Truth Before Reconciliation: Reframing/Resisting/Refusing Reconciliation

March 10, 2017

Patricia M. Barkaskas & Sarah Hunt

Friday, March 10, 6:00PM–8:00PM, Room 1900, SFU Harbour Centre

Sponsored by SFU's Institute for the Humanities, Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG)First Nations StudiesDepartment of History, & Department of Sociology & Anthropology

Click HERE to register!

While much academic and public discourse since the release of the Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) final report has and continues to emphasize reconciliation, there is also deep skepticism about a process of reconciling that so readily glosses over truth-telling. Centering the truth as it relates to the TRC is essential to any meaningful process of reconciliation in Canada. My inspiration for focusing on truth in this context comes from Dr. Sarah Hunt’s response to Senator Murray Sinclair at an event hosted at Green College at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in March 2016. Dr. Hunt is Kwagiulth (Kwakwaka’wakw) and Assistant Professor of Critical Indigenous Geographies in First Nations and Indigenous Studies at UBC. The profound significance of Dr. Hunt’s observation at that time – that people seemed to be more inclined to focus on reconciliation than the truths told through the TRC – remains critical a year later.

The individual stories of the survivors of the residential school system in Canada are not simply “a dark chapter of Canada’s history”; they are a collective memory of the truth about genocide in Canada. Taken separately, each story from a survivor is a set of facts, or truths, which through the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement process was made to be corroborated by historical research and documentation and tested for credibility and reliability; taken together these truths form a greater and more terrible truth that is undeniable. This truth disrupts the notion that we have entered an “Age of Reconciliation” and challenges us to consider how we will meaningful address the ongoing colonial project in Canada.


Patricia Barkaskas earned a M.A. in History, with a focus on Indigenous histories in North America, and a J.D., with a Law and Social Justice Specialization, from the University of British Columbia. She is the Academic Director of the Indigenous Community Legal Clinic and an Instructor at the Peter A. Allard School of Law. Patricia has practiced in the areas of child protection (as parent’s counsel), civil, criminal, family, and prison law. She has worked closely with Indigenous peoples in their encounters with the justice system and worked for Residential school survivors as an historical legal researcher for the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. In addition, she has written Gladue reports for all levels of court in BC. Her current and future teaching and research interests include access to justice, clinical legal education, decolonizing and Indigenizing law - particularly examining the value of Indigenous pedagogies in experiential and clinical learning for legal education - and Indigenous laws. Patricia is Métis from Alberta.

Sarah Hunt (PhD) is a Kwagiulth scholar whose transdisciplinary research critically takes up questions of violence, justice, resistance, self-determination and Indigenous resurgence. Her scholarship emerges from 15 years of work as a community-based researcher and educator, with a particular focus on issues facing Indigenous girls, women and two-spirit people. Dr. Hunt is an assistant professor at UBC in the First Nations and Indigenous Studies Program and Department of Geography.