Current Problems

Government Commitments to Truth and Reconciliation

We do not want pity, we want parity

October 2, 2023
Decolonization means I should be able to thrive with the strong Indigenous world view my ancestors had, and in the Canadian world view offered to me, writes former Cowessess First Nation chief Cadmus Delorme.

Toronto Star: The most important table for talking about reconciliation is the kitchen table.

This is the third National Day for Truth and Reconciliation — our annual day as Canadians and Indigenous Peoples to acknowledge what we all inherited and the actions needed to assure the relationship gets stronger.

In the spring of 2021, the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc announced suspected unmarked graves of Indigenous children at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. Soon after, I sat with elders at Cowessess First Nation as chief to announce unmarked graves of Indigenous children at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School.

I had two takeaways from these announcements: the first was that for Indigenous people, unmarked graves announcements are validation; validation of the pain, frustration, anger and tiredness of continuing the Indigenous means of life in a country that is still a bit oppressive to the Indigenous world view. The other takeaway is that many Canadians have admitted that they want to better understand the truth when it comes to the relationship between Indigenous Peoples and Canada.

Reconciliation is happening across the country. Is it happening at the pace we all want? Probably not. One challenge is that we sometimes move too quickly to focus on reconciliation and bypass understanding and acknowledging the truth.

We must understand that we all inherited this moment. Nobody today created what we know as residential schools; nobody today created the Indian Act; nobody today created the Sixties Scoop. When we inherit something, as proud Canadians we have a responsibility to do something about it. Truth can lead to a bit of guilt, shame and sadness. We must use that moment to spur us to do something about it. Indigenous Peoples do not want pity or for anyone to feel sorry for us; we want parity, like every other Canadian, and for our Indigenous world view to no longer be oppressed.

The biggest challenge to truth is ignorance. We must all understand that the education that baby boomers, generation X and generation Y received over decades helped put us in this moment. We must understand that we have missed opportunities to orient and educate new Canadians about our real history. There is no mandatory Indigenous studies class in Canadian schools to this day. It is now our responsibility to get it right. Once we understand and acknowledge the truth, reconciliation can come with so much more action-oriented optimism.

Reconciliation is a means to an end. It is transitioning from colonization to decolonization.

Reconciliation does not mean Indigenous Peoples want to transition back to pre-colonization times. Indigenous Peoples enjoy dreams and hopes in higher learning, economics, social impact, cultural impact and more. As an Indigenous person, I love the options Canada has given me.

Decolonization does not mean I want to move back to pre-Confederation times. My ancestors did their food collection with a hunting society; today I do my hunting at Costco. Decolonization means I should be able to thrive with the strong Indigenous world view my ancestors had and thrive in the Canadian world view offered to me.

The Indigenous world view thrived prior to 1867. There was an education system, justice system and more. Reconciliation is the action to assure the Indigenous world view and western (Canadian) world view can coexist.

Since Confederation, Indigenous people have not been given the full opportunity to share their world view. Today, we have the opportunity to get it right.

Reconciliation will come with uncomfortable conversations. When the British North American Act was brought over in 1867, Section 91 was about federal responsibility, and Section 92 was about provincial/territorial responsibility; we got it wrong from the beginning by not adding a Section 93, respecting and empowering Indigenous responsibility.

Today, as we do reconciliation, the uncomfortable conversation is about what we are willing to adjust to assure Indigenous responsibility is respected.

This needs to happen in business, the courts and more. The western model needs to welcome more Indigenous world view; not just to accommodate Indigenous people, but to serve all Canadians. Once we get to more of a shared world view, our economic and social prosperity will lift to levels we all know we can achieve.

How will we know when we have achieved reconciliation? My wife and I raise a beautiful seven-yearold girl. She shared with me a few years ago that she wanted to be a pilot. I replied that her mom and I would make sure she can be a pilot.

The reality of what we have all inherited is that the toughest person to be in Canada today is an Indigenous female. (If anyone wants to learn more, please read the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Call to Justice report.)

My wife and I accept that we must try twice as hard as non-Indigenous parents of girls with the same dream. We accept that challenge. The hope is if my daughter ever has a daughter, she will not have to try twice as hard. Implementing reconciliation, then, can be delayed gratification.

For all we sacrifice today, we may not see the results. Our next generation will. Let’s make sure they thank us for addressing the most uncomfortable conversations, the ones needed to assure they have more opportunity to enjoy the two world views that will drive our country to be the greatest in the world.