Before Reconciliation, There Must Be Truth

“Truth commission goes to court to get government documents” (Toronto Star)
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which has been conducting an inquiry into the nation’s residential schools, has filed an application with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, asking the court to clarify the government’s obligation to release all documents relevant to the schools. According to Justice Murray Sinclair, the head of the Commission, this step has been taken as a last-ditch measure; the Commission is concerned that if the release of documents continues at Ottawa’s current pace, it will not be able to fulfill its mandate to compile a “complete historical record on the policies and operations of residential schools” and to “learn the truth about what happened in the residential schools and to inform all Canadians about what happened” in them as part of the process of healing. The information required by the Commission includes “who funded the schools, testimony from officials of the institutions that operated the schools, and experiences reported by survivors, their families, communities and anyone personally affected by the residential school experience and its subsequent impacts.”

To date, though Ottawa has released roughly one million documents related to the schools, Ottawa has not met the Commission’s needs. That isn’t surprising when one considers the fact that the schools were in operation for well over a century. The amount of documentation must be staggering. But to meet is goals (and its June 2014 deadline), the Commission must have all available records. This should be a top priority for the government, and court applications shouldn’t be necessary at this late date. The health and future of Canada depends upon having a clear-sighted view of our history and how that history has shaped our present circumstances.

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