The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), formed in 2008 to help begin healing over Canada’s residential school system for Indigenous peoples, will be holding its final public event at the end of March in Edmonton.
Similar to past events, this one will feature traditional ceremonies, survivor gatherings and statements, an education day, and more.
Although the mandate of the TRC has been extended through 2015, this final public event signals the end of a journey and the beginning of a new one for those who have been involved.
National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald is already looking to the future.
“It has become more and more clear as we’ve gone on that this is a beginning, and not an end. This is the beginning of reconciliation. I don’t think that after we finish this, anybody will say ‘Well, we did that!'”
“I think the next steps on the path are the building of the positive relationships between non-Indigenous people and institutions, and Indigenous people. It’s all about building on the bedrock of reconciliation.”
Henriette Thompson, General Synod’s public witness coordinator for social and ecological justice, recalls the beginnings of the TRC.
“One of the things that I remember feeling when I joined the staff in March 2008 was a sense that this was a process that had been started 20 to 30 years earlier,” says Thompson.
“I was joining a stream that was already moving, and I just had a lot of learning to do in terms of what the meaning of the apology had been in 1993, what the Hendry Report had meant for our church. Not just facts and figures-but what was it in between that provided the connections to build from one to another, and what was that story, what was that narrative? And how was that narrative understood differently by Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals? Where were the places we really came together?”
For Thompson, the history of the reconciliation process, leading up to and including the TRC, has been one of big changes.
“With that 1993 apology…something shifted in people’s minds. Every time we had something like that-like the appointment of a National Indigenous Anglican Bishop-something huge shifted. Even through the time of the TRC there have been huge shifts. They’re kind of subterranean, and that’s why we need to process this for ourselves as soon after the final TRC event as possible, to reflect on a fresh experience.”
Heading into this final event, Bishop MacDonald holds a strong sense of expectation, and even excitement.
“This has been a big part of my life over these past few years, and I’m curious, like everybody else. Each event has been different. Things like this are so big, that they can’t be stage-managed. A lot of what happens at these [events] can never be planned, can never be predicted, and can’t be controlled. There’s a sincere and earnest and successful effort to keep all of these things within a healing context, but at the same time, you don’t know what people are going to say,” he notes.
“I mean, so many people tell me, ‘I didn’t know what I would feel when I got up there.’ I’ve heard people say, ‘I’ve told this to people a thousand times, and I got up there and I completely fell apart.’ Even individuals can’t predict how this is going to impact them. When you put all of that together, you just don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s an event that’s bigger than any person or group of people could control and move towards a particular outcome. I think, though, that the commission has done a good job of making sure these things move in a healing way.”
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