The di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Cen­tre for Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion looks ahead to Canada’s bi­cen­ten­nial


Ry Mo­ran, di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Cen­tre for Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion

IIn an opin­ion piece pub­lished by the CBC in De­cem­ber 2016, Ry Mo­ran wrote that he hoped Canada’s 150th year would mark a turn­ing point in the coun­try’s re­la­tion­ship with its In­dige­nous Peo­ples. As di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Cen­tre for Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, Mo­ran has a chal­leng­ing man­date: en­sure that both In­dige­nous and non-in­dige­nous peo­ple in Canada can ac­cess the of­ten painful truth of our shared his­tory, so that we can move for­ward in mu­tual re­spect and un­der­stand­ing. Here, as the sesqui­cen­ten­nial cel­e­bra­tions draw to a close and Canada looks ahead to its next 50 years, Mo­ran re­flects on the progress we’ve made — and how far we’ve yet to go.

On the in­clu­sion of In­dige­nous per­spec­tives in Canada 150

There have been strong ef­forts made to in­clude In­dige­nous voices in the con­ver­sa­tion about our his­tory this year. I went to the open­ing of the new Cana­dian His­tory Hall at the Cana­dian Mu­seum of His­tory in Gatineau, and In­dige­nous Peo­ples and per­spec­tives are now much more preva­lent. That ex­hi­bi­tion also cov­ers things such as res­i­den­tial schools and the Six­ties Scoop, which is re­ally pos­i­tive. But there was a lot of other stuff hap­pen­ing that was not fully re­flec­tive of the much longer his­tory In­dige­nous Peo­ples have on this land. I think we need to look at 2017 as a start­ing point on this jour­ney of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.

On com­ing to terms with the truth

When we talk about truth and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, we’re talk­ing about pro­vid­ing a voice to In­dige­nous peo­ple who have been marginal­ized. Change is in­her­ently un­com­fort­able, but I think that as a coun­try, we need to be­come much more com­fort­able with dis­com­fort. We need to find a de­gree of peace hear­ing mes­sages that per­haps we don’t want to hear or don’t un­der­stand. And we need to try to cre­ate the spa­ces within our­selves, within our so­ci­ety, within our or­ga­ni­za­tions and in­sti­tu­tions, within pub­lic dis­course, for these un­com­fort­able truths to emerge.

On the de­bate sur­round­ing the re­moval of mon­u­ments and re­nam­ing of pub­lic build­ings

We have to re­mem­ber that what we’re try­ing to do with rec­on­cil­i­a­tion is cre­ate safe places. In­dige­nous Peo­ples’ safety has been af­fected by this colo­nial ex­per­i­ment that we’ve called Canada, and we have to think about what those historical fig­ures rep­re­sent now that this truth is com­ing out. How does it feel for an In­dige­nous child who walks into a school that’s named for Sir John A. Macdon­ald — some­body who over­saw the de­struc­tion of his or her an­ces­tors’ cul­ture, iden­tity and liveli­hood, whose in­tent was to elim­i­nate In­dige­nous Peo­ples from this coun­try? It’s a sign of the process of mat­u­ra­tion that we’re go­ing through as a coun­try that we’re able to have a much

deeper con­ver­sa­tion about these fig­ures and de­cide whether these are the types of peo­ple that we ac­tu­ally want rep­re­sent­ing us.

On the need for an In­dige­nous ge­og­ra­phy of Canada

It’s in­ter­est­ing how many places in Canada re­call or evoke re­ally specif­i­cally Bri­tish mem­o­ries and re­al­i­ties. We have to re­mem­ber that is a very re­cent layer that has been im­posed upon this land. It’s not like once upon a time peo­ple went around nam­ing moun­tains and rivers af­ter in­di­vid­u­als; there were mean­ing­ful de­scrip­tors em­bed­ded within the names that helped to give shape and iden­tity to where we live and to our re­la­tion­ship to the land. We’ve got this kind of na­tional nar­ra­tive that peo­ple

“dis­cov­ered” this place, and we pre­tend for a sec­ond that all of these moun­tains and all of these lakes didn’t al­ready have names, that the land was de­void of peo­ple and con­nec­tions. But the re­al­ity is there’s a much deeper, much older nar­ra­tive. On his hopes for Canada in 2067

I hope we’ll have seen a fun­da­men­tal shift in the level of un­der­stand­ing of In­dige­nous Peo­ples and their his­to­ries and per­spec­tives. I also hope that so­ci­ety will have re­ally rec­og­nized the harm­ful ef­fects of col­o­niza­tion and the trau­mas that have been wrought upon In­dige­nous Peo­ples, and that we will have taken se­ri­ous steps to heal those trau­mas. For In­dige­nous Peo­ples them­selves, I’m hope­ful that we’ll have seen enough of the right kind of sup­port pro­vided to com­mu­ni­ties, na­tions and in­di­vid­u­als so that heal­ing work is re­ally able to oc­cur.

Ry Mo­ran at the Na­tional Cen­tre for Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion at the Univer­sity of Man­i­toba in Win­nipeg.

The bent­wood box, which held of­fer­ings com­mem­o­rat­ing per­sonal jour­neys to­ward rec­on­cil­i­a­tion dur­ing the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion of Canada’s man­date.

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