By Diego Syz
At the end of 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged his government’s support for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94-point recommendations to achieve a total transition to reconciliation across the country.
But, what does it mean for municipalities?
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was undertaken as a component of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement according to http://www.trc.com.
Its mandate is to inform all Canadians about what happened in Indian Residential Schools (IRS). The Commission will document the truth of survivors, families, communities and anyone personally affected by the IRS experience.
The vast majority of First Nations Reservations are based near or close to rural municipalities- however, there are only 11 points directly relevant to municipalities.
Taking an informed and interested look at the issues throughout the 3,700-page tome from the TRC is an incredibly daunting task.
So, is the current call for recognition and apology not excessive?
Yes and no.
Certainly the idea of providing education and creating awareness for an issue that degraded and nearly wiped-out an entire culture and people requires action and information. But, at this point constant calls for recognition amounts to tired finger pointing and quite frankly, can turn into excessive complaining about an issue many people long-thought recognized and put to rest.
There have already been numerous proactive actions to achieve reconciliation: When the Constitution Act was signed in 1982 it contained Section 35 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, recognizing and protecting Aboriginal and treaty rights. In addition, Indian, Inuit and Metis were recognized as “aboriginal peoples in Canada”.
Between 1991-1998 the Roman Catholic, United, Presbyterian and Anglican churches apologized for their respective participation in the Indian Residential School system. It was considered to be broad public recognition that the residential school system was inherently wrong and damaging.
In 1996, The Royal Commission on Aboriginal People (final report) was completed- containing five volumes, 4000 pages and including 440 recommendations for changes to Aboriginal Affairs.
Both the B.C. Liberals and Stephen Harper’s Conservatives enjoyed successes with separate First Nations opportunity, education and infrastructure projects.
The B.C. Liberals have funded and undertaken several successful projects aimed at providing education and employment opportunities for it’s First Nations peoples.
The Harper government instituted an impressive system of investment in First Nations people’s education, infrastructure and creating economic opportunities with investments in places like Beardy and Sumas reservations and for First Nations and Northern Aboriginal communities including $175 million for the construction and renovation of schools on reserve and an additional $100 million to support early literacy programming, services and partnerships with the provincial school systems according to a 2012 press release from John Duncan, minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
This was in addition, to $1.7 billion in annual spending on First Nations infrastructure and education programs.
Other programs and inclusion in Canada’s Economic Action Plan (under the Stephen Harper government both supported and showed a special regard for these issues).
Should those be the issues we focus on instead of constant calls for a people’s, religious institution’s or, a country’s apology for something that has long since been recognized?
Pursuing apologies amounts to no more then tired whining for recognition and political plays but, for most intelligent people, it is boring.
That isn’t to say the real issues of education, opportunity and equal treatment for all people isn’t a goal worth pursuing, it is.
It’s rolling up your sleeves and getting the actual tasks (which contribute to a positive change) that will make a difference.