Courageous conversations: a community response to the TRC


This year, a week-long celebration in sunny Ottawa marked the formal conclusion of a six-year nation-wide process. June 2015 brought the unveiling of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s work and the issuing of 94 recommended Calls to Action. Many of these actions are aimed at government, particularly federal, however many pertain directly to post-secondary teaching and research. Social media was abuzz—people were moved, and paying attention. As summer’s lull rolled in, my mind and heart kept returning to the Calls to Action. Something kept pulling at me, lingering in my mind. What now? What next? What does it all mean now that the TRC process was “over”? 

I began to have conversations, privately and in public spaces. I sensed many others felt similarly. Fearing lost momentum I felt an urgency to act, even though July-August is a traditional vacationing time in Canada, and September is overfull in most academic environments. On Oct. 7, more than 200 students, staff, faculty, administrators and community members came together at First Peoples House to ask, “What does reconciliation mean to me? What can I do? Who might I be able to work with to have an even greater impact?” 

That day, we shared information about the responses already underway at UVic. These include work such as repatriation of the artwork of children who attended residential schools, and new courses created with the intention of introducing this history to undergraduate students in creative ways. I felt tremendous hope leaving that day. We left with the challenge to have “courageous conversations”—and to not forget about the TRC or what it means for our country. I have had dozens of follow-up messages from all corners of the campus offering their enthusiasm, their ideas and reporting out new connections and events that have emerged from the Oct. 7 gathering. The event was meant to be a spark: we accomplished that and more. The embers are strong—let us together build a fire of reconciliation that will help us endure, and grow together in community.

Onowa McIvor is an Assistant Professor in the Indigenous education program in the Faculty of Education, and one of the organizers of the Oct. 7 TRC commemoration.

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Keywords: Indigenous, racism, colonialism, reconciliation, community, inclusion

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