Although most Canadians have heard of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and know it issued a report and 94 urgent calls to action, few can say what those actions are. Although the TRC’s report is now almost six years old, with only a handful of its recommendations being adopted, it was written as a road map to reconciliation. For that reason alone it is a worthy read for every Canadian. It’s a difficult read emotionally, for sure. But there can’t be reconciliation without the truth coming to light. As the Commission says, “Reconciliation is about establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in this country. For that to happen, there has to be awareness of the past, acknowledgement of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes and actions to change behaviour. We are not there yet. The relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples is not a mutually respectful one. But we believe we can get there, and we believe we can maintain it. Our ambition is to show how we can do that.”
The entire collection of reports and recommendations is available free to all, at the website nctr.ca. If you haven’t already, please begin reading it. We’ve heard a lot lately about Calls to Action 71-76, in the wake of the discovery of the 215 children buried in unmarked graves in Kamloops. Although space doesn’t allow us to print all 94 recommendations, in order to stand behind our Indigenous neighbours, the very least we can do is know the work expected of us.
Missing Children and Burial Information
- We call upon all chief coroners and provincial vital statistics agencies that have not provided to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada their records on the deaths of Aboriginal children in the care of residential school authorities to make these documents available to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
- We call upon the federal government to allocate sufficient resources to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to allow it to develop and maintain the National Residential School Student Death Register established by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
- We call upon the federal government to work with churches, Aboriginal communities, and former residential school students to establish and maintain an online registry of residential school cemeteries, including, where possible, plot maps showing the location of deceased residential school children.
- We call upon the federal government to work with the churches and Aboriginal community leaders to inform the families of children who died at residential schools of the child’s burial location, and to respond to families’ wishes for appropriate commemoration ceremonies and markers, and reburial in home communities where requested.
- We call upon the federal government to work with provincial, territorial, and municipal governments, churches, Aboriginal communities, former residential school students, and current landowners to develop and implement strategies and procedures for the ongoing identification, documentation, maintenance, commemoration, and protection of residential school cemeteries or other sites at which residential school children were buried.
- We call upon the parties engaged in the work of documenting, maintaining, commemorating, and protecting residential school cemeteries to adopt strategies in accordance with the following principles …
- The Aboriginal community most affected shall lead the development of such strategies.
- Information shall be sought from residential school Survivors and other Knowledge Keepers in the development of such strategies.
- Aboriginal protocols shall be respected before any potentially invasive technical inspection and investigation of a cemetery site.