Reconciliation Basics

Reconciliation Basics

These resources are a selection of starting points to begin learning more about the conversation happening around Indigenous issues in Canada. They are not specific to our sector, but are instead included to advance settler education on some basic issues.

Terminology and Theory

On Names for Indigenous Peoples

On ‘Allyship’

On ‘Reconciliation’

  • "What Reconciliation is and what it is Not." Post by Indigenous Corporate Training INC. We hear the word so often nowadays, what does it actually mean? This post by Indigenous Corporate Training takes 2 minutes to read and is an excellent grounder for any conversation about the topic.
  • "What does reconciliation mean to Indigenous people?" Article by CBC News. Many Indigenous people are skeptical of promises, commitments and projects made in the name of reconciliation-- and with good reason. Here’s an introduction to the critical side of the national reconciliation project.
  • "Reconciliation isn’t dead. It never truly existed." Opinion by Tanya Talaga. A renowned Anishinaabe writer and journalist, Talaga’s article from 2020 articulates the mood prominent in many Indigenous activists, land defenders, and water protectors. Canada continues to use the same forceful tactics to subjugate Indigenous sovereignty. In the context of mass arrests, injunctions and crack-downs, she emphasizes that reconciliation will not happen at the end of a gun.
  • "Reconciliation is dead. Or is it?" Keynote by Lori Campbell, uncaptioned. Campbell’s main thesis in this talk is that “Reconciliation isn’t dead, as long as you don’t let it die.” She identifies several responsibilities that settlers have to create a culture of reconciliation in Canada, and points out that tokenistic approaches to reconciliation can be more unhelpful than productive.

On ‘Genocide’ and ‘Cultural Genocide’

  • "Cultural Genocide." Article by Facing History. The Indian Residential Schools project was described as a “cultural genocide” by the Truth and Reconciliation commission, and was taught as such in curriculum for years. Recently a motion in parliament was passed to recognize the Indian Residential Schools as an attempted genocidal project. This article introduces the naming debate.
  • "Genocide Takes Many Forms." Interview article and podcast with Leah Gazan. Gazan, a proud Lakota woman, currently (2023) represents Winnipeg Centre in the national parliament. Her fight to finally get the IRS recognized as a genocide was won in October of 2022.
  • MMIWG Inquiry Supplemental Report on Defining 'Genocide' (PDF). This 46-page report rigorously dissects the international definition of genocide and its applicability to the Canadian nation state. It argues that many Canada’s policies, past and present, support “the insidious and gradual obliteration of Indigenous people.” The report concludes saying genocidal acts continue to happen and the need for cessation of such activities is immediate.
  • Genocide in Canada: A Legal Explanation (PDF). By Chloloula and Fannie Lafontaine. This 11-page illustrated booklet outlines the arguments made in the MMIWG Supplemental Report on Genocide in a clear and easy-to-understand way.

On ‘Decolonization’

  • "Decolonization is not a metaphor." Academic article by Tuck and Yang (PDF). This 35-page article talks about how the word ‘decolonization’ is a word that has become diluted by its overuse in settler-lead spaces. The article is dense in theory but speaks frankly about the society-bending transformations that will need to occur for Indigenous peoples to finally achieve liberation and safety.
  • Decolonization is not a metaphor (summary). Post by poco.lit. If the original article is too dense, this post summarizes key ideas from the “Decolonization is not a metaphor” article, considered a staple text in Indigenous studies.

Bill C-15 and the United Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)

On the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

  • The TRC's 94 Calls to Actions, PDF. HTML format.The Final Report’s most famous section issues 94 calls to action. Although these calls are not immediately applicable to our sector, Abilities Manitoba has identified Calls #19, #22, #23, #34(i, iii, iv), #62, #92 as starting points to incorporate into our capacity-building work and advocacy work.
  • Indigenous Watchdog's monitoring of Calls to Action progress. This website provides easy visualization, news and sources regarding the progress of the 94 calls to action. It outlines which ones have been completed, which ones have stalled, which ones are in progress, and which ones have not been started on yet.
  • Application and Action: TRC Reading Guide for Non-Indigenous Organizations. Developed by Ka Ni Kanichihk for Manitoba Harm Reduction Network, this is a thorough workbook that invites your organization to use the TRC final executive summary to situate your organization’s activites and mission within the context of reconciliation in Canada. The kit encourages a critical and reflective reading of the final report. This guide is especially helpful for non-Indigenous organizations that are in frequent contact with Indigenous communities.

On Atrocities

Reconciliation is often centred squarely on the process of healing from the harms created by the Indian Residential Schools System. But the residential schools are not the only atrocity that Canada has committed against its Indigenous peoples. This next section introduces resources to help Canadians understand other acts of violence that have been and are being perpetuated by the Canadian nation state.

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2-Spirit People

MMIWG2S is an ongoing human rights catastrophe and genocide. Winnipeg has been called Ground Zero, by the former minister of Crown-Indigenous relations.

Stolen Generations and CFS

The Child Welfare system is often described as the Residential School System’s second coming. Starting with the Sixties’ Scoop, the state began to remove Indigenous children from their homes en mass and place them with white, middle-class families. There are three times more children in care now than there were at the height of residential schools.

The Justice System

Indian Segregated Hospitals

  • Indian Hospitals in Canada. Entry in The Canadian Encyclopedia. This article is an eased introduction to the atrocious conditions within these ‘hospitals,’ the context in which they emerged, the link to residential schools, and how they were finally shut down.
  • "Emerging from the Long Shadow of Canada’s Indian Hospitals." Article by Martha Troian. Survivors and communities are still healing from the horror of the Indian hospitals, and racism in our health care system has a history in institutions like these. This article sheds light on some recent efforts to bring back Indigenous self-determination in health care.
  • "When the cure is worse" Article by Gary Geddes. Read some survivor testimonies in this article that situates the hospitals within the larger context of Canada’s other genocidal activities.
  • Manitoba Indigenous Tuberculosis History Project website. This project documents Indian hospitals in our home province within the context of the tuberculosis crisis. Browse it’s ‘History’ page for a summary of Indian Hospitals in Manitoba and to understand how TB is a focal point within this conversation, browse the photo database to gain a visual understanding of how these hospitals functioned.

Environmental Racism

Often forgotten about in the conversation of atrocities are the numerous assaults that Canada has made upon the land and waters that Indigenous communities are connected to. This section offers a survey of various instances where the desecration and theft of Indigenous land and resources have directly lead to Indigenous lives being cut short.

  • "Environmental racism in Canada:." Article by Elaine MacDonald. The author defines the term ‘environmental racism’ and provides a couple of key examples from recent history that fit this definition. She makes the point that the Indigenous lives that have been lost in all these cases were not lost by ‘coincidence.’ Instead, they are best considered as fatalities stemming from a long tradition of racist and eugenic policies in Canada.
  • Flooding Hope: The Lake St. Martin First Nation Story (Documentary on YouTube). Once a thriving community with abundant hunting culture, the Manitoba community of Lake St Martin First Nation was uprooted when their land was washed out by an inundated flood that was “totally avoidable,” engineered by the Manitoba government to divert floods away from cottagers upstream.
  • Niibi Bimaadiziwin: Water is life. Campaign by CUPE. Niibi Bimaadiziwin is a public awareness grassroots activism campaign spearheaded by the Canadian Union of Public Employees rallying for Indigenous communities’ universal access to clear drinking water.
  • Camp Morningstar. Documentary by Kevin Settee. This documentary features interviewers with land defenders of Camp Morningstar, a blockade set to deter the construction of a silica sand mine proposed on the east side of Lake Winnipeg without any consultation to the Indigenous groups who were living there.
  • "State of erosion: the legacy of Manitoba Hydro." Photo essay by Aaron Elkaim. Manitoba Hydro has a long history of undertaking large hydroelectric projects that alter the environmental landscape, terrain and lifestyles of communities without obtaining Indigenous consent. This photo essay illustrates the manifold hardships that have spiraled out for generations due to the non-consensual actions that Hydro has made.
  • "Shoal Lake 40 water crisis an ugly reminder of Canadian colonialism." Article by Brian Lorraine. Many know that Shoal Lake 40 faced a 27 year boiling water advisory. Less people know that until 2019, the water supply infrastructure essentially made it possible for Shoal Lake 40 to have direct access to the mainland. Several members of Shoal Lake 40 First Nation  died crossing the lake.
  • "Children of the poisoned river." Article by Jody Porter. Ninety per cent of the population of Grassy Narrows, a First Nation community in Ontario, experiences symptoms of mercury poisoning. From the 1960s to early 1970s, a chemical plant located upstream from the community dumped nine thousand kilograms of mercury into the river.