THE TRANSFORMATIVE POTENTIAL OF THE TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION
A SKEPTIC’S PERSPECTIVE
Keywords:reconciliation, Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Aboriginal law, Indigenous, residential schools, colonialism, Indian Act, settlement agreement, UNDRIP, reciprocity, Calls to Action, Constitution Act
From 2009 to 2014, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) heard the testimony of Indigenous persons who had once been students in Indian Residential Schools and held events to permit discussions with the Canadian public about the impact and consequences of the historic effort to assimilate Indigenous individuals and erase their cultures. In doing so, the TRC performed its mandate with sensitivity and skill. This article focuses on the final report of the TRC that, the author argues, fails to focus sufficiently on the means by which Canadian law and policy continues to deny Indigenous peoples the power to assure their own welfare. The project of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples was not aided by this failure to communicate clearly the extent to which the colonial attitudes that led to the residential schools policy remains firmly anchored in the structures of the Canadian state. Through an examination of the basic elements of the concept of reconciliation, including reciprocal engagement and relational change, this paper concludes that a different approach will be required to mobilize the transformation implicit in meaningful reconciliation.