Council of Canadians welcomes Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations

child handcuffsThe Council of Canadians welcomes the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow says, "It is imperative to recognize that cultural genocide was perpetrated against Indigenous peoples in this country. The truth and reconciliation process and its recommendations should be seen as a call to action for all Canadians to work to address the wrongs committed against Indigenous peoples and ensure that injustices are not continued in any form in the present day. The Council of Canadians is committed to being a good ally to Indigenous peoples and we support genuine reconciliation with First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples."

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission made 94 recommendations to address the damage inflicted on Indigenous peoples by the Indian Residential School System. The Council of Canadians supports the implementation of those recommendations. Among those recommendations, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission stated:

  • We call upon federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to fully adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation.
     
  • We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to acknowledge that the current state of Aboriginal health in Canada is a direct result of previous Canadian government policies, including residential schools, and to recognize and implement the health-care rights of Aboriginal people as identified in international law, constitutional law, and under the Treaties.
     
  • We call upon the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, in consultation and collaboration with Survivors, Aboriginal peoples, and educators, [to] make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for Kindergarten to Grade Twelve students.
     
  • We call upon the corporate sector in Canada to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a reconciliation framework [and to] commit to meaningful consultation, building respectful relationships, and obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous peoples before proceeding with economic development projects.
     
  • We call upon the federal government, in consultation with Aboriginal organizations, to appoint a public inquiry into the causes of, and remedies for, the disproportionate victimization of Aboriginal women and girls.

The New Democratic Party and the Liberal Party have both pledged to implement these recommendations if they form the government after the October 19 federal election. We call on Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party to make a similar commitment to implement all 94 recommendations in the report.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is a component of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement reached in 2007, the largest class action settlement in Canadian history. Residential schools began around 1876 in this country, the last one did not close until 1996. It has been estimated that about 150,000 children were forced into these schools and that up to 6,000 of them died there. CBC News has reported that means that an Indigenous child faced a greater risk of death in a residential school than a Canadian solider did during World War II.

Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin recently commented, "The most glaring blemish on the Canadian historic record relates to our treatment of the First Nations that lived here at the time of colonization. ...The objective – I quote from Sir John A. Macdonald, our revered forefather – was to ‘take the Indian out of the child’...In the buzz-word of the day, assimilation; in the language of the 21st century, cultural genocide." Two years ago, former prime minister Paul Martin stated, "Let us understand that what happened at the residential schools was the use of education for cultural genocide, and that the fact of the matter is — yes it was."

The Globe and Mail has reported, "The United Nations defines genocide as the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group through any of a number of means including killing its members, causing them serious mental or physical harm, subjecting them to unsustainable living conditions, preventing births of their children and forcibly transferring their children to another group."

To read the 382-page Truth and Reconciliation summary report, please click here.

Further reading
Standing in Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples (Autumn 2014 Canadian Perspectives article)
Council of Canadians supports call for inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women (March 2014 blog)
Council of Canadians expresses solidarity to First Nations for drinking water lawsuit (June 2014 media release)
Barlow backs Kanesatake declaration against Energy East pipeline (December 2014 blog)

Photo: Handcuffs used to restrain Indigenous children taken to residential schools. Photo by Mary Annette Pember.