Publisher’s Message January 2016

mervin

T4N Jan 2016

Treaty 4 News January 2016

I may have escaped attending the Indian Residential Schools but my life was still affected by the intergenerational impacts of the government and church-run institutions.

I’ve written about this before, that both my parents attended the schools and both survived the experience.

My mother and father worked hard to raise their children and provide them the best opportunities possible.

They gave us a chance, unfortunately a lot of other little Indian children weren’t so lucky.

Last month, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission wrapped up its work submitting the final report with 94 Calls to Action.

I must admit, I didn’t run out right away to find a copy to read back in June when the TRC issued their interim report.

I heard first hand from people who went to residential school about the things that went on behind closed doors; I didn’t need to hear any more of these stories.

But after attending numerous public events that featured the head of the TRC, Justice Murray Sinclair, I became engaged with the findings.

What I found most interesting is the 94 Calls to Action.

The Calls to Action address issues created by the Indian Residential School legacy like child welfare, low education outcomes, high incarceration rates, loss of culture, languages and health issues.

They also offer up solutions.

I came across a Calgary Sun column written by Dave Dormer. It was the first time I read something he wrote.

In his column, he described a First Nations welcoming ceremony for the arrival of Syrian refugees to Calgary.

Dormer pointed out that an Elder spent 15 minutes telling the refugees about the “various atrocities perpetrated by the Canadian government against First Nations over more than a century. He (the Elder) detailed the decades of abuses suffered by Natives through the Residential School Program.”

Dormer wrapped up his column stating the Elder’s presentation was awkward, hardly appropriate or even remotely helpful.

After reading the column, I searched the Calls to Action to see if there was anything about immigration.

Sure enough, the 93rd call to action, New Comers to Canada, addresses the very issue Dormer wrote about.

“We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with the national Aboriginal organizations, to revise the information kit for newcomers to Canada and its citizenship test to reflect a more inclusive history of the diverse Aboriginal peoples of Canada, including information about the Treaties and the history of residential schools. “

And upon further research I found Call to Action number 86 that could assist Dormer but he would have to go back to school.

“We call upon Canadian journalism programs and media schools to require education for all students on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal– Crown relations.”

The point of this column is to provide an example of the information contained in the TRC final report, in particular the 94 Calls to Action, and to encourage other Canadians to step up and advance reconciliation.

A small group of Indigenous journalists, including myself, are talking and taking action to organize a media reconciliation conference.

We agree that while there are individuals within the industry who appreciate the importance and are sympathetic to First Nations and Métis issues, there is still a need to discuss the media’s role in reporting, or lack of reporting, the truth about Canada’s Indian Residential School experience and the ongoing effects of which continue today.

To paraphrase the words of Justice Sinclair, education is the key to reconciliation and reconciliation is establishing a relationship and every day Canadians will need to recommit to the relationship.

I encourage others to take a few minutes and read the 94 Calls to Action and find out what you can do to help with reconciliation. You can find them at: http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/File/2015/Findings/Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf