‘Reconciliation Barometer’: Some progress, more work needed

Researchers from Canadian universities have released second-annual Canadian Reconciliation Barometer report on progress towards reconciliation.

Sto:lo Nation

The Survivors' Flag honours Indigenous peoples forced to attend residential schools. File photo: Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press

A group of researchers from Canadian universities has released the second-annual Canadian Reconciliation Barometer report on public perceptions about progress towards reconciliation.

The report, released Wednesday, shows awareness of past harms of residential schools increased in Canada from 2021-2022.

But other important measures of reconciliation improved only slightly or not at all, the report said.

Unlike other projects that track the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s [TRC] Calls to Action, this report delved into the perceptions held by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada.

The TRC’s final report was released on Dec. 15, 2015.

Two big things

The Reconciliation Barometer tracks two big things: do Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada generally agree on the state of reconciliation, and is Canada getting closer to reconciliation in all forms?

“People thought they were more aware of past and ongoing harms in 2022 than in 2021,” noted Ry Moran, one of the team members and associate university librarian in reconciliation at the University of Victoria, in a release.

“This is hopeful, but the team notes that ongoing focus on education is of paramount importance because awareness is only the start of the journey.”

The report found an increased level of discussion and dialogue regarding residential schools across the country in the aftermath of thousands of unmarked burials at former residential school sites.

But the fact these confirmations came as a shock to many non-Indigenous people continues to demonstrate how much more needs to be learned within Canadian society, the release added.

Remain optimistic

“While there are many reasons to remain optimistic about the findings within the report, it’s important to track the different areas we are progressing or stalling in,” noted Aleah Fontaine, a doctoral candidate and lead statistical analyst for the report, in the release.

“That way, we know where we need to pay special attention.”

While there has been some hopeful change, the team cautions not all indicators demonstrate positive trends.

Key Findings:

  • 90 per cent of non-Indigenous respondents and 94 per cent of Indigenous respondents had previously read or heard about residential schools – up from 65 per cent and 87 per cent, respectively, in 2021.
  • Both Indigenous and non-Indigenous respondents reported a better understanding of harm government policies have caused Indigenous peoples. On average, 66 per cent of non-Indigenous respondents agreed governments in Canada have harmed Indigenous peoples intentionally, systematically, and for a long time – up from 57 per cent in 2021.
  • Non-Indigenous people are not yet taking the next step in reconciliation like getting to know Indigenous communities in their area, taking in Indigenous cultural events, and  trying to learn more. The barometer’s engagement index is actually slightly lower this year.

Not guaranteed

“Tracking reconciliation is important because progress is not guaranteed and tracking can motivate people, organizations, and governments to act,” said Katherine Starzyk, lead researcher and psychology professor at the University of Manitoba, in the release.

“It helps open the door for further learning and paves the way for deeper and more meaningful engagement with the historical and contemporary realities faced by Indigenous peoples. We need to be cautious that we don’t rush into thinking we are further ahead than we are.”

Stephanie Scott, executive director  of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation [NCTR] at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, said the report shows why her organization’s work is crucial.

“While we welcome the latest Canadian Reconciliation Barometer report – and hope that the insights help guide policymakers to bolster reconciliation,” Scott said in the release, “we cannot discount or deny the dangerous rise in [residential school] denialism in both mainstream and online media and it must be countered with ongoing accurate knowledge and information.”

The findings were gathered from experts at the University of Manitoba, the University of Victoria and Toronto Metropolitan University in collaboration with NCTR and Probe Research Inc.

Contribute Button