Reconciliation at federal, provincial levels moving slowly: Lemay

Hill Times columnist Rose LeMay says when it comes to reconciliation, nothing has really happened at either the federal or provincial levels.

“My fear is that the governments, federal government included, provinces and territories haven’t really put this reconciliation as a priority,” Lemay said on the latest edition of Nation to Nation. “Funding hasn’t gone to it, human resources haven’t been tagged to reconciliation, so not much action has been completed by governments.”

According to the Yellowhead Institute’s yearly report on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action, 81 have not been acted on. In fact the thinktank said in its latest report, that no new work started in 2023 on the calls to action.

LeMay said governments have a lot of responsibility for bringing many of the calls to light. But she’s hoping unions will add some pressure.

“Unions have played significant roles in the past, in the making of what we now call Canada in terms of laying giving their support their weight to issues a solidarity of human rights,” she said. “I’m surprised that while at the beginning of the TRC calls to action in 2015 some unions made some small moves towards it, unions really haven’t moved beyond a bit of a performative approach, and I want to see them actually take more of a lead in this they can be changemakers it’s time they actually did some leading.”

She said she’s surprised that when the calls to action were released in 2015, there was a show of support.

“Some unions made some small moves towards it, unions really haven’t moved beyond a bit of a performative approach, and I want to see them actually take more of a lead in this, they can be changemakers. It’s time they actually did some leading,” said Lemay.

But, according to a research project by the Toronto Metropolitan University, there has been progress in reconciliation.

TMU assistant professor Iloradanon Efimoff told Nation to Nation the project’s latest report shows awareness amongst the non-Indigenous population is on the rise.

“When comparing last year‘s report to our current report, there’s been a huge increase in the knowledge of residential schools among Canada,” she said. “And we think a large part of that increase in knowledge of residential schools might be due to the discovery, or the finding of those unmarked graves, and the publicizing of those unmarked graves across the country, so there’s that potential that’s created some lasting awareness of residential schools.”

Efimoff said more awareness and education would help to bring the public on board with reconciliation.

“Some of those include messaging right out in the public whether that advertisements transportation, whatever it may be, public art installations to raise awareness of reconciliation pieces, coverage, representation in the media and culture can have a really big influence on the general public,” she said.

Also on Nation to Nation, seven Ontario youth, three of them from First Nations, were back in court last week, continuing their fight against the Ontario governments climate targets.

The legal case began in 2019 in response to Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s Cap and Trade Cancellation Act.  It put an end to former premier Kathleen Wynn’s goal to lower greenhouse gases by putting caps on the amount of pollution companies could emit.

Danielle Gallant, a lawyer with Eco-Justice, said her clients, who are between the ages of 16 and 28, are feeling good about the latest hearing at the Court of Appeal.

She said it could take up to a year to hear back from the court, but a win would be significant.

“It would be the first time in Canada that a government would be held accountable for its climate target being inadequate and, in fact, dangerous,” said Gallant. “Obviously, it would also just the fact of holding a government accountable on the basis of the charter would mean that other governments in Canada would receive the message that they also can be held accountable by people in those provinces in the country.

“And so I think it would set a really important legal precedent, but also be very significant throughout the country and also for the public to be aware that what Ontario is doing is unconstitutional and violates young people’s rights.”

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