Generous Acts of Reconciliation

Reconciliation (between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples) is taking place on many levels across Canada.

Generous Acts of Reconciliation

Reconciliation (between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples) is taking place on many levels across Canada. A quick Google search of “reconciliation efforts Canada” comes up with a variety of results, including:

  • The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (“TRC”) “94 Calls to Action” and “How you can help”
  • “150 Acts of Reconciliation for the Last 150 Days of Canada’s 150th Birthday”
  • “Three concrete examples of reconciliation in action”
  • “Resources on Reconciliation – Indigenous Reconciliation Group”

Within the legal profession, many law societies, the judiciary, the Canadian Bar Association and law schools have undertaken various initiatives. The BC Law Society held a Truth and Reconciliation Symposium in November 2017, established a Truth and Reconciliation Committee and in August 2018, voted in favour of a Truth and Reconciliation Action Plan. In 2003, the first Indigenous male Bencher was elected to the BC Law Society and in 2018, the first female Indigenous Bencher was elected.

Certainly, the swell in reconciliation efforts, many initiated in response to the TRC’s 94 Call to Action, is inspiring. The energy created through the actions of both Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous not only inspires hope but confirms that on a human level, small actions of kindness, respect, openness, listening, and humility can lead to great change. One kind gesture, whether it be a smile or an act of caring, can be a generous act of reconciliation.

And yet, on a grander scale, this nation called Canada will need a powerful foundation of intention in order to reconcile our past (and present). What remains challenges the very heart and core of our nation’s values and beliefs. Our intentions will need to be steadfast and committed as we address the many outstanding issues faced by Indigenous peoples. Clearly the legacy of 139 Indian Residential Schools operating across Canada from 1883-1997, involving the policy-based apprehension of at least 150,000 Indigenous children, has left chilling effects among individuals, families and communities. The following facts remain:

  • Indigenous women and girls in Canada experience disproportionate rates of violence, murder and disappearance.
  • Indigenous peoples in Canada have some of the highest suicide rates in the world (suicide and self-inflicted injuries are the leading causes of death for First Nations youth and adults up to 44 years of age).
  • Indigenous peoples are over-represented in Canadian prisons. A quarter of all inmates are First Nations, M├ętis or Inuit. Indigenous youth make up 46% of admissions to youth correctional services in Canada in 2016/17) and female incarceration rates are 38%.
  • The disproportionate number of Indigenous children currently in the child welfare system has created a “humanitarian crisis” (Indigenous Service Minister Jane Philpott). In Manitoba, for example, 11,000 children are in care. 10,000 of those children are Indigenous.
  • 400 out of 618 First Nations have had some kind of water problem between 2004 and 2014.

The above issues are daunting. They are significant and critical. As the tides of reconciliation continue to swell, the responsibility lies within each of us – to increase the momentum – and continue exercising generous acts of caring, kindness, openness, listening, respect and humility.

The views expressed herein are strictly those of Karen L. Snowshoe and do not reflect the opinions of the Law Society of British Columbia, CBABC, or their respective members.