By Rita Button
How to move Canadian society from approaching life in an inclusive way instead of a colonial way is the issue which the Truth and Reconciliation Committee studied, resulting in a number of calls to action. Articles 1 – 42 are organized under the heading of Addressing the Legacy with subtitles of child welfare, education, language and culture, health, and justice. A number of agencies are called upon to act; among them are the federal government, provincial and territorial, and Aboriginal governments. This article will cover only child welfare and education.
Reducing the number of Aboriginal children in care by “monitoring and assessing neglect investigations,” (p.18) making adequate funds available, educating social workers in the history of residential schools, training social workers in ways of aboriginal knowing and healing along with using these methods to find healthy, working solutions for children in care is paramount.
To begin to establish accountability, the Truth and Reconciliation Committee asks that the federal government publish annual reports comparing the number of Aboriginal children in care to the number of non-Aboriginal children along with reasons for putting the children in care and an evaluation of various interventions.
Jordan’s Principle, an act intended to resolve disputes regarding payments for treatments received from government agencies should be “fully implemented.” (p.20)
Federal legislation is needed that establishes national standards for Aboriginal apprehension and custody cases, ensuring that Aboriginal children are placed in culturally appropriate homes and that all caregivers understand and take the residential school treatment into account when they make decisions.
As well, Aboriginal people should have the right to “establish and maintain their own child welfare agencies.” (p.20)
In the area of education, the committee asks that Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada which allows appropriate corporal punishment for parents and teachers be repealed.
No discrepancy between the funding of Aboriginals being educated on or off the reserve should exist. Further, reports regarding the comparison of educational funding for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students should be published annually.
The federal government should draft new Aboriginal education legislation with “full participation and informed consent of Aboriginal peoples.” (p.23) This new education legislation would provide resources to close the “educational achievement gaps within one generation,” use appropriate Aboriginal curricula, “protect the right to Aboriginal languages” (p.24) including courses for credit, invite parents to participate in the education of their children, improve education attainments and success, provide funding to eliminate the back-log of Aboriginal students wanting a post-secondary education, and to develop “culturally appropriate early childhood education programs for Aboriginal families.” (p.25)
The April 9, 2018 apology given by Dr. Santa Ono, President of UBC, in the formal opening ceremony of the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre is an example of a step in what the Truth and Reconciliation Committee has identified as being necessary to find a way to heal past wounds by publicly recognizing past mistakes, and by finding ways to talk to each other with knowledge, understanding and respect. The new centre has been created, in part, to offer a place to remember and talk and to own the idea that President Ono gave in his apology that “Failing to confront a heinous history even if it was one that we did not cause is to become complicit in its perpetuation.”
It is a step in the right direction. Adding action to promise are the new bilingual street signs at UBC—Musqueam and English to signify that the university sits on unceded land of the Musqueam people. Taking responsibility for past mistakes and present actions to correct these is the underlying need.