issued 94 Calls To Action: a list of steps that Canada must take to recognize the truth of the residential school system and begin the process of repairing the terrible damage.

It has been the survivors’ burden to carry their truth and finally bring it to the light. It now rests with Canadians to reconcile this truth against our own accounts; to question our own versions of history and dismantle our defensive armour of good intentions, excuses, and coverups.

And it’s not our place dictate the terms. “Discovery,” dominion, colonization, and settlement were the creations of Europeans and Canadians, and are at the root of efforts to assimilate or eradicate native populations. We don’t get to now define what reconciliation will look like.

Of the 94 Calls To Action, 19 have not been acted upon; 30 are in progress with proposed projects; 32 are in progress with projects already underway; and just 13 are considered complete (CBC News “Beyond 94” website, as of July 2022).

But it’s not all about the scorecard. When the 94 Calls To Action are complete, the hope is that we will have come to terms with our history. If so, we can then try to reconcile our peoples in a mutually respectful and beneficial relationship.