In this file photo, Justice Murray Sinclair (centre) and Commissioners Chief Wilton Littlechild (left) and Marie Wilson pull back a blanket to unveil the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada on the history of Canada’s residential school system, in Ottawa on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

In this file photo, Justice Murray Sinclair (centre) and Commissioners Chief Wilton Littlechild (left) and Marie Wilson pull back a blanket to unveil the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada on the history of Canada’s residential school system, in Ottawa on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Reconciliation delayed and anti-Indigenous racism rising: TRC commissioners

‘It’s kind of an urgent matter now to really refocus on the calls to action’

Five years after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued its final report, commissioners Murray Sinclair, Wilton Littlechild and Marie Wilson are coming together to voice their concerns about the slow pace of reconciliation in Canada.

The commission’s final report provided a detailed account of what happened to Indigenous children who were physically and sexually abused in government boarding schools, where at least 3,200 children died amid abuse and neglect.

The commission also published 94 calls to action urging all levels of government to change policies and programs to repair the harm caused by residential schools and move forward with reconciliation.

The three commissioners will be holding a press conference virtually on Tuesday morning to mark the fifth anniversary of the release of their final report.

Littlechild, a Cree chief and former MP who is a residential school survivor, said he’s encouraged by progress on reconciliation but he is concerned about the pace.

“The pace is what consensus is. We thought, as the commissioners, we would be farther ahead by now after five years,” he said in an interview with The Canadian Press Monday.

“It’s kind of an urgent matter now to really refocus on the calls to action.”

He said the three TRC commissioners haven’t been together since the commission finished its work five years ago.

Littlechild said he is also worried about growing racism in Canada.

“One of the (areas) where it’s going backwards, it’s the very open systemic racism and discrimination that’s not only continuing, but escalating.”

Sen. Murray Sinclair, who chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said groups advocating for racism in the United States felt empowered in the last few years and that spilled over to Canada.

He says these groups are targeting specific issues that are important for reconciliation, including the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

Earlier this month, the Liberal government introduced legislation to align federal laws with the United Nations declaration.

“We need to recognize that there is still some resistance on the part of some elements of Canadian society,” Sinclair said in an interview.

He said racist and white-supremacist groups are attempting to deny the validity of the Indigenous story.

“They are feeling empowered and feeling that they have the right to voice their opinions,” he said. “There is a very significant element of resistance that is trying to stir up fears and misunderstandings and misinformation.”

Littlechild said he’s troubled that six provinces oppose the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Indigenous-relations ministers from Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick called for the delay of the UNDRIP bill in a letter obtained by The Globe and Mail earlier in December.

“It’s not any more seeking consensus in terms of a non-partisan issue. It’s no longer about the process. It’s now politics,” Littlechild said. “That’s very, very sad and unfortunate.”

He said standing in the way of implementing the UN declaration means standing in the way of reconciliation.

“Indigenous survival, dignity and well-being should be a non-partisan issue,” he says.

The commissioners are also concerned that a National Council for Reconciliation has not been established five years after they called for one.

Sinclair said the lack of this council is leaving the entire conversation about priorities in the hands of the government.

“The government, in some respects, is in a bit of a conflict of interest when it comes to the process of reconciliation and Indigenous rights,” he said. “They control the legislative process that governs the lives of Indigenous people without attempting to give up that control or to acknowledge it. They should no longer be in charge.”

Sinclair said the UN declaration calls upon colonizing states, including Canada, to recognize that they spent a lot of money to take land rights away from Indigenous people, so they have to be willing to spend a lot of money to undo that harm.

“They have to recognize that much of the income that governments have earned over the last number of generations, it’s come from the resources that Indigenous people have a right to claim, still belong to them or still to be shared with them.”

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(NEWS FILE PHOTO)
ACRD, City of Port Alberni receive $4 million for COVID-19

Municipalities have until end of 2021 to allocate funding

The site of the former Arrowview Hotel, on Second Avenue and Athol Street, as of Jan. 14, 2020. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Port Alberni pressures Arrowview Hotel owner for final cleanup

Demolition finished in June 2020 but site still full of construction material

West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni received some good news about an expansion to its emergency department on Jan. 15, 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
B.C. health ministry commits $6.25M to hospital expansion in Port Alberni

Plans for larger emergency department have been on hold since 2015

A Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation guardian took this photo of dozens of vehicles parked along a forest service road in the Kennedy watershed. (Submitted photo)
Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District looks at enforcement of illegal camping

ACRD currently does not have an existing bylaw service to tackle the issue

Randy Brown, owner of Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue, has five trailers and a motorhome at the back of his property that he is renting to people who had been previously homeless. He wants to put 15 trailers on his property, hooked up to city sewer and water and BC Hydro. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Building owner digs in heels, refuses to remove illegal trailers from property

Port Alberni council gives owner two-week reprieve on remediation orders

Justin Kripps of Summerland and his team have competed in Olympic action and World Cup competitions in bobsleigh. (Jason Ransom-Canadian Olympic Comittee).
QUIZ: Are you ready for some winter sports?

It’s cold outside, but there are plenty of recreation opportunities in the winter months

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage addresses the attendees while Tom Olsen, Managing Director of the Canadian Energy Centre, looks on at a press conference at SAIT in Calgary on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Greg Fulmes
‘Morally and ethically wrong:’ Court to hear challenge to Alberta coal policy removal

At least 9 interveners will seek to join a rancher’s request for a judicial review of Alberta’s decision

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Everett Bumstead (centre) and his crew share a picture from a tree planting location in Sayward on Vancouver Island from when they were filming for ‘One Million Trees’ last year. Photo courtesy, Everett Bumstead.
The tree planting life on Vancouver Island features in new documentary

Everett Bumstead brings forth the technicalities, psychology and politics of the tree planting industry in his movie

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Most Read