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

TRC Recommendation for a Residential Schools Monument

Jen Gerson of the National Post makes a constructive suggestion: situate the Monument for Residential School Victims in the location planned for the Monument for Victims of Communism.

Hard to argue with the logic. Will be interesting to see if anyone picks up on it:

The report calls on provincial and federal governments to install highly visible monuments in Ottawa and each provincial capital. The logistics of this are, inevitably, going to be fraught. However, in the grander scheme of things, at least one monument seems appropriate. In the meantime, there’s still space between the Supreme Court of Canada and the National Library in Ottawa. Catch it before it’s used to commemorate the victims of a political ideology that has never been enacted in this country.

Five of the best recommendations from the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, and five that will be problematic

Teachings about aboriginals ‘simply wrong’, says Murray Sinclair

Valid and needed points:

But Sinclair emphasized that one of the most important messages that will come from the report is that the consequences of the school system are far more wide-reaching than many realize.

“This is not an aboriginal problem,” he said. “This is a Canadian problem. Because at the same time that aboriginal people were being demeaned in the schools and their culture and language were being taken away from them and they were being told that they were inferior, they were pagans, that they were heathens and savages and that they were unworthy of being respected — that very same message was being given to the non-aboriginal children in the public schools as well.”

As a result, he said, many generations of non-aboriginal Canadians have had their perceptions of aboriginal people “tainted.”

“They need to know that this history includes them,” Sinclair said of Canadians.

He said many people have told the commission they did not know their country had set up a school system that treated aboriginal children so poorly.

Sinclair said the commission decided during its work that it needed to be “gentle” with Canadians as they learned of their country’s past.

“We needed to be sure that people were brought to the table of knowledge about this in a way that didn’t scare them, didn’t push them away, didn’t make them feel ashamed or guilty or that they were to blame.

“But they needed to see that they were victims, too, of this history.”

In their report, Sinclair and his co-commissioners, former journalist Marie Wilson and Alberta Chief Willie Littlechild, will make recommendations to federal and provincial governments. It’s clear one of them will be to ensure schools teach children about the residential schools and indigenous culture.

“By including teaching around residential schools in Canadian curriculum,” said Sinclair, “we are not only opening the door to having aboriginal people become part of the circle, we are also opening the eyes of Canadians to the fact that they have been educated in the public schools about aboriginals historically, and even today, in (a way) that is simply wrong and doesn’t contain accurate information.”

…“The message for all Canadians is it’s important for us to understand that it’s now time for us to live up to the reputation that we think we had, that we thought we had — and we don’t have,” he said.

“It’s important for us to understand that we have deluded ourselves as a country to a certain extent because we have not educated ourselves about this experience.”

Teachings about aboriginals ‘simply wrong’, says Murray Sinclair.