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Top 10 Reconciliation Actions You Can Take

For some people, Thanksgiving in Canada is controversial in a sense that it happens six weeks earlier than its United States counterpart — sometimes falling on the same day Americans observe Columbus Day — or that those Americans who know nothing of its existence consider it a poor copycat of their Thanksgiving in November.

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Superficialities aside, commemorating the Canadian Thanksgiving brings some historical facts under the spotlight:

  • In the early 1600s, French settlers formed the Order of Good Cheer and celebrated and shared food with their First Nations neighbours.

  • Indigenous peoples were compelled to ally themselves with the colonizers (French or English) and fight for or with them.

  • The foreigners who were dominant in their newly established society exploited and drove the Indigenous people out of their lands and sought to obliterate their culture.

Indeed, there are some parallels to the experience of Indigenous peoples in Canada and the U.S. in the hands of the “new settlers” from Europe.

Today, the struggle for the rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada continues, even as the majority of the goals of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) have yet to be fulfilled.

What Was the Aim of Reconciliation?

"Reconciliation," as a buzzword, somehow emerged from the inevitable exposure of the unspeakable atrocities committed against Indigenous children in the so-called Indian residential schools that sought to alienate them from their families, society, and culture.

While the barbaric abuse and open mistreatment and exploitation of Indigenous peoples in Canada (and elsewhere) is on record historically, not much had been done to alleviate their plight.

It was only after the 2008 Statement of Apology by then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper regarding the unfortunate events involving the Indian residential schools that most Canadians awoke to the ugly truth.

From this, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada report of 2015 was made and 94 calls to action for reconciliation were created.

According to the TRC, the aim of reconciliation is to build and maintain a mutually respectful relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians. But in order to achieve this, the following are required:

  • An awareness of the past

  • Acknowledgement of the harm inflicted (against Indigenous peoples)

  • Atonement for the causes

  • Action to change behaviour

While awareness and acknowledgement seem to have taken place — perhaps even atonement — still, real change manifested through legislation and action seems more elusive.

What Does Reconciliation Mean to Indigenous People?

Reconciliation for Indigenous peoples in Canada is a loaded word that some find inaccurate or inappropriate.

Like Sandlanee Gid, a Reconciliation Studies instructor, said in a CBC News article, reconciliation implies you had a good relationship to start with, then it got damaged or broken for one reason or other.

Now that you’re reconciling, you’re working on restoring that good relationship. In this case, it’s the relationship of the Indigenous peoples with the Canadian government — something that was never really good in the first place.

There’s power and authority involved, and it’s very clear who’s still powerless.

What Personal Steps Can You Take Towards Reconciliation?

While it falls on the government to take concrete, far-reaching steps to realize TRC calls to action, every Canadian can do something to advance the goal of true reconciliation.

You can choose to support as many of the 94 truth and reconciliation calls to action, or start with the following ten:

  • We call upon the federal government to acknowledge that Aboriginal rights include Aboriginal language rights. [13]

  • We call upon the federal government, in consultation with Aboriginal peoples, to establish measurable goals to identify and close the gaps in health outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities, and to publish annual progress reports and assess long-term trends. Such efforts would focus on indicators such as infant mortality, maternal health, suicide, mental health, addictions, life expectancy, birth rates, infant and child health issues, chronic diseases, illness and injury incidence, and the availability of appropriate health services. [19]

  • 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. [43]

  • We call upon the Government of Canada to develop a national action plan, strategies, and other concrete measures to achieve the goals of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. [44]

  • In keeping with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal organizations, to fund the establishment of Indigenous law institutes for the development, use, and understanding of Indigenous laws and access to justice in accordance with the unique cultures of Aboriginal peoples in Canada. [50]

  • We call upon the Parliament of Canada, in consultation and collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to enact legislation to establish a National Council for Reconciliation. The legislation would establish the council as an independent, national, oversight body with membership jointly appointed by the Government of Canada and national Aboriginal organizations, and consisting of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal members. [53]

  • We call upon the prime minister of Canada to formally respond to the report of the National Council for Reconciliation by issuing an annual “State of Aboriginal Peoples” report, which would outline the government's plans for advancing the cause of reconciliation. [56]

  • We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with survivors, Aboriginal organizations, and the arts community, to develop a reconciliation framework for Canadian heritage and commemoration. [79]

  • We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with the national Aboriginal organizations, to revise the information kit for newcomers to Canada and its citizenship test to reflect a more inclusive history of the diverse Aboriginal peoples of Canada, including information about the Treaties and the history of residential schools. [93]

  • We call upon the government of Canada to replace the oath of citizenship with the following: “I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, her heirs and successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples, and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.” [94]

To effect real change, we need to make reconciliation everyone’s business. We also need to challenge our leaders to take action on justice.

On the Road to True Reconciliation

Fulfilling the TRC’s truth and reconciliation goals goes way beyond having an event similar to the recently proclaimed U.S. Indigenous Peoples’ Day — that is, National Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Canada, which Canadians have celebrated every 21st of June for almost 30 years.

We need commitment and real, immediate measures to attain the aims of reconciliation. Only when we fulfill all TRC calls to action will we live and experience the true values of Thanksgiving.

If you’re a supporter of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and wish to promote DEI in your community, organization, or workplace, please talk to us at Tough Convos.


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