OTTAWA – Dr. Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, issued the following statement to mark the 5th Anniversary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report:
“Today, we take time to reflect on our country’s past and the role we must all play in building a better and fairer Canadafor today and future generations. The residential school system is a tragedy born from colonial policies in Canadian history. It had a profound, lasting and damaging impact on Indigenous cultures, heritages, languages, families and communities. We acknowledge the intergenerational trauma that is still being felt today from damaging colonial policies.
Five years ago, the Government of Canada received the final report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Those directly or indirectly affected by the legacy of the Residential Schools system shared their stories and experiences with the Commission so that everyone in Canada could learn the truth and the heartbreaking and painful impact that it had on the survivors and their families. The Commission charted a path forward for reconciliation for everyone in Canada through ninety-four Calls to Action.
Seventy-six of the Report’s 94 Calls to Action fall under the sole or shared responsibility of the Government of Canada. At this time, working together with provincial/territorial governments and other key partners, eighty percent of these are completed or well underway. Federal legislation respecting Indigenous languages, investments in education, health, commemoration, and efforts to support the safety and security of Indigenous women and girls, LGBTQ and Two-Spirit people are playing an essential role in rebuilding our relationships with First Nations, Inuit and Métis.
The first five Calls to Action called for accountability and the reforms necessary to prevent Indigenous children and youth from being removed from their families and communities. With An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families and significant investments, jurisdiction over children and youth will rest with Indigenous communities so they can ensure the secure personal and cultural identity necessary for better health, education and economic outcomes.
This September, we introduced Bill C-5 into the House of Commons, to respond to Call to Action 80 by creating a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada. This Day will ‘honour Survivors, their families, and communities and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process’.
Bill C-8 was introduced to respond to Call to Action 94, which will change the Oath of Citizenship so that newcomers to Canada would state their commitment to respect the rights and Treaties of Indigenous Peoples. In response to Call to Action 93, work is underway to ensure that a new citizenship guide reflects a more inclusive history of Canada and the significant contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis, as well as an understanding of the role of residential schools.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action 41 was fulfilled by the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Their final report and the Commission’s Calls to Action 43 and 44 call upon Canada to fully adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation. Introduced earlier this month, Bill C-15, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, would require the Government of Canada, in consultation and cooperation with Indigenous peoples, to take all measures necessary to ensure that the laws of Canada are consistent with the Declaration. It will accelerate progress in affirming the rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada’s laws and policies.
Once you know the truth, you cannot un-know it.
Today we pay tribute to the survivors, families and communities who shared their painful experiences. Today we express our gratitude for the extraordinary and difficult work done by Truth and Reconciliation Commissioners Murray Sinclair, Wilton Littlechild and Marie Wilson and their teams for increasing our collective understanding of the damage done by harmful colonial policies. The Inuit Sub-Commission also carried out the work of the Commission in Northern Canadaensuring that Inuit survivors of the residential schools were included in the national truth-telling and reconciliation process. Together, they have provided all Canadians with the truth and a way forward for Canada which will promote the understanding needed to properly address and eliminate the systemic racism towards Indigenous peoples that is a direct result of state sanctioned policies.
Reconciliation is about healing. Reconciliation requires Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to work together as partners. Today, we encourage everyone in Canada to read or re-read the Calls to Action. Today we ask all Canadians to identify the role that they and the organizations to which they belong can play on our shared path of reconciliation and the healing journey for survivors and communities.
Five years ago the Prime Minister upon receiving the report called it a ‘monumental achievement towards healing and reconciliation’. Five year later, I believe that Canada is now firmly on that path of healing and reconciliation that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission charted for us. We must, and we will, continue this work together.”