What Does Reconciliation Actually Look Like?

September 26, 2023 in Insights by Elizabeth Bunney

September 30 is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. A statutory holiday initiated in 2021 in direct response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: 94 Calls to Action which called for a federal statutory day of commemoration (call to action #80). The day honours both the Survivors and the young warriors who never returned home from Indian Residential Schools.

For many Canadians, the unsettling news of the discovery of the remains of 215 children buried at the Indian Residential School in Kamloops sparked conversations across the country about the lack of recognition and education of the legacy of residential schools. With the last school only closing in the late 90’s, how have we not talked about the horrors of a system designed to break families and “kill the Indian” in the child?

Indigenous Peoples have always known the truth about residential schools. We have always known about the horrors that happened behind those doors, the lasting impact on our families, and the complicated relationship we have with the church and the legislated assimilation of Indigenous people in Canada.

Here’s something else we’ve also always known. You can’t have reconciliation without the truth – no matter how uncomfortable it is. Truth plays a huge role in fostering healing, accountability and meaningful transformation. I have witnessed firsthand over the past three years how truth has had the incredible ability to validate suffering as survivors and families share their stories and experiences. I have realized that truth is not just about revealing the cold hard facts, but it is also about healing individuals and communities. Truth is more than just a historical account of events; it’s a living repository of hurt and heartache.

The knowledge gained from the truth can help us understand how we got here and where we are going. As a third generation Cree-Métis citizen learning to reconnect with my culture, this knowledge has sent me on a journey of truth that has fueled my curiosity about who I am and how this dark piece of Canadian history has impacted my family.  This truth spurred me on to want to do more.

That’s where the reconciliation piece comes in.

I’ve had so many conversations lately with folks and organizations who are doing this work, learning the truth and wanting to know what they can do to help further reconciliation.

What are the tangible things you can do to advance reconciliation in Canada?

What does reconciliation actually look like?

  • It looks like providing opportunities for Indigenous youth to learn about careers in a variety of fields and hiring them despite the employability barriers they face.
  • It looks like decolonizing onboarding Indigenous employees and learning directly from them about what would help them to be more successful in your organization.
  • It looks like hiring Indigenous people into meaningful roles and helping to ensure their success by offering benefits and programs that will support their employment journey.
  • It looks like restoring land ownership to Indigenous communities, comprehensive land claims, and self-governing agreements.
  • It looks like building relationships and trust by co-creating solutions with Indigenous communities instead of forcing solutions on them.
  • It looks like supporting and hiring Indigenous entrepreneurs whenever possible.

This obviously is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a good start.

As you reflect on the impact of truth in this context, remember that truth is not just about the past. Knowing the truth is an investment in a more just and peaceful future – a future I am committed to helping build through my work with the team at Symmetry Public Relations.

Symmetry Public Relations offers a range of public speaking and training on topics that can help deepen your understanding of what reconciliation actually looks like. If you’re looking to broaden your organization’s horizons and start putting tangible actions into your reconciliation plan, check out our website and connect with us.