By Al Beeber on May 14, 2021.
The idea of reconciliation is not an aboriginal issue, it’s an issue involving everyone, the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs was told at its Thursday online session.
Don McIntyre, an assistant professor in the University of Lethbridge’s Dhillon School of Business’ Indigenous Governance and Business Management Stream, addressed truth and reconciliation with an audience on YouTube.
McIntyre, an Ojibway from the Wolf Clan of Timiskaming First Nation in Ontario, said Canadians think of ‘reconciliation’ as a noun when it’s actually a verb.
“We in Canada think of it as a noun, we think of it as a destination or a thing that we’re gonna do and then be done with it… we can then put it away and pat ourselves on the back because we’ve done it.
“In reality reconciliation is a process, it’s a verb, it’s a thing we will continue to do.”
Canadians, he said, wonder what the process of reconciliation will mean to their communities.
“We can look at it through the lenses of breaches of fiduciary duty, treaties, these go without saying. We spend millions of dollars in court costs proving over and over and over again that these breaches have occurred. They’re not secret. ”
“The government of Canada… because of litigations that were potentially going to happen, came to an agreement where they said they will study and look at what happened in the reconciliation in the residential schools and how that should and has affected Canadians. There were thousands of pages written, it took six full years and took millions of dollars for Canada to create a report for Canada.
“In that report they did an executive summary that was just over 500 pages, it was CBC’s book of the summer to read in 2016. There were 94 calls for action from the report and the idea that this is a secret for anyone should not be a case anymore,” McIntyre said.
He also addressed the Sixties Scoop where children where taken from their families.
“There have been more than enough reports that the Sixties Scoop, a time when aboriginal children were taken from families right at birth and moved across jurisdictional borders, even from Canada to the U.S., where that information was suddenly blocked so aboriginal families, parents could not find where their kids were taken. . . That shouldn’t be a secret.”
“It continues to happen in the ’70s, the ’80s and the ’90s and it continues to happens now. If you look at the stats where it is, it’s not a secret.”
“Since the 1970s and even earlier. . . .for the last 50 years we’ve had commissions and reports” from various authors, which address many issues “because Canada says we recognize and know these gaps are there.”
Those reports, said McIntyre, detail how problems are to be fixed.
“It is no secret there is a gap in justice that fits two distinct categories. One is aboriginal peoples are over-represented in federal and provincial incarceration rates. Since the report came out and we were supposed to close that gap, numbers have actually gone up in federal incarcerations,” he said. “And in many provincial and territorial incarcerations as well,” said McIntyre.
He said during the pandemic the top 20 billionaires in Canada made $60 billion more and now the figure is up to $100 billion. When he showed a class of students a powerpoint presentation about aboriginal billionaires, the screen was blank.
“There are a hundred millionaires, people who have done very well in business but there is that a gap and that gap is partially because of education, partially because of opportunities.”
“The idea of reconciliation is not an aboriginal issue, it should not just be an aboriginal concern, it is all families in Canada and Canada’s well-being will be enhanced if we can just come to a place where that is taken care of and that is not a secret. We’ve known this for a very long time: that if everyone is taken care of, everyone is better. If everyone has potable water, we will be better people.”
“Much of Canada’s early and contemporary history with aboriginal populations is hidden creating serious barriers for reconciliation in Canada,” he said.
“We know what has to be done to fix it. The question becomes how do we implement the calls for action, who should be taught the truth? Should we teach our K-12s the truth? I leave that answer to you,” he said.
“How should they be taught the truth? Just tell it to them,” he added.
A 2020 report by the Assembly of First Nations shows significant progress has been made in several areas including language and culture; training for public servants; museums and archives; media and reconciliation and sports and reconciliation, he said.
But only moderate progress is being made in the areas of child welfare, education, health, youth programs, missing children and other areas.
Poor progress is being made on matters such as justice, equity in the legal system, church apologies and reconciliation.
Murray Sinclair, who served as the chairman of the Reconciliation Commission, is often seen as the face of reconciliation, said McIntyre, but that is too much weight for one man, he added.
“He said reconciliation is not an aboriginal problem, it’s a Canadian problem. It involves all of us. All people in Canada must be clear, loud and united in expressing their heartfelt belief that reconciliation must happen for it to be effective. Our leaders must not fear this onus of reconciliation, the burden is not theirs to bear alone. Rather, reconciliation is a process that involves all parties in this new relationship.
“Murray Sinclair is one of the wisest men that has managed to get ahold of a microphone and have the public listen. . .one of the difficulties has become that this man in many ways has become the face of reconciliation, the face of the TRC report, and a much better approach is at the end of this. If you were to ask yourself and tell me what reconciliation is and how to fix reconciliation, do it in a mirror because that is the true face of reconciliation.
“It cannot be put on the shoulders of one man.”
Follow @albeebHerald on Twitter