In this file photo, Justice Murray Sinclair (centre) and Commissioners Chief Wilton Littlechild (left) and Marie Wilson pull back a blanket to unveil the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada on the history of Canada’s residential school system, in Ottawa on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

In this file photo, Justice Murray Sinclair (centre) and Commissioners Chief Wilton Littlechild (left) and Marie Wilson pull back a blanket to unveil the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada on the history of Canada’s residential school system, in Ottawa on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Reconciliation delayed and anti-Indigenous racism rising: TRC commissioners

‘It’s kind of an urgent matter now to really refocus on the calls to action’

Five years after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued its final report, commissioners Murray Sinclair, Wilton Littlechild and Marie Wilson are coming together to voice their concerns about the slow pace of reconciliation in Canada.

The commission’s final report provided a detailed account of what happened to Indigenous children who were physically and sexually abused in government boarding schools, where at least 3,200 children died amid abuse and neglect.

The commission also published 94 calls to action urging all levels of government to change policies and programs to repair the harm caused by residential schools and move forward with reconciliation.

The three commissioners will be holding a press conference virtually on Tuesday morning to mark the fifth anniversary of the release of their final report.

Littlechild, a Cree chief and former MP who is a residential school survivor, said he’s encouraged by progress on reconciliation but he is concerned about the pace.

“The pace is what consensus is. We thought, as the commissioners, we would be farther ahead by now after five years,” he said in an interview with The Canadian Press Monday.

“It’s kind of an urgent matter now to really refocus on the calls to action.”

He said the three TRC commissioners haven’t been together since the commission finished its work five years ago.

Littlechild said he is also worried about growing racism in Canada.

“One of the (areas) where it’s going backwards, it’s the very open systemic racism and discrimination that’s not only continuing, but escalating.”

Sen. Murray Sinclair, who chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said groups advocating for racism in the United States felt empowered in the last few years and that spilled over to Canada.

He says these groups are targeting specific issues that are important for reconciliation, including the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

Earlier this month, the Liberal government introduced legislation to align federal laws with the United Nations declaration.

“We need to recognize that there is still some resistance on the part of some elements of Canadian society,” Sinclair said in an interview.

He said racist and white-supremacist groups are attempting to deny the validity of the Indigenous story.

“They are feeling empowered and feeling that they have the right to voice their opinions,” he said. “There is a very significant element of resistance that is trying to stir up fears and misunderstandings and misinformation.”

Littlechild said he’s troubled that six provinces oppose the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Indigenous-relations ministers from Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick called for the delay of the UNDRIP bill in a letter obtained by The Globe and Mail earlier in December.

“It’s not any more seeking consensus in terms of a non-partisan issue. It’s no longer about the process. It’s now politics,” Littlechild said. “That’s very, very sad and unfortunate.”

He said standing in the way of implementing the UN declaration means standing in the way of reconciliation.

“Indigenous survival, dignity and well-being should be a non-partisan issue,” he says.

The commissioners are also concerned that a National Council for Reconciliation has not been established five years after they called for one.

Sinclair said the lack of this council is leaving the entire conversation about priorities in the hands of the government.

“The government, in some respects, is in a bit of a conflict of interest when it comes to the process of reconciliation and Indigenous rights,” he said. “They control the legislative process that governs the lives of Indigenous people without attempting to give up that control or to acknowledge it. They should no longer be in charge.”

Sinclair said the UN declaration calls upon colonizing states, including Canada, to recognize that they spent a lot of money to take land rights away from Indigenous people, so they have to be willing to spend a lot of money to undo that harm.

“They have to recognize that much of the income that governments have earned over the last number of generations, it’s come from the resources that Indigenous people have a right to claim, still belong to them or still to be shared with them.”

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
43 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

368 cases in the region remain active

The Williams Lake Trail Riders Arena is slated to have a new roof installed this spring after funding from the province’s Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program. (Greg Sabatino photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Trail Riders Arena, stable stalls, to get new roof at Stampede Grounds

Some of the stalls currently aren’t able to be rented out due to leaks in the roof

A sign is seen this past summer outside Yunesit’in Government office west of Williams Lake reminding visitors and members to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
Yunesit’in First Nation completes second round of vaccinations

A total of 26 people have since recovered from COVID-19 after having tested positive

A 100 Mile RCMP officer stands watch at the intersction of Highway 97 and Horse Lake Road. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Volunteers, police search Highway 97 for articles related to high-speed chase

Search will stretch from Canco Gas Station in Lac La Hache to 150 Mile House.

An aerial photograph captures snowmobile tracks in the Cameron Ridge area earlier this year, which is closed to snowmobilers. The closures are in place to protect sensitive caribou herds. (Conservation Officer Service photo)
Snowmobilers fined for operating in closed caribou habitat near Likely, B.C.

The investigation revealed they had spent several hours in the closure leaving extensive tracks

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The City of Vancouver estimates there are 3,500 Canada geese in the city right now, and that number is growing. (Bruce Hogarth)
Help tame Vancouver’s Canada goose population by reporting nests: park officials

The city is asking residents to be on the lookout so staff can remove nests or addle eggs

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

A vial of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a family doctor office, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 in Paris. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP -Christophe Ena
Trudeau ‘optimistic’ that timeline for rollout of COVID vaccines can be accelerated

Canada set to receive more than 6M COVID-19 vaccine dose than initially expected, by end of March

Most Read