What are We Missing in the Reconciliation Conversation?

Five points to consider when approaching reconciliation

What are We Missing in the Reconciliation Conversation?

Across the country, Canadians are grappling to understand, implement and realize the process of reconciliation. From lawyers to teachers, retirees and elementary school students, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (“TRC”) 94 Calls to Action are being studied, actioned, and implemented. But what is the process of reconciliation without the necessary and all-important component of truth telling?

The perils of attempting to reconcile before we have a full appreciation of the depths of Canada’s attacks on Indigenous peoples and the intent behind these attacks limits our opportunity to fully dissect and digest the harms inflicted on Indigenous peoples and the continued intergenerational effects of these harms. Understanding both the historical and current contexts of the treatment of Indigenous peoples and how these contexts have framed societal views, legal orders and other systems of formal and informal power and influence is of critical importance.

Sadly, many Canadians remain woefully unaware of the rich practices, worldviews and cultures of Indigenous peoples. The many perspectives on pathways to a good life contained within Indigenous communities remain distant to mainstream Canadian society.

Polls across the country affirm this lack of understanding. A poll conducted by the Environics Institute shortly after the close of the TRC showed that the general level of understanding of residential schools was still remarkably low. A more recent national poll conducted by the Angus Reid Institute this past summer concluded that a majority of Canadians think we are spending too much collective time on apologizing for residential schools and that “we should get on with it.”

The combined effect of a nation lacking understanding in combination with unwillingness to examine the topic presents a significant challenge for sustained national healing.

So, what can be done about this? How can we ensure the critically important conversations of national healing continue? Here are a few tips:

  1. Self-Awareness: Reconciliation is an interrelated set of individual actions, collective actions and national actions. This means that despite the scale of the task, each one of us has the opportunity to be a powerful agent of reconciliation. At the individual level, reflect upon:
    • What am I a witness to?
    • Am I a part of this?
    • Am I willing to do something about it?
    • Are there sacrifices I am willing to make to change it?
  2. Balance: Obtain knowledge and balance your understandings of the past and present hegemonies of Canada. Make a full effort to explore Indigenous perspectives, laws and culture and how these intersect with mainstream society.
  3. Answers: Recognize that dominant society does not have all the answers. Our ecosystems are in collapse while stability and overall global peace seems increasingly perilous. Understand that Indigenous peoples have been systematically excluded from meaningful involvement in these conversations and offer a unique and rightful perspective on these matters.
  4. Believe: We have the power to change and we have the opportunity to create a society better than the one we know now. Understand the broad efforts underway through the truth and reconciliation movement and support those movements in addition to individual awareness.
  5. Examine: Examine and question the formal and informal structures within our society with the goal of repairing inequality, inherent injustice and practices that exclude the Indigenous peoples.

It is our hope that considering these five points, your own journey of truth and reconciliation will be enhanced and made more successful. We wish you the very best.