What is Reconciliation?
“. . . Reconciliation is about establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in this country. In order for that to happen, there has to be awareness of the past, an acknowledgement of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes, and action to change behaviour.
-- Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2015, p. 6.
Many people became familiar with the term “Reconciliation” because of the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The Commission was formed as part of the largest class-action settlement in Canadian history, when Residential School survivors sued the Canadian federal government for harms caused by Residential Schools. The Commission was established with the purpose of documenting the history and lasting impacts of residential schools on Indigenous children, their families, and their communities. In June 2015, the TRC released an Executive Summary of its findings along with 94 "Calls to Action" regarding reconciliation between Settlers and Indigenous peoples. To read the reports, please visit the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation website.
More than 150,000 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children were forced to attend these schools, which were established with the intention of destroying Indigenous culture by assimilating Indigenous children into European Christian culture. The Commission officially concluded that the residential schools system amounted to an attempt at cultural genocide.
As acknowledged by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, harms committed against Indigenous Peoples were not limited to residential schools, but involved a long history of settler colonialism, including the displacement of Indigenous Peoples from their traditional territories, theft of resources, violence, and outlawing of traditional cultural and spiritual practices. These are not issues of the past. Indigneous Peoples continue to face inequality and prejudice, and Canadian institutions and practices continue to exclude and marginalize Indigenous peoples.
In the context of relationships between Indigenous Peoples and Settler Peoples in Canada, “Reconciliation” describes a process of coming to terms with past harms and addressing contemporary injustices. It also means respecting Indigenous Sovereignty and building equal and reciprocal relationships between Indigenous Peoples and Settler Peoples.