By: Chris Sabas. Chris identifies as a Follower of The Way, Anglican, but also Catholic Worker, mystic, former attorney (owned own law firm in U.S., with almost 10 years of living in a courtroom before the Gospel awakening). Now a reservist with Christian Peacemaker Teams (“CPT”) and an At-Large Member of CPT’s Steering Committee.
Today is truly a historic…but somber day in and for Canada.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (“TRC”) released its long anticipated report today, finding Canada guilty of cultural genocide against Indigenous Peoples by way of the state sponsored, and church run Indian Residential Schools.
The TRC was created as part of a multi-billion dollar settlement agreement between the Federal government, participatory church denominations and survivors. Approximately 150,000 Indigenous children went through Indian residential schools throughout the program’s existence, which ran from (officially) the early 1800’s with the last school closing in the 1990s.
Children taken from their homes, were placed in schools usually far beyond the means for families to visit them. experienced physical and sexual abuse by priests and nuns and other officials, not to mention forced indoctrination to ‘civilized’ ideals, to include forced conversion to Christianity, and cruel prohibitions against speaking their native tongue.
The report intimates the only reason Canada bothered to enter into treaties was because it could not afford to subdue the Indigenous population through war. For instance, in 1870, Canada’s total budget was around $19 million. At the same time their friends to the south, the U.S., was spending $20 million just to fight its “Indian Wars.”
“The intent of the government’s policy…was to assimilate Aboriginal people into broader Canadian society,” cites the report. “At the end of this process, Aboriginal people were expected to have ceased to exist as a distinct people with their own governments, cultures and identities.”
The TRC cites the relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples is “deteriorating.” The report lists Indigenous education, child welfare and justice as sources of “divisive conflicts” and “barriers” to reconciliation.
The TRC specifies 94 recommendations to help mark the path toward reconciliation and living in right relationship. The recommendations include:
-The Federal government, the provinces and territories should fully adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples;
-Canada, in conjunction with Indigenous peoples, should develop a new Royal Proclamation on Reconciliation;
– Canada should repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery and the concept of terra nullius;
– Canada and Treaty nations should renew the Treaty relationship;
-Ensure Indigenous peoples are full partners in Confederation by reconciling Crown and Indigenous legal orders;
– The parties to the Indian residential school settlement agreement should sign a Covenant of Reconciliation;
– A National Council for Reconciliation should be created;
– The Pope should issue an apology to survivors of Indian residential schools;
– Canada should mark the 150th anniversary of the country by creating a fund for reconciliation commemoration projects;
– Canada should commit $10 million for the funding the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation over the next seven years;
– The Oath of Citizenship should be changed to include the following passage, “I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada including Treaties with Indigenous peoples, and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.”
You can read the report here: http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/index.php?p=893
During my tenure with Christian Peacemaker Teams, I attended two TRC events and witnessed gut wrenching testimony from both victims and prior school officials. I have also been involved within the Doctrine of Discovery dialogue and efforts to repudiate it, beyond a mere written statement.
Throughout the TRC’s mandate, Justice Sinclair repeatedly said that it took us 500 years to reach this point and that it will most likely take another 500 years to come to any sense of wholeness and healing.
But we must start now. Perhaps not surprisingly the Conservative Harper government, the very same government that issued Canada’s formal apology for the Residential School system, disagrees with the ‘cultural genocide’ assessment.
Others surmise that the report does not go far enough and that genocide is genocide, with the delineation of ‘cultural’ perhaps a ‘watered down’ approach.
We, however, shall overcome.