It’s been a six-year journey to reach the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation commission, but this shouldn’t be considered the end of the trail.
The thousands of pages chronicling decades of suffering and tragedy from victims of the residential school system came at a great cost, both to those that had the courage to stand up and tell their tale, along with all those who never even had the chance.
That investment of courage is, in itself, enough to say this report shouldn’t be like so many others and left to gather dust on the shelves, referenced occasionally in court decisions and scholarly articles.
The report represents so much more. It’s a foundation to build a new relationship on.
Justice Murray Sinclair, the head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, summed it up when he said the change would not be immediate; that it will take years, possibly generations.
“It is important for Canadians to start somewhere and ultimately to create those tools of reconciliation that will live beyond today,” said Sinclair as he delivered the final report on Dec. 15.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called it a “new path, working together toward a nation-to-nation relationship based on recognition, rights, respect, co-operation and partnership.”
Here in the South Okanagan, the Penticton and Osoyoos Indian Bands have been active if forging a new path for themselves, building relationships with the surrounding communities and business partners, bringing economic benefits to not only themselves, but the region as a whole.
That’s not to say these communities don’t face many problems: substance abuse, health and education are ongoing battles, which Sinclair said the commission’s’ finding show are rooted, directly or indirectly, in years of government efforts to “assimilate, acculturate, indoctrinate and destroy.”
Co-operation and partnership have already led to great gains in the South Okanagan. Imagine what might be achieved when we fully embrace the other three key factors Trudeau cited: recognition, rights and respect.