Reconciliation calls on all of us to help heal our country

What can I do?

That’s the question for all of us, now that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has released its final, exhaustive and damning report.

It finds the government and churches committed cultural genocide through the residential school system, and the legacy has been devastating.

“We fed our experiences to our children,” as one survivor described the ripple effect of the horrors.

Poverty, higher rates of incarceration, children in state care and violence against aboriginal women: The commission’s report calls for specific efforts to end all of these.

It also calls on each of us to learn the truth about residential schools and accept our role in healing our country. It’s clear we have work to do.

In 2013, 60 per cent of Canadians felt aboriginal people bring their problems on themselves, according to an Ipsos Reid survey.

It’s time to ask: Whose history have we been fed? Whose prejudices do we still carry? What can we do to end institutionalized racism?

The indigenous and non-indigenous communities “have to support one another,” Andrea Chrisjohn, of the Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre, told me. “How do we come up with solutions instead of just saying ‘It’s not my problem’?

As commissioner Marie Wilson said, we can take the stories of abuse and loss into our hearts. We can use them as a new window through which to see our own history.

We can also educate ourselves. We can learn what treaty land or traditional territory we live on, suggested Michael Redhead Champagne, a Winnipeg activist and founder of Aboriginal Youth Opportunities.

“Do you know the history?” he asked, of place names like Dakota and Toronto, which have indigenous origins?

We can amplify the voices of local activists, he added, and write letters supporting them to elected officials or the media.

We can also call our local Aboriginal Friendship Centre — they are in many Canadian cities — and ask how we can help out, Chrisjohn said.

And I’ll add: We can make aboriginal issues a part of our vote this fall.

The next government will play a key role in determining the success of this commission’s work.

The report can gather dust on a shelf, or it can galvanize broad societal change. The first would perpetuate cultural superiority. The second would lead us closer to equality.

Vote for the one you think is right.

More on