Get off the pot, Ottawa, and demonstrate that your words are more than just a bunch of consonants and vowels strung together and carried into the world around us to fill the silence with noise. Every word uttered should be considered a precious gift, a reflection of what’s in a person’s heart, their thoughts and speak to their resolve. If you don’t mean it; don’t say it.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt has committed by his words not to “forgive and forget, but to remember and change.” This is what he told reporters June 2 after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission delivered a summary of its final report and 94 recommendations, which provide a roadmap to improved relationships between Aboriginal peoples and non-Aboriginal Canadians.
“It's not going to be an easy journey” but the federal government is committed to the work of reconciliation, Valcourt said. “I’m confident that we can build on the important work that’s been done and continue to heal as a nation.”
So why, oh why, Minister is your government making this
journey more difficult than it needs to be? Tell the people representing your government at Justice Canada that part of your commitment to the people of Canada is to provide Aboriginal claimants with the documents that they need that will validate the abuse they suffered at the hands of residential school staff.
What are they trying to protect by withholding these documents? Six years of testimony from thousands of residential school survivors has made it clear to everyone, except the most obtuse and ignorant of Canadians, that terrible abuse happened. By not providing the information in these documents, your government stands with the abusers. It’s sick, and cruel, and the exact opposite of the “important work” of healing a country.
Those people who attended St. Anne’s Residential School in
Fort Albany, Ont. and those that attended Bishop Horden in Moose Factory should not have to battle government lawyers for documents they need for their Independent Assessment Processes. Canada’s lawyers are required to provide this documentation by virtue of your commitments in the settlement agreement. This is a legal requirement, and, if your words mean anything, Mr. Minister, a moral obligation, a sacred commitment.
And tell your government’s lawyers to leave the black Sharpies at home. In August 2014, the federal government handed over about 40,000 pages to survivors’ lawyers, but they were so heavily redacted they became “nearly useless” to their compensation claims. Providing documents that are heavily redacted is not living up to your obligations Canada. It doesn’t
serve your core duty to these survivors. Canada, by being a part of the settlement agreement, you have made a commitment to the truth.
“I think what we’re seeing is the failure of the federal government to show good faith in this process,” Charlie Angus, New Democrat MP, told APTN. “The government is responsible for collecting documents regarding the history of an institution and whether or not criminal acts occurred, sexual or physical abuse.”
It’s not your duty to protect the people that committed
Mr. Minister, on June 2, you didn’t just represent the silo
of Aboriginal Affairs when you spoke about the TRC’s report. You were speaking for Canada that day. Stand up, Mr. Minister, and animate your words with action.