It’s hard to say how the release of the final Truth and Reconciliation report will affect relations with First Nations in the South Okanagan, but Penticton Indian Band Chief Jonathan Kruger is taking it as a step in the right direction.
“We still have a long ways to go, but I am so proud of Canada right now,” said Kruger, adding that this has been a long struggle for indigenous peoples to create a path to healing.
It is going to mean some hard work in the future, said Kruger, who hopes this creates better relationships, though at the same time said the dark history of the residential schools can’t simply be set aside.
“There is going to be some education for citizens of Canada and there is going to be some healing for our families and our communities,” said Kruger. “Let’s set a new course and a better course for our families and our future generations.”
Kruger said he has already seen discussion in social media and other forums about how the truth and reconciliation report is stirring positive emotions among indigenous people. He hopes the momentum continues, and work is done to help First Nations restore language, culture and correct history along with the recommendations contained in the report.
Those 94 calls to action cover the gamut, calling for changes in policies and programs, as well as commemoration through education and memorials, to help to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation.
Kruger said the PIB, along with other member bands of the Okanagan Nation Alliance, have already taken steps to economic growth and self sufficiency, but there are other communities that are living in poverty.
“I believe the Okanagan are definitely off to a good start. There are a lot of communities that are not as successful as we are. It is going to take quite some time for them to create that good environment,” said Kruger.
Locally, Kruger hopes to see some infrastructure funding going into First Nations communities, and money put towards education.
“I do want to capitalize on some of that funding for education. We have plans. That is probably going to be our focus,” said Kruger.
“I am sure there is still going to be some skepticism on both sides, but I think the intentions are true. It is going to take some time and it is not going to be done overnight.”