Talking Point: The Truth in Reconciliation
Alberta is home to some 12,000 survivors of federally run residential schools
by Tim Querengesser
As we head to press, the seventh and final national event of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is closing in Edmonton. The location is fitting: Edmonton is home to most of Alberta’s 12,000 residential-school survivors, the province had a disproportionate number of the schools and Edmonton is the supply city for the oil sands. And it’s there where aboriginal land rights will potentially shape the province’s economic prospects.
The commission – launched back in 2008, when Prime Minister Stephen Harper officially apologized for residential schools – has been a reawakening, among aboriginal people and everyone else. Disgusting truths from residential schools have since been uncovered, like dietary restrictions and torture with electric chairs. So, though First Nations in Alberta are divided when it comes to supporting or opposing bitumen extraction, the meaning of reconciliation now runs deeper. The right to protected land and a distinct culture, in addition to economic prosperity, is now considered just among a growing number of Canadians.
This year, several lawsuits will test Constitutionally protected Treaty rights against industrial development in Alberta. But the meaning of reconciliation will be defined in the court of public opinion, too. Just where is the line between cultural protection and economic expansion? Watch Alberta to find out.
Click below to hear TRC Commissioner Wilton Littlechild speak on the importance of collecting the accounts of residential school survivors, and the start of the healing process for his people: