TRC Symposium: Heeding the Calls to Action

Three days of listening to the wide array of speakers at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Call to Action Symposium in Membertou from 12-15 September left me feeling hopeful for continued efforts and commitments to change in this province. As Chief Sidney Peters of Glooscap First Nation said, “We need to close the gap between First Nations and non-First Nations.”

(Photo by Stephen Brake courtesy of Ku'ku'kwes News http://kukukwes.com/)

Glooscap Chief Sidney Peters. (Photo by Stephen Brake courtesy of Ku’ku’kwes News)

The symposium, hosted by Senator Dan Christmas, and organized by the Mi’kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada Tripartite Forum and the Mi’kmaq Rights Initiative, was intended to review the Calls to Action that emerged from the TRC.

Established in June 2008 as a component of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the TRC was mandated to “inform all Canadians about what happened in Indian Residential Schools (IRS).” Between 2008 and 2015, the commission documented the stories of “survivors, families, communities and anyone personally affected by the IRS experience,” culminating in the publication of the 94 Calls to Action in focus areas such as child welfare, education, language and culture, health and justice.

As a descendant of residential school survivors, I found this event and the entire TRC movement to be overwhelming — that time and tragedy has caused such inter-generational trauma, I can only hope that these 94 Calls to Action will be respected, honored and implemented; woven into policy and supported by financial commitments so that, as Dr. Marie Battiste so eloquently put it, those affected can “unlearn” so they “can relearn.”

 

Projects & Progress

In their opening statements, Senator Christmas, Sydney-Victoria MP Mark Eyking, Nova Scotia Attorney General Mark Furey and Chief Peters each spoke to the role that we all have as Canadians to close that gap and the hope that the symposium would produce solid recommendations for projects that could be presented in November 2017. Said Chief Peters:

“We want to ensure that something comes out of this that is tangible. It’s going to be a working document. There’s going to be a workplan.”

Poster. TRC Symposium. (Photo by Nadine Bernard)

Poster, TRC Symposium. (Photo by Nadine Bernard)

Each panel had an impressive list of speakers who discussed each of the Calls to Action in terms of progress made and projects implemented, such as the newly designated Wellness Court in the Wagmatcook First Nation, which Judge Laurie Halfpenny-MacQuarrie praised, saying it was expected to open in January 2018.

Furey announced continued funding to the Mi’kmaq Legal Support Network (MLSN) so that it can continue its impressive work.

Jaime Battiste, the Treaty Education Lead for Nova Scotia, reported on progress to date on the Treaty Education memorandum of understanding (MOU). Signed on 1 October 2015 between Nova Scotia and the Mi’kmaq, the MOU “committed to ensure that all Nova Scotians gain a greater understanding of our shared treaty relationship.” Battiste reminded listeners that the MOU expires in April 2018 and no long-term funding has been identified to solidify the projects being implemented.

Sharon Rudderham and Phillipa Pictou, co-chairs of the Tui’kn Partnership, spoke of the Strength in Numbers project to improve access to reliable population health information and the expressed need for the creation of a First Nation Health Authority.

 

Creating the future

Senator Dan Christmas. (Photo by Nadine Bernard)

Senator Dan Christmas. (Photo by Nadine Bernard)

The final morning panel included representatives from local municipalities and community organizations. CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke spoke of the municipality’s renewed partnership and relationship with the two  First Nations (Membertou and Eskasoni) within the CBRM’s limits.

Clarke said they hadn’t been connected at all and that they needed to be connected and that they were now making their best efforts to be connected.  Clarke told those in attendance that “[CBRM] Council would be sincere and earn the trust of the communities and one of the efforts is that a…bus route would be added in October to support the communities of Eskasoni and Membertou.”

Senator Christmas made some great points in closing, directly addressing the recent comments of his fellow senator, Lynn Beyak, which ignited an upset in the media. From a “humble heart,” he said that he did not support her removal from the Senate and that he was looking for suggestions on how to educate and support Senator Beyak in her lack of understanding for First Nations in Canada.

The true essence of Truth and Reconciliation is not to push away the naysayers but to embrace them. Reconciling with a past plagued by anger, distrust, negativity and tragedy does not mean rewriting it, but rather, creating a future of understanding, trust, cohesion and redemption.

 

Featured image: Senator Dan Christmas. (Photo by Stephen Brake courtesy Ku’ku’kwes News)

 

 

 

Ashby resident, Eskasoni First Nation member, wife, mother, business owner and avid social activist Nadine Bernard consults with the CBRM on poverty issues and serves on a variety of committees and boards, including the Island Justice Society, CBRM Board of Police Commissioners, Child Advocacy Society, Quality Team Public Health (Eastern) and the Vanguard Collective.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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