Moderator Gary Paterson Reflects on the Closing Ceremonies of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
After six years of travelling the country and listening to and gathering up the stories of thousands of survivors of Indian Residential Schools, and the stories of their spouses, children and grandchildren – intergenerational survivors – the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has presented its Calls to Action – 94 of them, in fact!
In these recommendations, the TRC is challenging Canadians to whole-heartedly enter into the journey of reconciliation, recognizing that the TRC itself is just a step on the way. The story has now been told – the horrendous reality of what happened at Indian Residential Schools, and its continuing impact. The need for a changed and new relationship with the first peoples of this country, rooted in respect, equity, restitution, has been made clear. Yes, right relations between Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals will take commitment, hard work, money, and time… but it is the only way to go forward.
It is said that the Achilles heel of any commission is the follow-up – there is such a temptation to say, “Well now, that issue has been dealt with!” and to let the report, along with all its recommendations, languish on some dusty shelf; nothing really changes; people forget. Just check out the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples whose 4000-page report was released in 1996, and see how little has actually been acted upon.
This is not to be cynical, but rather to present a call to action. Change must happen!
Structural change is absolutely necessary, and the government, church, and civil society organizations need to make strong, concerted efforts to establish new laws, agreements, resolution of treaties and land claims, funding regulations, and restitution. I am glad that the United Church has made a strong commitment to continue the work of reconciliation and right relations. There will be a proposal coming to General Council concerning this; and Dr. Marie Wilson, Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner, along with Indigenous leaders, will offer a challenge at the General Council. The United Church has already committed to helping pull together a meeting in September of all “the parties” involved in the TRC, to ensure that the recommendations don’t just disappear, like yesterday’s news. For more details about what the church will be doing please refer to the most recent posting of Living into Right Relations.
– from Moderator Gary Paterson’s blog, posted June 17, 2015
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More information about the history of Residential Schools, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and our churches’ involvement and work towards reconciliation will also be found on our Truth and Reconciliation page.