Truth and Reconciliation: A Guide for Newcomers
History of Truth and Reconciliation
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) began in 2007, as a part of the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement.
Indian Residential Schools, which were only for Indigenous children, opened as early as 1831 in Canada, and closed as late as 1996. The federal government and churches operated them. Attendance was mandatory and enforced by the RCMP and Indian Agents.
In 2015, the TRC released its final report with 94 Calls to Action. As of December 2021, the Canadian Government has completed 13 Calls to Action, and are working to complete 29 more. Thirty-two other Calls to Action are pending, and twenty are awaiting attention.
The TRC’s two final Calls to Action addresses newcomers.
Call to Action 93 calls for an updated “information kit for newcomers and citizenship test to reflect a more inclusive history of the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada.” As of December 2021, no updated guide is available. Call to Action 94 calls for an update to the Citizenship Oath to include upholding treaties with Indigenous Peoples. The federal government passed Bill C-8, which revised the citizenship oath in June 2021.
So, you are thinking “what can I do, as a newcomer, to learn more about Truth and Reconciliation?”
You are already learning many things about your new home. As you learn more, you will also learn about Indigenous histories and cultures. This blog post will help you get started by sharing some resources. Take the time you need to understand the different aspects of Truth and Reconciliation and decide how you want to contribute.
Library Settlement Partnerships (LSP) is here to support settling into life in Canada. Toronto Public Library (TPL) works with seven local settlement agencies to offer one-on-one information, referral, and programs for newcomers. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) funds LSP. There are now four locations offering appointments – you can make one by contacting a settlement worker. Safety measures are in place, including settlement workers using personal protective equipment, acrylic shields installed at desks, and regular cleaning. Please wear a mask or face-covering when you are visiting. LSP programs are still running on select third-party online platforms. Settlement workers can help you use them carefully.
Every October, we celebrate LSP Week. Canada’s first Métis Citizenship Judge, Suzanne Carrière, joined our event in 2021. She talked about updates to the Canadian citizenship oath to include Aboriginal and treaty rights with Indigenous Peoples in Canada.
Judge Carrière said “there is a role for newcomers in Truth and Reconciliation. Newcomers are not responsible for the past. They are responsible for the future of the country and being a new citizen is making a commitment in the future. We can move forward together with a greater understanding.” She also suggested meaningful ways that newcomers can contribute to Truth and Reconciliation, such as being strong allies for each other. Citizenship Judge Carrière added that, “We can all do our part being a friend or an ally, speaking as friends as it’s an easy concept to understand. I encourage everyone to think about how we can be a friend or an ally, how to encourage that friendship at home and in the community. Talk to your friends and families about Indigenous issues.”
Resources at TPL
Citizenship Judge Carrière also recommended some books to read. Please note, where possible, the nation of the Indigenous author is next to their name in brackets.
All the Way: My Life on Ice by Jordin Tootoo (Inuit)
Up Ghost River: A Chief’s Journey through the Turbulent Waters of Native History by Edmund Metatawabin (Cree) and Alexandra Shimo
Red River Girl: The Life and Death of Tina Fontaine by Joanna Jolly (Cree)
Motorcycles and Sweetgrass by Drew Hayden Taylor (Ojibway)
You can also find more recommendations for stories by Indigenous writers below.
- Read for Reconciliation
- Read Indigenous
- Orange Shirt Day
- Red Dress Day 2021
- Treaties Recognition Week 2021
- Truth and Reconciliation: 5 Years Later
Here are some previously aired online programs that share Indigenous perspectives. Be sure to keep an eye out for upcoming Indigenous events too!
Jody Wilson-Raybould: “Indian” in the Cabinet
Join Jody and Tracy as they discuss “Indian” in the Cabinet and the need to strengthen our political institutions to better address racial justice and climate change.
This 45-minute program will discuss Fatty Legs by Christy Jordan-Fenton.
Naagan ge bezhig emkwaan / A Dish with One Spoon Reconsidered
Join Victor and Dean as they give an overview of the Dish with One Spoon from an Anishinaabe perspective.
Have You Met the Three Sisters Indigenous Food Stories with Chef Joseph Shawana
Join Joseph as he talks about his journey through food, shares some Indigenous stories around food and the importance of agricultural sustainability.
Laughter and Resilience: Indigenous Comedy Panel
Three Indigenous comedians sit with Kliph to talk about the deep connection between comedy, tragedy, and the power of humour to uplift and educate.
Resources outside of TPL
Beyond the library, you can check out these resources.
- TRC’s Final Report
- TRC’s 94 Calls to Action
- United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
We recommend watching the following programs on YouTube from the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation’s Truth and Reconciliation Week:
- Legacy of Hope: Truth and Reconciliation Allyship
- Old Enough to Go, Old Enough to Know – Talking Residential Schools with Kids
- Handbook for Newcomers: Indigenous Peoples in Canada
- Welcome to Canada Study Guide. Also comes with a video, called “Welcome to our Homelands.”
- First Peoples: A Guide for Newcomers
- Indigenous Peoples of Manitoba: A guide for newcomers
- Reconciliation: How newcomers to Canada can support Indigenous peoples
- A Newcomer’s Journey to Understanding Indigenous Culture in Canada
- Are You A Settler or Newcomer and Want to Participate in Actions Toward Reconciliation But Don’t Know Where to Begin?
This blog post is co-contributed by Jamie and Elsa.