Justice Murray Sinclair’s challenge for Canada as it seeks reconciliation

Good interview with Justice Sinclair. My two highlights:

“We didn’t write this report for this government,” he said. “We wrote this report for all governments including this government. We expect there will be other opportunities to talk with people when governments change, and governments always change.”

….Many of the people who come to Canada today are from developing nations that were themselves at one time oppressed by colonial powers. “They will be able to say, if we let them, ‘I had nothing to do with that, so therefore I don’t need to worry about it,’” he said. “But on the other hand, everyone coming here has a responsibility to the future.”

That is one reason why the commission wants the residential school experience to be incorporated into school curricula, into citizenship guides, into law and journalism programs, into the very fabric of national life.

And Mr. Sinclair points out that Canada’s robust immigration policies may mean that visible minorities could be a majority in 50 years’ time. Those who see Canada as a nation founded by French and English settlers and inhabited by their descendants may one day know what it’s like to struggle to preserve one’s culture and heritage.

“You are going to be the aboriginal people of the future,” he predicted. “So let’s talk about how you are treating aboriginal people today.”

Justice Murray Sinclair’s challenge for Canada as it seeks reconciliation – The Globe and Mail.

Doug Saunders’ take:

The period of what we now call cultural genocide lasted just a century, though its consequences could continue much longer if we do not intervene to reverse the toll of this period.

In many ways, the artifacts of this system continue to function. We still have the forced collectivization of reserves, and large-scale non-ownership of aboriginal land. We are still perhaps the only country in the world with federal government offices whose function it is – under the “status Indian” policy – to determine racial purity. We still have terrible schools, staffed with ill-equipped teachers and given pathetic levels of funding, on reserves.

Compared with other “cultural genocide” events, the number of people affected is small: Aboriginal peoples are 4.3 per cent of the Canadian population: 1.5 million people, only half of whom live on reserves. To strike a new settlement with these populations as recommended in the commission’s report (we have already done so, to a large extent, with the Inuit) would not, then, be an overwhelming challenge.

This newly named crime may be a source of national shame, but it does not have to define Canada: Another century of progress and co-operative relations could transform it from a current event into a piece of history. We have a chance, in the aftermath of this report, to begin a less shameful era of Canadian and indigenous history.

Residential schools, reserves and Canada’s crime against humanity – The Globe and Mail.

Lastly, John Ralston Saul:

The Commission’s report is very clear about how reconciliation works – respectful relationships, restoring trust, reparations, concrete actions leading to societal change. To put it bluntly, reconciliation without restitution would be meaningless. It is not so difficult to work out what restitution means. Part of it is laid out in this report. Above all, it is not about winners or losers. If indigenous peoples have more and do better, we will all do better.

In 1996, Georges Erasmus and his fellow commissioners wrote, “Canada is a test case for a grand notion – the notion that dissimilar peoples can share lands, resources, power and dreams while respecting and sustaining their differences. The story of Canada is the story of many such peoples, trying and failing and trying again, to live together in peace and harmony. But there cannot be peace or harmony unless there is justice.”

Since then, indigenous peoples have more than played their part – leading the way with constructive arguments, developing an ever larger new leadership, re-establishing their cultures, winning repeatedly at the Supreme Court. The rest of us have done very little.

And the Canadian people – you and I – have not taken the stand we need to take. We have not given that fundamental instruction – the instruction of the ethical, purposeful voting citizen. Justice Sinclair and his colleagues have shown us what to do. We are the only barrier to action being taken.

Truth and Reconciliation is Canada’s last chance to get it right