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Chief says reconciliation requires work
While last week was declared Reconciliation Week to recognize abuse of aboriginal students at residential schools, First Nations leaders say there is still much work to be done.
Reconciliation Week is part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s activities, which was established to learn the truth about what happened at residential schools. Doug White, chief of Snuneymuxw First Nation, said the acknowledgment and the recognition of the abuse that took place is an important first step but there are a number of dimensions to the process of reconciliation and a lot remains to be uncovered.
“It’s made difficult in this overall process of reconciliation that we’re engaged in right now by the simple fact that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission itself, it’s had to go to court to sue the federal government for access to documents that the federal government has withheld about the history of these institutions,” White said during an interview at a Reconciliation Week event at Vancouver Island University on Friday.
He said the federal government hasn’t allowed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to see pages of documents related to the history of residential schools and that is problematic.
“I think it’s important to ask the question: Are we just trying to work towards some kind of false reconciliation? Where the object and the goal simply is to name this ugliness of the past; ‘Let’s wrap it up, let’s put it away and move on in the status quo.’ Because at the end of the day, reconciliation would require significant changes in Canadian society, Canadian legal structures and frameworks that are at the root of the relationship between Canada and indigenous peoples. If that’s not on the mind of the federal government then we’ve got a problem,” he said.
Shawn Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations and Vancouver Island University chancellor, said there is a tremendous distance to go and pointed to the situation with land treaties.
“Here in Nanaimo for example, I would point to the need for the Douglas Treaties. The Snuneymuxw people have a treaty, it’s yet to be honoured and implemented,” Atleo said. “People can join in and helping to recognize that what’s good for Snuneymuxw, what’s good for treaty nations is good for the country,” Atleo said.