Calls & Pathways to Action
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) released a summary report, Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future, in June 2015. The report makes 94 Calls to Action, proposing concrete steps to protect child welfare, preserve language and culture, promote legal equity and strengthen information on missing children. In the report, the Commissioners specifically ask the Government of Canada to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), while urging all orders of government to work to eliminate educational and health outcome gaps between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Canada. Also emphasized is the need to educate students, professionals, and newcomers about Indian Residential Schools and their impacts on all people living in Canada.
Of the 94 calls to action, 16 focus on local and/or all orders of government. These 16 predominantly focus on areas of federal and provincial jurisdiction, although local governments may play important supporting roles. Local governments may also consider working towards reconciliation through an emphasis on relationship building and education, detailed further below.
Reconciliation Opportunities for Local Governments
Relationships are central to reconciliation. Local governments may wish to consider the variety of relationships that exist between First Nations and Indigenous peoples, local governments, and other parties, and consider how best to recognize and address each. Building trust requires time and patience, and building formal relationships requires working through accountability and dispute resolution mechanisms. At the same time, First Nations and Indigenous communities may be facing pressing issues that require urgent actions. Local governments can work with these communities to identify and support them in addressing such issues.
Local governments interested in furthering relationships with First Nations and Indigenous communities may wish to consult the following resources:
- UBCM and partner organizations have pulled together wide ranging resources on collaboration and relationship building, including examples of joint economic development initiatives, MOUs, servicing agreements and more.
- The Community to Community Forum program. In addition to the funding program itself, the Guide to Community to Community Forums is a valuable resource on relationship building.
- External resources include:
- The Indigenous Corporate Training Inc. blog, including entries on the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation and on First Nations and Local Government Reconciliation.
- FCM resources including an article on local government efforts to advance reconciliation.
Education is another critical element for reconciliation. In this context, education starts with the unlearning of preconceptions and inaccurate historical perspectives. An important starting point may simply be for local government elected officials and staff to commit to reviewing key policy documents including the following:
- Truth and Reconciliation Commission Final Report
- Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
- United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
For broader perspectives on what effective action towards reconciliation can look like for local governments, and reflections on the importance of education and relationship building, members may wish to view Pathways to Truth and Reconciliation, a plenary panel presented at Convention 2021, featuring the Honourable Murray Sinclair, former Chief Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, together with the Honourable Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation; Andrea Reimer, Founder & Principal, Tawâw Strategies; and Chair John Jack, Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District.
Finally there are many opportunities available for local governments interested in seeking Indigenous cultural safety training, including a variety of online courses accessible province-wide. Examples include:
San’yas: Indigenous Cultural Safety Training Program, Provincial Health Services Authority
The TRC's Calls to Action represent a catalyst for change in Canada. As an organization that supports relationship building between First Nations and local governments, UBCM recognizes that it has a role in the ongoing reconciliation journey.
UBCM began to promote the work and the reconciliation message of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) in 2013. UBCM did so by working with Reconciliation Canada, an Indigenous-led organization promoting reconciliation by engaging Canadians in dialogue that revitalizes relationships between indigenous peoples and all Canadians.
This work spurred UBCM on to further engagement with projects and advocacy that aim to move reconciliation forward. These initiatives provide opportunities for local governments, in their own communities, to begin or strengthen reconciliation with Indigenous people.
For more information, see: UBCM work to advance reconciliation.
Assimilationist Government Policies
For over a century, the Canadian government adopted policies with a central goal of assimilating Aboriginal peoples and stripping away Indigenous consciousness. Backed by these assimilationist policies, the government removed many First Nation, Métis and Inuit children from their families—some forcibly—and placed the children in Indian Residential Schools. These schools were church- or state-run institutions where over 150,000 Aboriginal children were forbidden to express their culture, practice traditions or speak their first languages. Children placed in Indian Residential Schools often experienced mental, physical or sexual abuse by teachers, administrators or school staff. The last Indian Residential Schools closed in the 1990s.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
For decades, survivors sought official recognition and redress for their forced experiences in Indian Residential Schools. In 2006, Indigenous peoples and the federal government signed the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, which in part established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The TRC’s mandate was to listen, learn, and educate all Canadians about what took place in Indian Residential Schools. It sought to hear and document the truth as told by survivors, families, communities and anyone personally affected by the experience. Starting in 2009, three TRC Commissioners heard more than 6,750 survivor and witness statements from across the country about the lasting legacies that Indian Residential Schools have had on their lives.
All materials gathered, recorded, and produced by the TRC have been transferred to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, a permanent repository that will provide stewardship and facilitate access to the materials.