SPECIAL REPORT

Calls to Action Accountability:
A 2020 Status Update on Reconciliation

By Eva Jewell and Ian Mosby

OVERVIEW

“Canada owes it to Survivors of residential schools to do better. And, we’ve had enough of the crocodile tears and empty promises of the past five years. What we need is meaningful action and we’ll continue trying to hold Canada to account for these failures.”

December 15, 2020, marks a full five years since the release of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. It was a momentous day that saw residential school Survivors, their families, and representatives of the institutions responsible for overseeing the horrors of Canada’s Indian residential school system gather in Ottawa to chart a new path for the future guided by the Commission’s 94 Calls to Action. Governments committed to work with provincial, territorial, and municipal counterparts to “fully implement the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.” But five years later, that commitment has not materialized.

In 2020, a tumultuous year for many reasons, our analysis reveals that just 8 Calls to Action have been implemented, this is down from 9 in 2019. Ultimately, we find that Canada is failing residential school Survivors and their families

“It is not lost on us that if the Calls to Action had been properly addressed from their inception, the unique crises that Indigenous peoples face arising from the pandemic could have been mitigated.”

– EVA JEWELL AND IAN MOSBY

Why the lack of action on the Calls to Action?

5 Reasons:

01.
Exclusion of Indigenous peoples from the “public interest” by policy makers

02.
Deep rooted paternalistic attitudes of politicians, bureaucrats, and other policy makers

03.
The ongoing legacy and reality of structural anti-Indigenous racism

04.
Predatory non-Indigenous organizations that exploit reconciliation

05.
Insufficient resources

PART 1: LEGACY

The Legacy Calls to Action (#1-42) are those that seek to address the ongoing structural inequalities that marginalize Indigenous peoples — intentionally or not — in contemporary Canadian society.

To date, this category has seen the least amount of action with only two calls completed:

#13
Federal acknowledgment of Indigenous Language Rights

#41
Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Where do we stand on the rest?

The analysis in Part 1 includes expert insight from Dr. Cindy Blackstock, Dr. Tehanyatarí:ya’ks Martin and Dr. Renée Monchalin.

HEALTH (CALLS #18-24)

“Canada has barely scratched the surface of the TRC Health Calls to Action. Many health service providers have been treating cultural safety training as just a checkbox on their to-do list. Health services and programs need to be Indigenous-led and Indigenous informed if we want to see any real change.”

– DR RENÉE MONCHALIN (Anishinaabe / Métis)
Assistant Professor, School of Public Health and Social Policy, University of Victoria and Yellowhead Research Fellow

LANGUAGE AND CULTURE (CALLS #13-17)

“Every year the people involved with Indigenous language programming have to wonder whether or not their programs will be funded… At Six Nations specifically, the level of funding has stagnated… even though the demand on the funds through program development and number of people involved has increased exponentially.”

– DR. BRANDON TEHANYATARI:TA’KS MARTIN (Mohawk, Six Nations of the Grand River Territory)
Assistant Professor of Languages, Literatures, and Culture, Ryerson University & Board Member of the Six Nations Language Commission

EDUCATION  (CALLS #6-12)

“An Assembly of First Nations analysis released in June 2020 found a $627-million capital deficit in the “immediate” category, for additions to existing schools alone…The Shannen’s Dream campaign has been advocating for “safe and comfy” schools for First Nations children since 2008, and the campaign marches forward because of persistently poor school conditions.”

– MAGGIE WENTE (Serpent River First Nation)
Lawyer and Partner at OKT LLP

CHILD WELFARE (CALLS #1-5)

“…approximately 65% of the approved [Jordan’s Principle] services are to achieve basic equality with other children…Overall there is no convincing evidence that Canada would have implemented Jordan’s Principle voluntarily. Any credit for this Call to Action falls to Jordan’s family and everyone who advocates strongly for the full implementation of Jordan’s Principle.”

– CINDY BLACKSTOCK (Gitxsan First Nation)
Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and Professor at McGill University

PART 2: RECONCILIATION

The Reconciliation Calls to Action (#43-94) deal with 17 subcategories of measures that are meant to a) advance inclusion of Indigenous peoples in various sectors of society; b) educate Canadian society at large about Indigenous peoples, residential schools, and reconciliation; and c) establish practices, policies, and actions that affirm Indigenous Rights.

These calls comprise the majority of the completed calls, with a total of six Calls to Action completed — down from seven last year. They include:

#48
Adoption of UNDRIP by Churches and faith groups

#49
Rejection of the Doctrine of Discovery by churches and faith groups

#72
Federal support for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation’s National Residential School Student Death Register

#83
Reconciliation agenda for the Canada Council for the Arts

#85
Reconciliation agenda for APTN

#88
Long-term support from all levels of government for North American Indigenous Games

This part of the report focuses on six of the 17 subcategories, with check-ins and discussions of completed or soon-to-be completed Calls to Action. Dr. Jennifer Brant, Lindsay Nixon, Dr. Kisha Supernant, and Dr. Janice Forsyth provide expert insight in this section.

SPORTS AND RECONCILIATION (Calls #87-91)

“One critical missing piece right now is the absence of a national policy for Indigenous sport…This means mainstream governments and sport organizations at every level in Canada can move ahead with their own plans for ‘reconciliation’ without having to be accountable to a larger vision, led by Indigenous people.”

– DR. JANICE FORSYTH (Fisher River Cree Nation)
Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of Indigenous Studies at Western University in London, Ontario

COMMEMORATION (Calls #79-83)

[T]he directive that this funding could be used by non-Indigenous arts administrators to undertake reconciliation…What resulted was a lot of representation on gallery walls, and the same toxic, white-coded cultures within art itself. Namely, I can’t think of a single Indigenous admin across Canada at a major institution.”

– LINDSAY NIXON (Cree-Métis-Saulteaux)
Writer, curator, Assistant Professor at Ryerson University’s Department of English, and Yellowhead Institute Associate Fellow

MISSING CHILDREN AND BURIAL INFORMATION (Calls #73-76)

“…not only has the recent designation of residential schools as a National Historic Event created new options for communities to preserve and manage the sites of former residential schools, there has been some behind the scenes movement towards completing Calls to Action #73-76”.

– DR. KISHA SUPERNANT, MÉTIS
Archaeologist and Director of the Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology, University of Alberta

EDUCATION FOR RECONCILIATION (Calls #62-65)

“In my experience teaching Indigenous Requirement Courses in teacher education, reactions range from willingness to resistance to learn and this is also associated with feelings of unpreparedness. Teacher candidates will complete a 12 session course and then be expected to teach curricula related to treaties, residential schools, and Indigenous histories in their own classrooms. One course is not enough…”

– DR. JENNIFER BRANT (Kanien’kehá:ka)
Assistant Professor, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto

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