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Jan Advocate 2017

22 V O L . 7 5 P A R T 1 J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 7 THE ADVOCATE VOL. 75 PART 1 JANUARY 2017 empathy to the Aboriginal communities whose children were so wrongly stolen from them. But because the risk to those of us who are not Aboriginal is not real, because we do not daily live in the shadow of state-sanctioned racism, supported by churches and other powerful institutions, it is a challenge to maintain our commitment to transformative change based only on even such a powerful image. The lesson from the TRC Report is that reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people can no longer be conceived of as a feel-good objective or as a response to some sentimental concern that can be forgotten tomorrow. The devastating stories of the residential school survivors recounted in the TRC Report, and the reverberating impact the harms those schools have inflicted on the lives of Aboriginal peoples in Canada, make it plain that the future well-being of all Canadians depends on us achieving meaningful reconciliation. The pursuit of reconciliation will be complex and ongoing. On a formal level, it must inform every aspect of Crown and First Nation relationships. But that will not be sufficient. The public, non-governmental institutions and the private sector must also be involved. Achieving reconciliation will require transformative action on the part of all non-Aboriginal Canadians, in every sphere of life. The legal profession has a unique role. Law has been used as an instrument of oppression against Aboriginal people. It was the instrument used to force Aboriginal children out of their homes into residential schools. As lawyers we have the ability to address some of harms these laws have caused. Although it is important for each of us, as Canadians who care about a just society, to review the recommendations of the TRC in detail and decide how they apply to our own lives, the purpose of this article is to suggest actions the legal profession could take to begin the process of reconciliation. As a preliminary matter, to provide some context, the background to the TRC Report, its significance and its basic recommendations will be briefly reviewed. BACKGROUND TO THE TRC REPORT The TRC was established as a result of the 2006 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (the “Settlement Agreement”), the largest classaction settlement in Canadian history. The purpose of the Settlement Agreement was to address the tragic legacy of Indian residential schools. The Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair (Chair), Dr. Marie Wilson and Chief Wilton Littlechild were commissioners of the TRC. Their mandate,


Jan Advocate 2017
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