For those of you who might be following us from outside Canada, let me begin by pointing out that Monday is Thanksgiving (or, as you might prefer to call it, ‘Canadian Thanksgiving’). This means that I will be spending the weekend back in Montreal – I’m writing this from the train, homeward bound – hanging with family, cooking, and watching the Habs open their new season. So you’ll forgive me if the mood of this post is a bit lighter than usual. I’m far too content right now to play the serious academic.
The triumph of Canada’s hockey gold medals now a month old and the memories of the Olympics are starting to fade. Watching the Olympics unfold in our own country is an experience in and of itself. I must admit I’m not a sports fan. Even as a child I was usually on the sidelines and unusually drawn to what was happening in the bleachers, rather than the events on field. I like to think that it was my budding anthropologist in me that drew my focus to the spectators rather than the athletes, but I suspect it had more to do with poor hand-eye coordination than it did with future career aspirations. But my interest in the activities on the sidelines remains.
In June of 2008 the federal government of Canada formally established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as a part of the Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. The TRC is meant to be a body independent of the government that will allow former students of the schools to share their experiences, while at the same time educating the Canadian public about the history of these schools in Canada. The TRC claims to have the following mandate: (1) create a historical record of the policies and operations of residential schools; (2) make a public report that includes recommendations to the government in regards to the residential schools and the their legacy; (3) establish a research centre as a permanent resource; (4) hold 7 national events to promote awareness and education about the schools and their impact; (5) support events for individual First Nations communities; (6) honour and pay tribute to former students in a permanent way. The TRC, after two years of “growing pains” and false starts, seems prepared to finally take off and begin its work. Commission Chair Justice Murray Sinclair, Commissioner Marie Wilson, and Commissioner Chief Wilton Littlechild are set to begin holding the commission’s first national event June 15-19 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The TRC and those supporting it appear hopeful, even after the change of Commissioners through out the last 2 years, and the stalled beginning.