The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) supports the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Commissioners’ statement on the urgency and need for this country to move forward on the TRC’s 94 Calls to Action.
“As Survivors, we would like to acknowledge and thank the Commissioners for all of their work. Canada is not where we need to be in terms of reconciling the harms done by these terrible institutions, but the efforts the Commissioners made on behalf of Survivors began to move us forward in the right direction,” said Eugene Arcand, a member of the NCTR Survivors Circle.
While there has been movement on a number of Calls to Action, there is an urgent need to quicken the pace as Survivors deserve to see tangible reconciliation efforts made in their lifetime.
“I am grateful for the work done through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It was difficult for many to share their painful experiences and, for many Survivors, the TRC was the first time we were heard and the first time we were believed.” said Levinia Brown a Survivor on the NCTR Governing Circle, “Canada needs to continue to press forward towards reconciliation as a way to honor those who came forward to let their experience be known.”
Reconciliation may not be a priority as everyone faces unique challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but to Survivors, it is more important than ever as the pandemic highlights inequalities that Indigenous communities face.
“We know that everyone is affected right now. Survivors who are isolated from their families are feeling the loneliness similar to that we felt as children in those schools,” said Phyllis Googoo, a member of the Survivors Circle.
While measures to contain the spread of the covid-19 virus are to ensure the safety of Canadians, extreme isolation and losing contact with families can bring back painful memories for Survivors who were removed from their communities and, for some, were not permitted to hug or speak to siblings while attending residential schools.
Concerns around how the pandemic is effecting Survivors is also echoed by Lyla Bruyere of the Survivors Circle, “The effects of social distancing and isolation is felt differently in northern, remote and rural communities who do not have similar access infrastructure or resources as those living near larger urban populations. It is a challenge for Survivors to connect with each other and work towards healing.”
Moving forward on the Calls to Action
Survivors are calling for more movement toward reconciliation. A critical markers on this path includes implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) which many argue lays the foundation for reconciliation, and the National Council on Reconciliation to support and guide Canadians on their respective journeys. Adopting UNDRIP creates a base where Indigenous peoples can be safe from future policies that affect the land and their human rights to live a good life and raise their children in their language and culture.
The lack of urgency in accomplishing these goals is disappointing, as Elders and Survivors continue to pass – and they are who this country needs to answer to.
“As Survivors, we haven’t seen a plan from the government on how to accomplish the Calls to Action,” said Stephen Kakfwi, a Survivor on the NCTR Governing Circle. “The only way we can accomplish true reconciliation is for it to be inclusive and under an Indigenous model. Otherwise, it would be perpetuating a system that does not serve the purpose the Survivors and the TRC laid out.”
One action required as a result of implementing the Calls to Action is healing. Healing – for Survivors and the country as a whole – is one of the most important steps in our shared reconciliation journey. A national day of remembrance will give all of Canada time to learn their history and to take a moment to remember all the children who never returned home and ceremonies for healing.
The NCTR’s work on the Calls to Action
The NCTR currently works and supports others on multiple Calls to Action. For every Call to Action, there are multiple steps and strategies to consider. The NCTR hopes to plant the seed of truth for the country to grow its acts of reconciliation.
The NCTR provides educational presentations to various organizations within the education, health and justice systems to help them understand the history and legacy of residential schools, as well as ways to achieve reconciliation. During the pandemic, the NCTR moved to virtual videos to educate the general public and public servants, including a virtual Orange Shirt Day event that reached over 500,000 students.
The NCTR is also working hard to continue the momentum and work surrounding Call to Action #79: Residential Schools as an Event of National Historical Significance – announced Sept. 1, 2020 – and continue the work to find all the children who never returned home in Calls to Action #71-72: The National Student Memorial Registry.
We cannot do this alone and we need the country to support and continue to help us all move in the right direction.
“We are thankful for this opportunity to continue this important however difficult dialogue,” said Garnet Angeconeb of the Survivors Circle, ‘We need to acknowledge the reconciliation efforts that are occurring at the local and community level. Schools, libraries, businesses and local health care organizations are all doing good work. Sometimes it is not always top down but bottom up, grass roots and government efforts, they are both needed to get where we need to be.”
As we come to the five-year anniversary of the closing of the TRC, this work must continue. For Survivors to see reconciliation in this country come to fruition, we need to prioritize the Calls to Action and move at a more urgent pace.
It is necessary for all governments – and all individuals – to reignite their commitment to reconciliation and the Calls to Action. It takes all of Canada to accomplish this extraordinary journey toward healing.