TRC report recommendations need real financial backing, says Grand Chief Madahbee

MANITOULIN—Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee agrees with Justice Murray Sinclair’s comments regarding the number of indigenous children in care following Tuesday’s final Truth and Reconciliation Report release.

“The number is staggering,” stated Chief Madahbee. “There are far too many children being ripped away from their families. It’s a cycle that continues with the inter-generational legacy of residential schools. Many of these children end up on the streets or in jail. Is there going to be government and corporate dollars thrown at implementing the recommendations from the TRC report?”

“One of the things that came out in the report is that a lot of conditions that caused the residential schools system are still in place,” said Chief Madahbee. “Again, for example the Children’s Aid Society has more kids in their care than they did when the residential schools and 60s scoop period took place.”

Chief Madahbee stated, “the government is going to have to commit some serious resources to such things as health issues, housing, school, poverty and boil water advisories in some of our communities. How is a child going to do well in school when the only water they have access to is contaminated?”

Chief Madahbee referred to the recent outpouring of support for Syrian refugees coming to Canada. “I’m perplexed about the refugee situation. Everyone is finding dollars for language instruction, housing and education. First Nations in Canada are looking for clean water, housing and the restoration of our language to close the education gap. How do we get Canadians to look in their own back yard? I have empathy for the refugees coming in, but we need help too.”

“In light of the fact that all of a sudden the government has been able to find lots of money for crises around the world, hopefully they will find the resources to help people in Canada,” said Chief Madahbee.

Chief Madahbee says he hopes the federal government will come through on their campaign promises and follow through with reversing some damaging legislation put into place by the Harper government.

Justice Murray Sinclair formally ended the six-year Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Tuesday morning with the release of its final report. Last June Justice Sinclair released the damning preliminary report on the legacy of Canada’s residential school system, the former Conservative government said it would await the final document before committing to any of the commission’s 94 recommendations.

However, the new Liberal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won the election on their promise to reset the Crown’s relationship with Canada’s Indigenous peoples—including promising to implement all 94 of the proposed remedies laid out in the June summary.

The final report cautions, “reconciliation will require more than pious words about the shortcomings of those who preceded us. In every region of the country, survivors and others have sent a strong message, as received by this commission; for reconciliation to thrive in the coming years, Canada must move from apology to action.”

As part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement implemented in 2007, more than 80,000 survivors of residential schools were to receive compensation from a $2 billion fund, as well as receiving a full report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission borne out of the largest class-action lawsuit in Canadian history.

The Liberals have already begun preliminary work on one key commission recommendation, an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls that the Harper government rejected.

Some of the commission’s other remedies will cost tens of millions of dollars to implement, such as eliminating the funding gap between children being educated on reserves and boosting the number of aboriginal students in post-secondary education.

Chief Madahbee said an apology from the “Conservative government was meaningless, it provided 10 years of cutbacks with the government spending about $190 million on 170 court cases in fighting our people in the courts. The Conservatives apologized and then shafted us.”

“To the commission, reconciliation is about establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples in this country,” states the final report. “In order for that to happen, there has to be awareness of the past, acknowledgement of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes, and action to change behaviour. We are not there yet.”