The road to healing for First Nations people all across Canada got underway some time ago, although there have been many bumps along the way.
One of the most important acts, which was entirely symbolic but nonetheless critical, was the public apology by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2008. This was issued to all the survivors of the residential school system, and it served to set into motion the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Over a six-year period, the commission has gathered plenty of evidence to show that, beyond a doubt, this painful part of Canada’s past has affected present-day relationships between aboriginal people and other Canadians. The residential school legacy has also deeply affected aboriginal communities and families.
The commission’s report made a host of recommendations. These need to be taken seriously and a plan looking at implementation needs to be drawn up.
However, it is important to point out that leaving action on these recommendations to various levels of governments — particularly the federal government — would likely lead to more problems. The feds have responsibility for aboriginal relations, but have handled the file poorly, throughout Canada’s existence.
Governments have some bad habits. One is to make solutions so complex, and involve so many layers of bureaucracy, that concrete action leading to genuine change is difficult. Often, it is impossible.
By contrast, First Nations across B.C. and in many other parts of Canada have taken important steps in recent years which will lead to real and meaningful change. They have done so by getting actively involved in the economy, education and other important areas.
While it required court action to make provinces and Ottawa see the necessity of this, it is happening in many areas of the country.
Bands have set up successful business corporations, creating jobs, leading to economic activity, emphasizing sustainability and, most importantly, leading to a new sense of purpose.
Similar things are happening in many other First Nations. Young, energetic leaders are taking action on many fronts to improve the lives of their people.