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Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Five Years after the TRC Calls to Action

“This is an opportunity to pause and reflect. Oftentimes we think about how far it is that we still have to go, but not how far we’ve come.”

Can you believe it’s been just five years since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its final report, a year after holding it’s seventh and final National event in amiskwaciwâskahikan (Edmonton)? And while we’ve seen the concept of reconciliation come up again and again in political discourse since that time, we’re still left wondering: what has this concretely meant over the last half decade? If this is a question you’ve held near and dear, then you’re not alone. In fact, The Local Good has been honoured by the opportunity to co-present “Truth and Reconciliation: Reflecting on the last five years” alongside Miranda Jimmy, co-founder of RISE – Reconciliation in Solidarity Edmonton. In preparation for the event, Miranda graciously sat down with us this week to share more about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), how far we’ve come, and how each of us can learn more and get involved.

Where We’re Going, Where We’ve Been

TLG: Miranda, thank you so much for being willing to share more about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and why it is so important to have this conversation five years later. Can you tell us, what was the purpose of the commission? Miranda: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada was a part of the settlement agreement signed for survivors of Indian Residential Schools – because there was never going to be an actual court case, the hearings were the only opportunity for survivors and community members to provide testimony and for their experiences to be documented and shared with Canadians.  TLG: What was the final national event in Edmonton like? Miranda: Each event was an opportunity for survivors to give testimony directly to the three commissioners on a public stage where anyone could come to bear witness – it was also an opportunity to collect documents, photos, and material memory items to donate to the commission. The hearings were an opportunity to hear truth in a different way. You can read about residential schools and know of their existence, but hearing stories is very different. The role of witnesses was to take in those stories, and share what was heard in ways that helped others understand.

“You can read about residential schools and know of their existence, but hearing stories is very different.”

TLG: What are the changes you’ve seen since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission published its report and Calls to Action five years ago? Miranda: On an individual, community, and grassroots level, the changes are tangible. Elders and knowledge keepers are being invited into discussions, and there are more non-Indigenous people engaging in and learning about Indigenous community events. However, the Calls to Action that came out of the TRC asked governments and regulatory bodies to make system changes – that is what hasn’t happened. There is thought from some elected officials that Indigenous knowledge and history is somehow politically motivated. I can understand why they say that – it challenges what we have been taught for so long. I think we have to think about the fact that Alberta didn’t start in 1905, and Canada didn’t start 153 years ago – that’s the truth, it’s not politics. There were political decisions that led, and continue to result in the mistreatment of Indigenous people and the systemic racism in our public services. TLG: Why is it important for Edmontonians to attend this event? Miranda: Times of crisis are times when reconciliation and understanding systemic racism is the most important, but also when it falls by the wayside. Oftentimes when we talk about residential schools, we think of these black and white images that make it easy to relegate very real events to the past – however, with what’s happening today with underfunding on reserves and outbreaks happening where there’s no access to healthcare – that is a result of systems like residential schooling. This is a time to think about this history as not only belonging to others, but as our lived, shared history – we need to bring it into the present tense.  Learning this part of history challenges our own personal identity of who we are as Canadians. I would invite people to come and learn at this event. The conversation we’re going to have is going to be open to a broad range of people, including those who are continuing to learn and didn’t have an opportunity to bear witness, those who are just starting to learn about Indian Residential Schools. TLG: What are some good resources for people to check out before or after this event? Miranda: Start by reading the Calls to Action – these are the direct actions needed to move reconciliation forward in our country. You can also listen to the full TRC Executive Report via a series of YouTube videos.  Ultimately, everyone needs to dedicate time to listening to more Indigenous voices and perspectives. RISE is hosting the 3rd Annual Reconciliation Film Festival online this year, with free links to Indigenous films daily from May 29 to June 7 at http://risedmonton.ca/reconciliation-film-festival/Want to learn more? Join Miranda and a fantastic panel on June 10th to continue this discussion at “Truth and Reconciliation: Reflecting on the last 5 years”. Get your tickets here!