Progress too slow on Truth and Reconciliation calls to action, advocates say

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission represented a national reckoning — an examination of the decades-long systematic attempt to destroy Indigenous cultures and force assimilation by removing children from their homes and into residential schools.

progress too slow on truth and reconciliation calls to action, advocates say

Commissioners Marie Wilson, Chief Wilton Littlechild and Murray Sinclair spent six years gathering accounts from parents, survivors, and their children to understand the truth of this era. Their work culminated with 94 calls to action.

“I’ve very often said, when newcomers come to Canada, ‘We don’t get to cherry pick the parts of Canada that we like,’” said Wilson. “Yes, [there is] universal health care and education, things we take as normal, but so too [there] are the mistakes of our country and the regrets of our country.”

Wilson’s new book, North of Nowhere, is aimed at people who weren’t here for the for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, or were too young to remember it.

“I made promises over and over again to survivors when they asked us, ‘Make sure Canada knows what happened to us, make sure the world knows what happened to us,’” said Wilson. “And I want to leave my book as one more tool that will allow us to remember and not forget.”

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But the government that put reconciliation on the national agenda is often under fire for “forgetting”. Earlier this month, the federal government was strongly criticized in a report released by the Assembly of First Nations for a lack of follow-through regarding the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry.

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“Regrettably, the report’s findings indicate that only two of the calls for justice impacting First Nations have been fully implemented over the past five years, with the majority showing minimal to no progress,” said AFN National Chief Cindy Woodhouse Neepinak, at a June 3rd press conference.

Douglas Sinclair heads ‘Indigenous Watchdog,’ one of a handful of organizations still keeping tabs on that progress. On a grade scale from A to F, he gives Canada a C grade on reconciliation.

“There’d probably be some areas that would be a bit lower snd other places that would be a bit higher,” said Sinclair. “You look at suicide prevention, there’s been a lot of positive things different jurisdictions have been trying to do. It’s a bit different than, say, in health, where if I look at the review of last year, it’s quite a discouraging view.”

Responding to the criticism, Indigenous services Minister Patti Haidu said, “we’ve seen, under the leadership of Justin Trudeau, a renewal of commitment to First Nation peoples, on things like infrastructure, on water, on child welfare, in terms of settling litigation on claims, on Treaty claims, on land claims. “Of course, there’s a long way to go but I’m confident we’re on the path.”

— With files from Global’s Melissa Ridgen.

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