Ry Moran is the director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba.
On Tuesday, this country received the findings and calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Sobering? Provocative? Challenging? Ambitious?
I hope so.
For the past six years, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission travelled the country gathering statements and documents from survivors, inter-generational survivors, and government and church archives. I was one of those people out there in the field with the commission. As the director of statement-gathering, I heard the pain of survivors. I saw the elders cry.
What we heard was shocking.
Going in, we all understood that this work was going to be tough. But I don't know if I truly understood just how far-reaching the effects of the schools were, how deep the scars run from this misguided approach to education.
From coast to coast to coast, and everywhere in between, we saw tears, we heard pain and we saw men and women somehow summon the courage to get up, sometimes in rooms full of complete strangers, and reveal some of the most difficult moments in their lives.
All in the name of truth, and with the hope that somehow, somewhere, people would listen.
Now, these statements, documents and other materials collected by the TRC will make their way to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. This transfer realizes a vision the drafters of the settlement agreement had – that at the end of the commission's mandate, a permanent body would be established to ensure these memories are never forgotten, that they cannot be forgotten.
Some may ask why. Others may ask: When will this end? Can't they get over it?
Put bluntly, the answer is no. Survivors and their families should not be asked to "get over it," and it will take a long time to repair the damage done by the schools.
What we need to remember in all of this is that the indigenous peoples of Canada have been subjected to widespread, long-lasting abuse. And more than that, those who committed the harms against them were most often from the institutions that were "supposed" to protect them – those institutions that supposedly had the answers for rightful living.
Just as you would not ask a rape victim to just get over it, it is similarly unfair to ask indigenous peoples to do so.
We at the centre are committed to the issues of truth and reconciliation for the long haul. True reconciliation will take time in this country, and we are only now just beginning to see what it means to walk together.
I have great respect for the work of the commission and the commissioners. They have brought thousands of new voices to this conversation. They have brought children, youth and adults to this history in age-appropriate ways, all with the goal of educating the public so that we never make these mistakes again.
Now that their calls to action are out, who among you will heed them? Who among you will rally to the cause of making this country a more just and equitable place for all peoples, no matter whether you are an indigenous or non-indigenous citizen?
Reconciliation cannot be accomplished in isolation. Reconciliation is also not about "fixing" what is the matter with indigenous peoples.
Reconciliation means finding the courage to look at our past with eyes wide open, unafraid to see our country at its worst, and then, humbly, take steps to heal the damage done.
Reconciliation means making real change in our society, our institutions and ourselves.
If we are successful in achieving reconciliation in Canada, we will have accomplished what so many of the great thinkers of humanity have aspired to – freedom and equality for all, where each has an equal chance of success, where the sting of racism is no longer felt.
If we can create right, just relationships between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples, ones based out of respect, mutual celebration of culture and a quest for a better world, we will have accomplished something truly great. We will have accomplished something that we can all be proud of as Canadians.
The national centre is dedicated to these issues. I personally am inspired and excited about the future, but know the challenges facing us will not be easy.
So are the calls to action ambitious?
Changing the world is.