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July 8, 2017

Convention delegates challenged to offer safe spaces in their communities; be engaged in the 94 calls to action of the TRC

On the Saturday morning of the 2017 ELCIC National Convention, delegates welcomed Kaila Johnston, research coordinator for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR).

The NCTR opened in the summer of 2015 and was created to preserve the memory of Canada’s Residential School system and legacy. The NCTR is the permanent home for all statements, documents and other materials gathered by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC).

“I’ve seen first-hand the effects of the colonial system of oppression, and I have felt it as well,” said Johnston whose presentation focused on the history of Residential School systems, the TRC, the NTRC, as well as the long path forward striving for reconciliation.

“In an underfunded, under-supervised system, there was little protection for children,” she said. “Overall, residential schools often amounted to a system of institutionalized child neglect.”

TRC one of five components of Indian Residential School Agreement

In 2006, negotiations were approved between the legal advisors for survivors, the churches, The Assembly of First Nations, the Government of Canada, and other organizations to implement the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement.

“It was formed as a fair, comprehensive and lasting resolution to the legacy of Indian Residential Schools, as well as to promote, healing, education, commemoration, truth, and reconciliation,” said Johnston.

The establishment of the TRC in June of 2008, was one of the five major components to the Indian Residential School Agreement. It was founded as a holistic, comprehensive response to the Indian Residential Schools.

NCTR opens its doors

Following a lengthy review process, the TRC awarded custodianship of its archives to the University of Manitoba. The NCTR is the final home for all statements, documents and materials gathered during its six-year mandate of the TRC.

Johnston quoted George Rasmus, who said, “if the stories of our people are not accessible to the general public, it will be as if their experiences never occurred. And if their voices are rendered as museum pieces, it will be as if their experiences are frozen in time. What we need are open, dynamic and interactive spaces, and participatory forms of narrative knowledge and research.” This is a very good representation of the NCTR, she said.

Offering safe spaces

The concept of reconciliation means many different things to many different people, communities, institutions and organizations, said Johnston.

How do we define respectful relationships, she asked? “It includes safety, encouragement, honestly, trust, caring, the freedom to be yourself, listening and valuing opinions. Everyone has the right to feel safe, to be treated with fairness, to be valued and feel accepted for who they are.”

Johnston asked the convention audience to consider how their communities could offer safe spaces for Indigenous peoples to come together to begin this process of reconciliation.

“Reconciliation is both a process and a goal,” she said. “There is no finish line to cross at the end of the day where we can all stand up and say reconciliation has been achieved. It will continue to go long after this conversation has ended.”

What can I do

Johnston explained that she is frequently asked what can people do to be involved in reconciliation. “These [94 calls to action] are for all Canadians, not just for people at Provincial, Territorial or Federal government levels,” she responded.

Johnston listed several actions of reconciliation, including: “Learn the history of Indigenous and nonindigenous peoples, understand the history and legacy of Residential schools, explore the unique intersections between treaty, constitutional Indigenous and human rights, recognize the rich contributions Indigenous peoples have had to this country, take action to address historical injustices and present day wrongs, as well as teach others.”

View the full recording of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation presentation to the 2017 ELCIC National Convention: https://youtu.be/JZop5pK15vE

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The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is Canada's largest Lutheran denomination with 114,592 baptized members in 525 congregations. It is a member of the Lutheran World Federation, the Canadian Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches.

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