Responsibility and Hope: Exploring Reconciliation

Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples, characterized to date by systemic racism, is an ongoing challenge to our democratic principles. The Canadian government recently began a process of reconciliation regarding residential schools, one of the worst episodes in that colonial relationship. That process begins reconciliation work but remains insufficient. Non-Indigenous Canadians might well ask how reconciliation of our colonial past and present is still unfinished. For insight, we will look at processes of reconciliation in other countries emerging from conflict, seeking peaceful and equitable futures. We will apply lessons from these examples to our Canadian experience, recognizing that reconciliation is a long process, requiring sustained commitment from all parties.

Note: This seminar course involves required reading and active participation in group discussion.

A $50 discount will be applied automatically for adults 55+.

Currently not available for registration.

Schedule clarification: This is a four-week online course. It runs from Monday, October 11 to Friday, November 5. Each week, all week, you can study that week’s material, post and respond to discussion board topics, and engage in course activities. You will participate in Zoom Meetings sessions each Tuesday from 3 –4:30 p.m. Pacific Time.

Learning objectives

By the end of the course, you should be able to do the following:

  • Describe the purposes of a truth and reconciliation process
  • Give examples of challenges involved in putting truth and reconciliation into practice
  • Discuss some key issues in Canada’s truth and reconciliation process

Learning methods

Your online learning will include the following methods:

  • Academic and non-academic articles
  • Participation in written discussions with other students
  • Taking part in Zoom meetings

For Liberal Arts for 55+ Certificate students: you will write a reflective essay.


Week 1:  What is reconciliation?

We begin our journey by learning more about reconciliation as a process. We map out the purpose of reconciliation as a tool of post-conflict healing and begin to explore the circumstances under which reconciliation is most likely to prompt positive social, political and economic transformation.

Week 2: Case study—Rwanda

Rwanda experienced one of the most notorious episodes of political violence in contemporary history; the violence of events from April to June 1994 left indelible scars on this small country. In the aftermath of the atrocities, Rwandan society confronted this violence and committed to a peaceful path forward. This journey, still ongoing, demonstrates the challenges and shortcomings of reconciliation. 

Week 3:  Case study—South Africa

Perhaps one of the best-known examples of reconciliation occurred in South Africa following the end of the white supremacist Apartheid regime. The South African process was unusual in including both amnesty for perpetrators and reparations for victims. Examining the South African experience, we can see how the high hopes of reconciliation can fail to bear fruit.

Week 4: Case study—Canada

Canada’s history of colonial violence and its current colonial relationship with Indigenous peoples are in dire need of a reconciliation process. As we have seen, all parties are responsible for reconciliation. Perpetrators and victims can be hard to clearly discern, since systemic social violence damages everyone although not, of course, equally. We begin the painful work of considering what reconciliation in the context of Canada’s settler colonial experience will demand of the settler-majority population. 

Books, materials and resources

You will access course resources using SFU's online course management system, Canvas.

Technical requirements

This course is delivered using SFU's online learning system, Canvas. You can check if your browser is compatible with Canvas here.  

To get the most out of this online course, you should be comfortable doing the following:

  • Using everyday software such as browsers, email and social media
  • Navigating a website by clicking on links and finding pages in a menu
  • Downloading and opening PDF documents
  • Posting, replying and uploading images to a discussion board
  • Participating in videoconferencing sessions

You will be participating in videoconferencing using Zoom Meetings. For this, your computer needs to have a camera, microphone and speakers or headphones. Your computer software should be up to date with the latest available operating system and browser versions.

Accessing your course

  • A few days before the course starts, we will email you more information about the course and how you'll access it. You will also receive an email inviting you to access the Canvas learning platform (click on the link in the invitation to join the course). Once you’ve accessed Canvas, you can begin exploring the platform on your own. The full course will be accessible on its start date.
  • We’ll also host a virtual drop-in time on Zoom Meetings a few days before the course starts. This will give you a chance to check that you can access Zoom Meetings, and that your computer’s camera and microphone and speakers are working properly.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

Look at other courses in