The Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, spoke at the University of Manitoba’s Engineering atrium on Thursday, Oct. 30. His speech—titled “If you thought the Truth was hard, Reconciliation will be harder”—concerned the injustices faced by Aboriginal people in Canada who were forced to attend residential schools.
Sinclair’s speech was part of the 2014 Knight Distinguished Visitors Program. As part of this program, the U of M provides individuals who have made outstanding contributions to their fields with the chance to give a lecture to the public.
Sinclair spoke about the discrimination and abuse that First Nations people have faced in Canada and brought up troubling examples of the types of injustice that were carried out and the repercussions thereof.
“Aboriginal people were traumatized by their experience in residential schools through physical and sexual abuse,” said Sinclair.
During his speech, Sinclair proposed a solution for helping people understand the significance of the consequences of the injustices experienced by indigenous peoples in Canada. Sinclair contended that the Canadian curriculum should be amended to include a more balanced approach to teaching Canadian history, with more of a focus on aboriginal people.
“Getting people to understand [the injustices] will allow us to appreciate the significance of putting changes in our curriculum,” said Sinclair.
In Alberta, curriculum changes have already been imposed. Earlier this year, the province announced that the elementary and high school curricula will include mandatory content about the history of First Nations treaties and impacts of the residential school system.
“Reconciliation is a hard road but it is founded upon establishing a relationship of mutual respect between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people and between perpetrators and survivors.”
According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada website, “reconciliation is a goal that will take the commitment of multiple generations” of Canadians to achieve, but once it is accomplished “it will make for a better, stronger Canada.”
“It’s through the establishment of healthy relationships that we are going to be able to achieve a good nation and a good way for the people of this country to coexist together as was originally intended by the indigenous people,” said Sinclair.