5 years later, where is Canada on reconciliation?

Former TRC commissioners lament “slow progress” on their Calls to Action

The commissioners lift a star blanket to unveil their final report of the TRC. Canadian Press file photo


Five years ago, Canadians seemed to embrace the concept of reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

But now the former commissioners of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) are sounding an alarm.

The three reunited Tuesday to issue a public statement on the “slow and uneven” implementation of their 94 Calls to Action.

“We’ve seen some promising changes…,” said Murray Sinclair, former chair of the TRC and now an independent senator.

“However, it is very concerning that the federal government still does not have a tangible plan for how they will work towards implementing the Calls to Action.”

TRC

The TRC was created on June 1, 2008 as part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

It travelled the country to hear powerful testimony from residential school survivors in a series of public events that helped inform its final report.

The survivors wanted to see Canada form a new and improved relationship with Indigenous Peoples – one of acceptance and understanding instead of judgment and discrimination.

The final report, which was embraced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, identified the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as “the framework for reconciliation.”

But a bill to implement the declaration was only recently tabled by Trudeau’s government. And some provinces have called for further delay.

‘Most disheartened’

“I am most disheartened that Alberta, the province that had the highest number of residential schools in Canada, is leading these attempts at delays,” said Chief Willie Littlechild, another of the commissioners, in their joint statement.

“Reconciliation and respect for rights of Indigenous Peoples must go hand in hand.”

In addition to lagging on the UN Declaration, the commissioners say the federal government has yet to establish a National Council for Reconciliation to assess and promote reconciliation efforts across Canada.

“None of us expected that we would sit down five years later and say that all 94 had been implemented,” added Marie Wilson, the third commissioner.

“However, five years later we did expect to see real progress for laying the foundations for national reconciliation, and specifically, the two missing pillars we need to support all the rest.”

Five-year anniversary

In a separate statement recognizing the five-year anniversary Tuesday, Trudeau acknowledged the commission “worked to uncover the truth in one of the darkest and most painful chapters in Canadian history.”

He said 80 per cent of the Calls to Action involving the federal government are now completed or underway.

This includes passing the Indigenous Languages Act,  establishing Indigenous-own child and family services systems, implementing Jordan’s Principle and upgrading  education funding, Trudeau said in his statement.

“We are also working with provincial, territorial, and Indigenous partners, to respond to the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and the Calls for Justice, to develop a national action plan to end the systemic causes of violence against Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ and two-spirit people.”


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Investigative Reporter / Winnipeg

Award-winning reporter Kathleen Martens covers western and northern Canada for aptnnews.ca. A veteran of the Brandon Sun, Sun Media and APTN Investigates, she is based in APTN’s head office, specializing in stories about property, women’s rights and community.