TRC releases final report in Ottawa
- Fraser Needham | December 16, 2015
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has released its final report and now it is a matter of waiting to see how its recommendations are acted upon.
In a historic ceremony in Ottawa on December 15, the commission released a weighty six volume report which includes 94 “calls to action” to rebuild the fractured relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples caused by the numerous abuses the former suffered in Christian run Indian residential schools.
The report is the result of six years of work the TRC spent traveling the country, hearing the stories of residential school survivors and researching relevant school and government records.
It makes broad recommendations on how Canada can improve its relationship with Indigenous people in such areas as child welfare, education, language, culture, health and justice.
Standing beside two empty chairs to represent the many students who did not survive the residential school system, TRC Chair Justice Murray Sinclair said it is education that damaged the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples and education will need to play a fundamental role in healing this relationship.
He added an inaccurate history of Indigenous people began in the residential school system and has been continued on in the public one.
“These dual myths of Indigenous inferiority and European superiority has caused all of us to think and talk about one and other in very negative ways. Our calls for action calls for the very important role public education in the future will need to play to fix that.”
Justice Sinclair also stressed the need to “bring all Indigenous people within the circle of reconciliation.”
This includes all the people left out of the residential schools settlement agreement including Métis people, the Indigenous people of Newfoundland and Labrador and those who attended day schools.
The newly elected Liberal government has already committed to acting upon all 94 recommendations in the TRC report.
At the event, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talked about the guilt he feels for having had the opportunity to attend many good schools while the same opportunity was never given to those who attended residential schools.
At the same time, he told of a history teacher who once remarked to his class that they need not read a chapter on Indigenous people because it was not important.
“We will ensure never again that students will be told that this is not an integral part of our country, of what makes us Canadians,” Trudeau said. “This is a promise that we make right here.”
As part of his speech, the Prime Minister also committed to working with Indigenous groups to design a national engagement strategy for developing and implementing a national reconciliation framework.
This will include a formal response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action.
For his part, Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde said the organization will do everything in its power to ensure the report’s recommendations are acted upon and not forgotten.
“They will not gather dust or be forgotten on shelves like so many other reports have,” he said.
Eugene Arcand of Muskeg Lake Cree Nation is a member of the residential school survivors committee and was one of the featured speakers at the TRC final report release.
He urged all Canadians to act on the report as quickly as possible.
“These are not recommendations, these are calls to action,” Arcand reminded the audience.
“First Nations want to live healthy and productive lives and want the opportunity to overcome all the barriers preventing them from building better lives,” Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Chief Bobby Cameron said in a released statement. “The TRC final report outlines the building blocks for healthier First Nations families and nations and ultimately leads to a stronger, healthier Canada. ”
“If the recommendations were fulfilled this would mean so much for the health and wellness of our people and of our nations,” FSIN Vice-Chief Kimberly Jonathan added in the same statement.
The Liberal government has already acted upon one of the calls to action in the TRC report.