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Canada's Residential Schools: Reconciliation

Canada's Residential Schools: Reconciliation: The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Volume 6

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
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    Canada's Residential Schools: Reconciliation
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    Between 1867 and 2000, the Canadian government sent over 150,000 Aboriginal children to residential schools across the country. Government officials and missionaries agreed that in order to “civilize and Christianize" Aboriginal children, it was necessary to separate them from their parents and their home communities. For children, life in these schools was lonely and alien. Discipline was harsh, and daily life was highly regimented. Aboriginal languages and cultures were denigrated and suppressed. Education and technical training too often gave way to the drudgery of doing the chores necessary to make the schools self-sustaining. Child neglect was institutionalized, and the lack of supervision created situations where students were prey to sexual and physical abusers. Legal action by the schools’ former students led to the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in 2008. The product of over six years of research, the Commission’s final report outlines the history and legacy of the schools, and charts a pathway towards reconciliation. Canada’s Residential Schools: Reconciliation documents the complexities, challenges, and possibilities of reconciliation by presenting the findings of public testimonies from residential school Survivors and others who participated in the TRC’s national events and community hearings. For many Aboriginal people, reconciliation is foremost about healing families and communities, and revitalizing Indigenous cultures, languages, spirituality, laws, and governance systems. For governments, building a respectful relationship involves dismantling a centuries-old political and bureaucratic culture in which, all too often, policies and programs are still based on failed notions of assimilation. For churches, demonstrating long-term commitment to reconciliation requires atoning for harmful actions in the residential schools, respecting Indigenous spirituality, and supporting Indigenous peoples’ struggles for justice and equity. Schools must teach Canadian history in ways that foster mutual respect, empathy, and engagement. All Canadian children and youth deserve to know what happened in the residential schools and to appreciate the rich history and collective knowledge of Indigenous peoples. This volume also emphasizes the important role of public memory in the reconciliation process, as well as the role of Canadian society, including the corporate and non-profit sectors, the media, and the sports community in reconciliation. The Commission urges Canada to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for reconciliation. While Aboriginal peoples are victims of violence and discrimination, they are also holders of Treaty, Aboriginal, and human rights and have a critical role to play in reconciliation. All Canadians must understand how traditional First Nations, Inuit, and Métis approaches to resolving conflict, repairing harm, and restoring relationships can inform the reconciliation process. The TRC’s calls to action identify the concrete steps that must be taken to ensure that our children and grandchildren can live together in dignity, peace, and prosperity on these lands we now share.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-9829-4
    Subjects: Sociology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents (pp. [v]-2)
  3. Introduction (pp. 3-18)

    To some people, “reconciliation” is the re-establishment of a conciliatory state. However, this is a state that many Aboriginal people assert has never existed between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. To others, “reconciliation,” in the context of Indian residential schools, is similar to dealing with a situation of family violence. It is about coming to terms with events of the past in a manner that overcomes conflict and establishes a respectful and healthy relationship among people going forward. It is in the latter context that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (trc) has approached the question of reconciliation.

    To the...

  4. CHAPTER 1 The challenge of reconciliation (pp. 19-44)

    Canada has a long history of colonialism in relation to Aboriginal peoples. This history and its policies of cultural genocide and assimilation have left deep scars on the lives of many Aboriginal people, on Aboriginal communities, as well as on Canadian society, and have deeply damaged the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples. It took a long time for that damage to be done and for the relationship we see to be created, and it will take us a long time to fix it. But the process has already begun.

    An important process of healing and reconciling this relationship began...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Indigenous law: Truth, reconciliation, and access to justice (pp. 45-80)

    All Canadians need to understand the difference between Indigenous law and Aboriginal law. Long before Europeans came to North America, Indigenous peoples, like all societies, had political systems and laws that governed behaviour within their own communities and their relationships with other nations. Indigenous law is diverse; each Indigenous nation across the country has its own laws and legal traditions. Aboriginal law is the body of law that exists within the Canadian legal system. The Supreme Court of Canada has recognized the pre-existence and ongoing validity of Indigenous law.¹ Legal scholar John Borrows explains that,

    The recognition of Indigenous legal...

  6. CHAPTER 3 From apology to action: Canada and the churches (pp. 81-116)

    From the outset, this Commission has emphasized that reconciliation is not a one-time event; it is a multi-generational journey that involves all Canadians. The public apologies and compensation to residential school Survivors, their families, and their communities by Canada and the churches that ran the residential schools marked the beginning, not the end, of this journey. Survivors needed to hear government and church officials admit that the cultural, spiritual, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse that they suffered in the schools was wrong and should never have happened, but they needed more.

    The children and grandchildren of Survivors needed to hear...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Education for reconciliation (pp. 117-156)

    Much of the current state of troubled relations between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians is attributable to educational institutions and what they have taught, or failed to teach, over many generations. Despite this history—or, perhaps more correctly, because of its potential—the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) believes that education is also the key to reconciliation. Educating Canadians for reconciliation involves not only schools and post-secondary institutions but also dialogue forums and public history institutions such as museums and archives. Education must remedy the gaps in historical knowledge that perpetuate ignorance and racism.

    But education for reconciliation must do even...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Public memory: Dialogue, the arts, and commemoration (pp. 157-192)

    For Survivors who came forward at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) National Events and Community Hearings, remembering their childhood often meant reliving horrific memories of abuse, hunger, and neglect. It meant dredging up painful feelings of loneliness, abandonment, and shame. Many still struggle to heal deep wounds of the past. Words fail to do justice to their courage in standing up and speaking out.

    There were other memories too of resilience, of lifetime friendships forged with classmates and teachers, of taking pride in art, music, or sports accomplishments, and of becoming leaders in their communities and in the life...

  9. CHAPTER 6 We are all Treaty people: Canadian society and reconciliation (pp. 193-222)

    Although much of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) report has focused on the federal government and the churches that ran the residential schools, other institutions, sectors, and organizations in Canadian society must also contribute to reconciliation. Public dialogue and action on reconciliation must extend beyond addressing the history and legacy of the residential schools. If Canada is to thrive in the twenty-first century, First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples must also thrive. This requires healthy communities and real economic and social change.

    Just as government, church, legal, and public education institutions in this country have been shaped by colonial...

  10. Calls to action (pp. 223-242)

    In order to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission makes the following Calls to Action.

    1) We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to commit to reducing the number of Aboriginal children in care by:

    i. Monitoring and assessing neglect investigations.

    ii. Providing adequate resources to enable Aboriginal communities and child-welfare organizations to keep Aboriginal families together where it is safe to do so, and to keep children in culturally appropriate environments, regardless of where they reside.

    iii. Ensuring that social workers and others who...

  11. Notes (pp. 243-266)
  12. Bibliography (pp. 267-288)
  13. Index Reconciliation (pp. 289-302)