The Truth and Reconciliation Commission began its work in 2008 and took in thousands of submissions before finally being dissolved in 2015, but six years on, work on the 94 recommendations that were issued by the TRC has barely even begun.
While numerous workshops, conferences, healing circles and conventions have been spawned by government (and even corporate) response to the concept of truth and reconciliation, the vast bulk of those attending Island events have been of decidedly darker complexion—with one or two white faces of the usual suspects spotted in the room, quite often one of those faces belonging to an Expositor reporter.
Admittedly, the thrust of most of those truth and reconciliation events has been on healing and the relaying of the truth of Indigenous experiences by survivors within their own communities, but until those truths are shared within the wider non-Indigenous community, and that wider community across our nation engages with those truths, reconciliation will remain an elusive goal.
There have been great strides made toward making those inroads into the national consciousness, the upcoming inaugural National Day of Truth and Reconciliation holiday comes as an example of a step forward. But one day a year does not a reconciliation make and, as referenced within this paper by Craig Abotossaway, could too easily slip into tokenism without concrete and concerted efforts being made to prevent that from happening.
It behooves our citizenry to make those efforts, especially here in the North, where our two solitudes are closer entwined than in most of the rest of the nation. Unlike most urban centres in the south, we are friends and neighbours whose lives and livelihoods depend on each other to a great degree. Research that underpinned the Northern Ontario Action Plan noted that 25 percent of the labour force in Northern Ontario will come be coming from Indigenous communities and highlighted the disparities of the provincial and federal education systems.
It is easy to forget how far we have come as a society while we gaze toward how far we still need to go, and that progress has been substantial, but we cannot sit on any perceived laurels. There remains too large a chasm to successfully bridge between the understandings of truth between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in order to reach the road to true reconciliation.
It is long past time for the non-Indigenous community to roll up its sleeves, open its eyes (and ears) to a difficult truth and discover the truth for themselves. Then we can all come together in a true spirit of reconciliation that transcends the collective amnesia of the news cycle and any danger of slipping into tokenism. That day will be a signal signpost on the road to a more just and civil society for all of us.