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Editorial: The truth is out, time to reconcile

Five years ago, 94 calls to action were given to the federal government but only nine have been fully realized to date

The issue: Reconciliation
We say: Not a straight path

The horrors of residential school have been well documented. Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission worked from 2008-2015 to craft a 500-plus-page report and 94 calls to action to address these many miscarriages of basic human decency forced upon parents and children alike, while collecting nearly 7,000 first-hand accounts from survivors, family members and others.

However, a December 2019 report by Eva Jewell and Ian Mosby for the Yellowhead Institute found that only nine of the calls to action had been completed at that time. Combined with a pandemic and a federal government now more concerned with whether to call a snap election, it's doubtful much progress has been made since.

While the analysis did not grant a full distinction between partially completed actions and those that have not yet been started, this is particularly disturbing in that all the calls that have been met are what Jewell described as "cosmetic changes" in Canada's interactions with Indigenous peoples across the country.

There have been many apologies given, on local and national scales, both for the colonial actions taken by governments over Canada's 150-year history and from the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches.

In a September 2019 interview with Nunavut News, Pangnirtung Elder Joanasie Qappik said, through QIA interpreter Julia Demcheson, that "when an apology is made, it influences everyone. When there's been a conflict, whether it be about the (slaughtered sled) dogs, relocation or any type of issue, until there's an apology everyone around us will be bitter, with animosity ... If there is forgiveness then everybody comes into peace."

Call to action No. 21 calls upon the federal government to provide sustainable funding for existing and new Indigenous healing centres to address the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual harms caused by residential schools and to ensure that the funding of healing centres in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories is a priority.

The GN, federal government and Nunavut Tunngavik have agreed to collaborate on an addictions and trauma recovery centre in Iqaluit, but that facility isn't expected to be built for at least a few years.

The health, both mental and physical, of all Nunavummiut must remain a priority.

According to Kimberly Masson, associate deputy minister of the Quality of Life secretariat with the Department of Health, every community in Nunavut has a position for a mental health nurse – this was not the case 20 years ago.

Other initiatives involve educating the public about alcohol and cannabis harm reduction; implementing land-based addictions and trauma treatment; and providing Indigenous cultural competency training for professionals.

Healing and on-the-land camps are another key piece to the reconciliation puzzle. Listening to our Elders and their stories will help them to heal from the past as well as teach us how to move forward respectfully together.

"That's what this is about – about apology and forgiveness," said Qappik. "The way it was done, the Inuit way, we've always dealt with issues like that, in order to reconcile."

Forgiveness is an important step to healing the wrongs of the past, but the path to reconciliation must be paved with concrete actions and that falls squarely on the federal government.