Statement on the five-year anniversary of the TRC closing ceremony
Today, on the fifth anniversary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s final report, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation reflects on the progress that has been made, and what still needs to be done to move towards reconciliation, healing, and justice for Survivors, their families, and communities.
In a statement issued today, the three Commissioners of the TRC raised the alarm that not enough is being done to honour and recognize the truth telling that Survivors were asked to do during the seven year Commission.
“As Survivors, we would like to acknowledge and thank the Commissioners for all of their work,” said Eugene Arcand, a member of the NCTR Survivors Circle. “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.”
While there has been movement on a number of Calls to Action, there is an urgent need to quicken the pace, and for Canadians to recommit to doing this work. Survivors deserve to see tangible reconciliation efforts made in their lifetime.
“I am grateful for the work done through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” said Levinia Brown, a Residential School Survivor and a member of the NCTR Governing Circle. “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. Canada needs to continue to press forward towards reconciliation as a way to honour those who came forward to let their experience be known.”
The inequities that Indigenous peoples in Canada continue to experience have been underlined by the COVID-19 pandemic. While measures to contain the spread of the 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, their families, and their siblings while in residential schools.
“We know that everyone is affected right now,” said Phyllis Googoo, a member of the Survivors Circle. “Survivors who are isolated from their families are feeling the loneliness similar to that we felt as children in those schools.”
“The effects of social distancing and isolation is felt differently in northern, remote and rural communities who do not have similar access to infrastructure or resources as those living near larger urban populations,” echoed Lyla Bruyere, member of the NCTR’s Survivors Circle. “It is a challenge for Survivors to connect with each other and work towards healing.”
Moving forward on the Calls to Action
There are two critical markers on the path to reconciliation including the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), as well as the establishment of a National Council on Reconciliation. The adoption of UNDRIP would be the acknowledgement of self-determination; it would affirm the rights of Indigenous peoples to create their own education systems, receive restitution for stolen lands, and participate in all decision-making that affects their interests.
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 Canada time to learn the true history of this country, to take a moment to remember all the children who never returned home, and facilitate 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, and help them start their journey towards 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 , which was announced Sept. 1, 2020. The NCTR also continues the work on Calls to Action # 71 and 72 to find all the children who never returned home through creation of The National Student Memorial Register.
We cannot do this alone and we need all Canadians to support this work 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, grassroots 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 forward 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.