Truth and Reconciliation: 5 Years Later
Five years ago on December 15, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) released their full Final Report.
The Report details the experiences of Indian Residential School survivors throughout Canada. The last Indian Residential School closed in 1996, after being open for over 160 years.
Sharing these experiences with the TRC was part of Canada's largest class-action lawsuit. It took six years for the TRC to gather these stories from across Canada. The TRC also held 7 national events for everyone to learn more about "the history and legacy of Indian Residential Schools."
June of 2015 saw the release of the executive summary, and 94 Calls to Action. Six months later, the Final Report was released.
A lot has happened in the past five years since the report's release; but also, not a lot has changed since the report's release.
At Toronto Public Library, we created an Indigenous Initiatives Strategy (PDF) in 2017. This strategy responds to the TRC Final Report, and will continue to guide us in building meaningful relationships with Indigenous communities. Part of this strategy includes the creation of our Indigenous Advisory Council. We have also integrated better service to Indigenous communities throughout our new Strategic Plan for 2021 - 2025.
We are sharing some books in our collection that talk about the Truth and Reconciliation from 2016 to 2020. We are also sharing stories from Indian Residential School Survivors. Please note, when the author is Indigenous, their nation is next to their name in brackets.
Residential School Experiences
Broken Circle: The Dark Legacy of Indian Residential Schools: A Memoir by Theodore Fontaine (Sagkeeng Anishinaabeg)
This is a true story, "told as remembrances described with insights that have evolved through his healing, his story resonates with his resolve to help himself and other residential school survivors and to share his enduring belief that one can pick up the shattered pieces and use them for good."
They Called Me Number One: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School by Bev Sellars (Interior Salish, Secwepemc, Xat'sull Nations)
"In this frank and poignant memoir of her years at St. Joseph's Mission, Sellars breaks her silence about the residential school's lasting effects on her and her family – from substance abuse to suicide attempts – and eloquently articulates her own path to healing. Number One comes at a time of recognition – by governments and society at large – that only through knowing the truth about these past injustices can we begin to redress them."
The Education of Augie Merasty: A Residential School Memoir by Joseph Auguste Merasty (Cree)
"This memoir offers a courageous and intimate chronicle of life in a residential school."
"In Finding My Talk, fourteen aboriginal women who attended residential schools, or were affected by them, reflect on their experiences. They describe their years in residential schools across Canada and how they overcame tremendous obstacles to become strong and independent members of aboriginal cultures and valuable members of Canadian society."
My Decade at Old Sun, My Lifetime of Hell by Arthur Bear Chief (Siksiká)
"Arthur Bear Chief depicts the punishment, cruelty, abuse, and injustice that he endured at Old Sun Residential School and then later relived in the traumatic process of retelling his story at an examination for discovery in connection with a lawsuit brought against the federal government. Late in life, he returned to Gleichen, Alberta on the Siksika nation – to the home left to him by his mother – and it was there that he began to reconnect with Blackfoot language and culture."
"This memoir offers a firsthand account of the personal and political challenges Mason confronted on this journey. A riveting and at times harrowing read, Spirit of the Grassroots People describes the author’s experiences in Indian day and residential schools in Manitoba and his struggles to find meaning in life after trauma and abuse. Mason details the work that he and his colleagues did over many years to gain recognition and compensation for their suffering. Drawing from Indigenous oral traditions as well as Western historiography, the work applies the concept of two-eyed seeing to the histories of colonialism and education in Canada."
Stolen Lives: The Indigenous Peoples of Canada and the Indian Residential Schools, with a foreward by Theodore Fontaine (Sagkeeng Anishinaabeg)
"As we prepare to mark our 150th birthday in 2017, let us face ourselves with the gift of new knowledge and honest introspection. Stolen Lives, this rich backgrounder and study guide about Indian Residential Schools, is a well-researched and provocative new tool that offers just such a gift. All our children have a right to the truth...the whole truth. Stolen Lives can help them learn it, and help them explore new pathways to ongoing reconciliation."
You can read about other experiences at Indian Residential Schools on our blog post for Orange Shirt Day 2020. It has titles for children, teens and adults.
Books about Truth and Reconciliation (2016 - 2020)
Speaking Our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation by Monique Gray Smith (Sioux, Lakota, and Cree)
"This nonfiction book examines how we can foster reconciliation with Indigenous people at individual, family, community and national levels."
Truth and Reconciliation by Simon Rose
"Explores the impact of residential schools on the Indigenous people of Canada as well as efforts by the Canadian government to mend the damaged relationships caused by these schools."
"In Residential Schools and Reconciliation, award winning author J.R. Miller tackles and explains these institutional responses to Canada's residential school legacy. Analysing archival material and interviews with former students, politicians, bureaucrats, church officials, and the Chief Commissioner of the TRC, Miller reveals a major obstacle to achieving reconciliation – the inability of Canadians at large to overcome their flawed, overly positive understanding of their country's history."
"Through historical photographs, documents, and first-person narratives from First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people who survived residential schools, this book offers an account of the injustice of this period in Canadian history. It documents how this official racism was confronted and finally acknowledged."
In This Together: Fifteen Stories of Truth and Reconciliation, edited by Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail
"Chief Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the TRC, says that the most common statement the commission heard from the public was: "I didn't know any of this, and I acknowledge that things are not where they should be, and that we can do better. But what can we do? What should we do?"
This collection of fifteen true stories of real reconciliation by both Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Canadians is in response to that question. Written by journalists, writers, academics, visual artists, filmmakers, a city planner, and a lawyer, each of these writers expound on their 'light bulb moments' regarding Canada's colonial past and present. They look at their own experiences and assumptions about race and racial divides in Canada under a microscope in hopes that the rest of the population will do the same."
Picking Up the Pieces: Residential School Memories and the Making of the Witness Blanket by Carey Newman (Kwakwak'awakw and Sto:lo) and Kirstie Hudson
"This nonfiction book, illustrated with photographs, tells the story of the making of the Witness Blanket, a work by Indigenous artist Carey Newman that includes hundreds of items from every Residential School in Canada and stories from the Survivors who donated them."
"Thoughtful, provocative, and uncompromising in the need to tell the "truth" as he sees it, Niezen offers an important contribution to understanding truth and reconciliation processes in general, and the Canadian experience in particular."
Pathways of Reconciliation: Indigenous and Settler Approaches to Implementing the TRCs Calls to Action, edited by Aimée Craft (Anishinaabe-Métis) and Paulette Regan
"The essays in Pathways of Reconciliation address the themes of reframing, learning and healing, researching, and living. They engage with different approaches to reconciliation (within a variety of reconciliation frameworks, either explicit or implicit) and illustrate the complexities of the reconciliation process itself. They canvass multiple and varied pathways of reconciliation, from Indigenous and non-Indigenous perspectives, reflecting a diversity of approaches to the mandate given to all Canadians by the TRC with its Calls to Action."
Truth and Reconciliation in Canadian Schools by Pamela Rose Toulouse (Ojibwe / Odawa)
"This book is for all teachers that are looking for ways to respectfully infuse residential school history, treaty education, Indigenous contributions, First Nation/Métis/Inuit perspectives and sacred circle teachings into their subjects and courses. The author presents a culturally relevant and holistic approach that facilitates relationship building and promotes ways to engage in reconciliation activities."
The Sleeping Giant Awakens: Genocide, Indian Residential Schools, and the Challenge of Conciliation by David Bruce Macdonald
" In this book, David B. MacDonald uses genocide as an analytical tool to better understand Canada’s past and present relationships between settlers and Indigenous peoples. [...] The Sleeping Giant Awakens offers a unique and timely perspective on the prospects for conciliation after genocide, exploring how moving forward together is difficult in a context where many settlers know little of the residential schools and the ongoing legacies of colonization, and need to have a better conception of Indigenous rights."
Answering the Calls: A Child's View of the 94 Calls to Action edited by Rhona Churman, Jackie Cleave, Chantelle Brown Cotton, Jill Joanette, and Stephanie Jones
"This book will assist all ages to further facilitate understanding of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action." Description from publisher's website.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission Reports
"A Knock on the Door, published in collaboration with the National Research Centre for Truth & Reconciliation, gathers material from the several reports the TRC has produced to present the essential history and legacy of residential schools in a concise and accessible package that includes new materials to help inform and contextualize the journey to reconciliation that Canadians are now embarked upon."
"This report, the summary volume, includes the history of residential schools, the legacy of that school system, and the full text of the Commission's 94 recommendations for action to address that legacy.
This report lays bare a part of Canada's history that until recently was little-known to most non-Aboriginal Canadians. The Commission discusses the logic of the colonization of Canada's territories, and why and how policy and practice developed to end the existence of distinct societies of Aboriginal peoples."
"Canada's Residential Schools: The History, Part 1, Origins to 1939 places Canada's residential school system in the historical context of European campaigns to colonize and convert Indigenous people throughout the world. In post-Confederation Canada, the government adopted what amounted to a policy of cultural genocide: suppressing spiritual practices, disrupting traditional economies, and imposing new forms of government. Residential schooling quickly became a central element in this policy. The destructive intent of the schools was compounded by chronic underfunding and ongoing conflict between the federal government and the church missionary societies that had been given responsibility for their day-to-day operation. A failure of leadership and resources meant that the schools failed to control the tuberculosis crisis that gripped the schools for much of this period."
"Canada's Residential Schools: The History, Part 2, 1939 to 2000 carries the story of the residential school system from the end of the Great Depression to the closing of the last remaining schools in the late 1990s. It demonstrates that the underfunding and unsafe living conditions that characterized the early history of the schools continued into an era of unprecedented growth and prosperity for most Canadians. A miserly funding formula meant that into the late 1950s school meals fell short of the Canada Food Rules. Overcrowding, poor sanitation, and a failure to adhere to fire safety rules were common problems throughout this period. While government officials had come to view the schools as costly and inefficient, the churches were reluctant to countenance their closure. It was not until the late 1960s that the federal government finally wrested control of the system away from the churches."
"Canada's Residential Schools: The Inuit and Northern Experience demonstrates that residential schooling followed a unique trajectory in the North. As late as 1950 there were only six residential schools and one hostel north of the sixtieth parallel. Prior to the 1950s, the federal government left northern residential schools in the hands of the missionary societies that operated largely in the Mackenzie Valley and the Yukon. It was only in the 1950s that Inuit children began attending residential schools in large numbers. The tremendous distances that Inuit children had to travel to school meant that, in some cases, they were separated from their parents for years. The establishment of day schools and what were termed small hostels in over a dozen communities in the eastern Arctic led many Inuit parents to settle in those communities on a year-round basis so as not to be separated from their children, contributing to a dramatic transformation of the Inuit economy and way of life."
"Canada's Residential Schools: The Métis Experience focuses on an often-overlooked element of Canada's residential school history. Canada's residential school system was a partnership between the federal government and the churches. Since the churches wished to convert as many Aboriginal children as possible, they had no objection to admitting Métis children."
"Canada's Residential Schools: Missing Children and Unmarked Burials is the first systematic effort to record and analyze deaths at the schools, and the presence and condition of student cemeteries, within the regulatory context in which the schools were intended to operate. As part of its work the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada established a National Residential School Student Death Register. Due to gaps in the available data, the register is far from complete. Although the actual number of deaths is believed to be far higher, 3,200 residential school victims have been identified. The analysis also demonstrates that residential school death rates were significantly higher than those for the general Canadian school-aged population."
"Canada's Residential Schools: The Legacy describes what Canada must do to overcome the schools' tragic legacy and move towards reconciliation with the country's first peoples. For over 125 years Aboriginal children suffered abuse and neglect in residential schools run by the Canadian government and by churches."
"Canada's Residential Schools: Reconciliation documents the complexities, challenges, and possibilities of reconciliation by presenting the findings of public testimonies from residential school Survivors and others who participated in the TRC's national events and community hearings. [...] This volume also emphasizes the important role of public memory in the reconciliation process, as well as the role of Canadian society, including the corporate and non-profit sectors, the media, and the sports community in reconciliation. The Commission urges Canada to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for reconciliation."
These reports are also available for free on the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation website.
August 23, 2021: Added a line clarifying that when an author is Indigenous, their nation will be in brackets next to their name.