A year after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) issued a call to action, an open workshop at TRU Thursday drew about 120 people looking for ways to follow through in earnest.
Rebecca Johnson, a UVic law professor, led the all-day workshop in partnership with Shuswap Nation Tribal Council and TRU’s Aboriginal education department.
The TRC released its 94 recommendations, or “calls to action,” in 2015. The recommendations were a result of six years of dialogue, three commissioners, and more than 6,750 stories from residential school survivors and witnesses.
Johnson said the aim of the workshop was to enable people to leave feeling confident they understand the issues involved and to empower them to make change within their communities.
She told the audience, comprised of First Nation representatives, students and the general public, that engaging in reconciliation can be daunting, partly out of a sense of hopelessness.
“That no matter what we do, we can’t change anything,” she said.
She urged people to think in terms of accomplishing smaller, incremental changes as a means to move forward.
Johnson traced the history of the residential school experience, its century-long direct influence on an estimated 150,000 students and the destructive social legacy of that experience.
“This is an uneven history,” she noted, referring to the range of experiences. For some, the system was a way to engage with mainstream Canadian society.
“For some, the overall story is one that is recorded as cultural genocide,” she said.
Even the word “reconciliation” can be difficult for some to grasp, she said. It’s intended to describe a process that requires a commitment from all Canadians.
“It’s time we work together to find shared ground in reconciliation,” Chief Wayne Christian, tribal chief of the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council, said prior to the workshop. “We are calling on all nations – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – to work with one another, to understand one another, and find their call to action. It is everyone’s responsibility to understand and embrace reconciliation in this country.”
He quoted Chief Wilton Littlechild: "This is not an Aboriginal issue, this is a Canadian issue.”