Canada completed 2 of TRC’s 94 calls to action in 2022

This brings the total to 13 completed calls to action since the TRC released their report in 2015. That’s fewer than 2 a year.

Late last year, Eve Jewell and Ian Mosby published their 2022 Calls to Action Accountability Report through the Yellowhead Institute. They also published reports in 2021, 2020 and 2019.

In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released a 6-volume final report to the Canadian federal government, which included 94 calls to action to address the ongoing legacy of Canada’s residential school system.

The work of Jewell and Mosby analyzes the work of the federal government over the past year to determine how many of the calls to action they’ve completed (their two previous reports analyzed the completed calls to action of their respective years).

Toward the end of their 2021 report, Jewell and Mosby lamented that because the federal government has dragged their feet for years on implementing TRC calls to action, they weren’t sure if they’d be compiling a report in 2022.

Once again, though, the pace of real substantive change remains glacial. For those of us who have taken on the accounting of this progress, it is frankly exhausting — so much so, that it’s uncertain if we’ll continue this work for a 2022 report.

Calls to Action Accountability: A 2021 Status Update on Reconciliation, p. 30

We all should be grateful that they took the time and effort to put together this report after all.

According to Jewell and Mosby’s 2022 report, the federal government implemented only 2 calls to action, 1 fewer than the 3 implemented in 2021.

This brings to total 13 calls to action that the Liberal government has completed since receiving the TRC final report; 8 of which occurred prior to 2020.

The federal government is averaging less than 2 completed calls to action per year, and they still have 82 more remaining uncompleted. It will take until past 2060 until the final calls to action are completed if the government continues at this slow pace.

According to national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, RoseAnne Archibald, who was quoted in the report, “if we were in a chapter of a book on reconciliation, we are, today, on the first sentence of that book.”

Progress on the TRC calls to action not only have been slow, but they’ve done very little to improve the material conditions of Indigenous people within Canada. The government has focused, instead, on the calls to action that are easy, such as writing reports, declaring holidays, and changing the citizenship oath.

Despite support within Indigenous communities and calls for swift action among Canadians, there continues to be dismal progress on the kinds of Legacy Calls to Action that, if implemented, would significantly improve the quality of life for Indigenous peoples across the country. Those Calls that address structural change in this country remain largely unfulfilled.

Calls To Action Accountability: A 2022 Status Update On Reconciliation, p. 8.

To make matters worse, the calls to action completed in 2022 weren’t even done by the federal government. Instead, they were completed by non-governmental professional associations.

Call to Action 67: Canadian Museums Association to undertake a national review of museum policies and best practices to determine the level of compliance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and to make recommendations.

Call to Action 70: Canadian Association of Archivists to undertake a national review of archival policies and their compliance with UNDRIP and the United Nations Joinet-Orentlicher Principles and produce a report with recommendations for a reconciliation framework for Canadian archives.

Remember, these are just reviews, followed by recommendations. The review is only the first step, and until the recommendations are actually implemented, nothing substantial changes.

As I pointed out, the Canadian government is implementing the calls to action at a very slow pace, and Jewell and Mosby outline 5 structural barriers that are preventing the government from completing the remaining 80 more quickly.

  1. Paternalism
    The deep-rooted, ongoing paternalistic attitudes and behaviours of politicians, bureaucrats, and policy-makers, resulting in a “we know best” mentality that prevents Indigenous peoples from leading on issues with their own solutions.
  2. Structural anti-Indigenous discrimination
    Canada asserts legal myths to justify the dispossession of Indigenous lands and the subsequent manufactured poverty of Indigenous peoples.
  3. “The Public Interest”
    Policy-makers and Canada’s legal teams have used the interests of a non-Indigenous Canadian public to shore up their inaction on compensation for First Nations children and as the beneficiary of exploited Indigenous lands.
  4. Insufficient resources
    There’s no shortage of promises, but with ongoing and rampant funding inequities, meaningful reconciliation will always be out of reach.
  5. Reconciliation as exploitation or performance
    In the cases where “reconciliation” purportedly occurs, exploitative or predatory behaviour is rampant, and in the case of performative measures, actions serve to manage Canada’s reputation.

The 2022 report differs from those of previous years. Accompanying the report from Jewell and Mosby are “key voices of experts working right now — as you read this — to ensure that Canada is being held accountable for its promises to complete the 94 Calls to Action.”

Cindy Blackstock provides insight on calls to action related to child welfare, Jewell and Mosby comment on calls to action regarding education, Kunuk Inutiq explores the calls to action on language and culture, Janet Smylie expounds on the calls to actions connected to health, and Scotts Franks addresses the justice calls to action.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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