Truth and Reconciliation in Canada
What is Truth and Reconciliation?
- Truth and Reconciliation is about the tragic history of Canada's residential schools and the ongoing efforts to use education and discussion to move toward reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada.
- Reconciliation cannot happen without acknowledging the truth.
- An integral part of working towards truth and reconciliation was the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC (external link) ). It involved listening to the survivors, their families, communities and others affected by the residential school system and educating Canadians about their experiences. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (external link) was established as part of the TRC’s mandate. It facilitates archives and collections for ongoing research and examination, to protect and preserve statements, documents and other materials with the goal of fostering reconciliation and healing.
- Both South Africa and Canada have histories of colonization including the appropriation of land, the displacement of peoples, genocide and cultural genocide. In order to acknowledge the past injustices that affect Indigenous people today in each country, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (1994-98) and Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2008-2015) (external link) were implemented. Now more than 20 years behind us, Canadians have been able to refer to the South African TRC to learn from its legacy.
Different perspectives on Truth and Reconciliation
Definitions and key concepts
- The Indian Act was introduced in 1876, giving the Canadian government control over almost every aspect of the Indigenous Peoples’ lives, including attending residential schools.
- The Canadian government also determined criteria for who does and does not count as “Indian.” Status was revoked if individuals participated in activities such as voting, serving in the military, or pursuing post-secondary education.
- Women who married non-status men lost their status, as did their children, until 1985 when an amendment (Bill C31) was made to the Indian Act.
- 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children were forcibly removed from their homes to attend government-funded schools far away from their communities that were operated by certain churches and religious organizations (external link) after 1880.
- The goal of residential schools was to assimilate the children into Euro-Canadian society and “take the Indian out of the child.” Children were punished for speaking their Indigenous language and for engaging in traditional music and dance, and siblings were purposefully kept apart.
- Children were forced to practice Christianity and participate in Canadian society after a process of cultural, social, educational, economic and political assimilation.
- Students faced starvation, neglect, and physical, emotional and sexual abuse. The cramped conditions of underfunded and overcrowded schools were known to spread Tuberculosis, causing many deaths.
- Although it is known that the overall number is significantly higher, it is currently estimated that at least (PDF file) 6,000 children (external link) died while attending residential schools. School officials often refused to send deceased children’s bodies to their parents, claiming the cost was too high.
- There was a 40-60% mortality rate (external link) in Indian residential schools.
- Multiple bodies were buried together, creating mass graves.
- The last school closed in 1996.
- The residential schools were a genocidal process that has caused intergenerational harms with impacts that still carry on.
- The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) (external link) was created as a result of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the largest class-action settlement in Canadian history.
- It involves (PDF file) 94 calls to action (external link) to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation.
- The TRC provided members of the Indigenous community who have been affected by the legacy of the Indian residential schools system (directly or indirectly) with an opportunity to share their lived experiences.
Anti-Indigenous racism (external link) is the ongoing race-based discrimination, negative stereotyping and injustice experienced by Indigenous Peoples within Canada. It includes ideas and practices that establish, maintain and perpetuate power imbalances, systemic barriers and inequitable outcomes that stem from the legacy of colonial policies and practices in Canada.
(PDF file) Colonization (external link) refers to the processes by which Indigenous Peoples were dispossessed of their lands and resources, subjected to external control, targeted for assimilation and, in some cases, extermination. These processes were for the benefit of settlers.
- The human rights crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women is a result of acts of genocide against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQ people in Canada. This genocide has been empowered by colonial structures including the Indian Act, the Sixties Scoop and residential schools, and have resulted in increased rates of violence, death and suicide in Indigenous populations.
- The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (external link) was launched in 2016 to investigate the systemic contributions to violence against Indigenous women and girls. Systemic contributions include underlying social, economic, cultural, institutional and historical causes.
- Missing and murdered Indigenous men and boys are being overlooked in the movement to bring attention to the overrepresentation of missing and murdered Indigenous people in Canada.
- Statistics Canada reports (external link) that Indigenous men and boys are seven times more likely to be murdered than non-Indigenous males and are three times more likely to be murdered than Indigenous women.
- Indigenous men account for approximately 71% (external link) of all Indigenous homicide victims in Canada.
- The term (PDF file) Sixties Scoop (external link) refers to the mass removal of Aboriginal children from their families into the child welfare system in the 1960s, in most cases without the consent of their families or bands. These children were often adopted into non-Indigenous homes in Canada, the United States and overseas.
- The Sixties Scoop was not a child welfare program or policy, but rather a term for the questionable apprehension and adoption of a disportionate number of Indigenous children. Today, Indigenous children and also Black children are still apprehended from their families at alarming rates.
White supremacy is the institutionalization of whiteness and white privilege, and the historical, social, political and economic systems and structures that contribute to its continued dominance and subordination of non-white people.
Truth and Reconciliation at Toronto Metropolitan University
Resources at the university
- The Aboriginal Education Council (AEC) serves as an advisory council, with input into, and impact on, Aboriginal programming and education. The council aims to include Aboriginal worldviews and values in university operations.
- Aboriginal Student Services is part of the Aboriginal Initiatives unit in the Office of the Vice-President, Equity and Community Inclusion (OVPECI), providing a culturally supportive environment to promote academic excellence and serving as a place to balance academic learning with traditional teachings and culture. The team provides specialized services for Indigenous students and works to develop a mutually productive relationship between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members.
- First Nations, Métis & Inuit Community Group is made up of faculty, instructors and staff from across the university who come together to learn and support each other.
- Supports for Indigenous students, faculty and staff
Self-educate to learn more
- Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report (external link)
- (PDF file) TMU TRC Report
- (PDF file) Standing Strong Report
- MMIW Report (external link)
Talks and seminars
- White Privilege Conference: Dr. Shirley Cheechoo’s Keynote
- Soup and Substance: The Decolonization Series (2019)
- Truth and Reconciliation Commission 2015 Report: What does it mean for TMU?
- Indigenous Education: Engaging with Indigenous Knowledges
- "Why do we Acknowledge the Land?": Aboriginal knowledges at TMU
- How everyone can participate in truth and reconciliation
- On Orange Shirt Day, we recognize the ongoing legacy of residential schools
- TMU Pow Wow
- First Nations Child and Family Caring Society (external link)
- Jordan’s Principle (external link)
- Hope For Wellness (external link)
- Education programs (external link)
- Canadian Heritage. (2021, September 29). National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Canada.ca. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/campaigns/national-day-truth-reconciliation.html
- First Nations & Indigenous Studies. (n.d.). Government policy. indigenousfoundations. Retrieved from https://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/government_policy/
- Government of Canada. Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada. (2021, June 11). Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Retrieved from https://www.rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca/eng/1450124405592/1529106060525#chp1
- Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. (2015). Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future. Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Retrieved from https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/british-columbians-our-governments/indigenous-people/aboriginal-peoples-documents/calls_to_action_english2.pdf
- Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. (2015). Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action (PDF). Retrieved from https://ehprnh2mwo3.exactdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf