Where Do We Stand Today?

Where do we stand today?

Love is not a word that comes up often when Survivors describe how they felt and what they experienced at school. It makes sense, then, that one of the best ways to heal the wounds from those schools is to focus on love.

A key part of our country’s journey of reconciliation is learning to love each other. I don't mean in a romantic way, but in a way that is rooted in respect and honours the uniqueness of each individual. This is critical because respect and honour were rarely part of the Residential School experience. —Monique Gray Smith


The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) was launched in 2009. When the commission, Elders, advisors and staff, along with representatives from the Survivors and the members of the parties to the settlement agreement, gathered for the first time, one of their initial tasks was to come up with a working definition of reconciliation. As they brainstormed and shared their personal definitions of reconciliation, they came up with 128 different definitions. Wow! That gives you a sense of how complex reconciliation can be. In the end, the TRC defined reconciliation as:

“An ongoing process of establishing and maintaining respectful relationships” between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people that “will require commitment from all those affected including First Nations, Inuit and Métis former Indian residential school (IRS) students, their families, communities, religious entities, former school employees, government and the people of Canada.”


The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada believes that in order for Canada to flourish in the twenty-first century, reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canada must be based on the following principles.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is the framework for reconciliation at all levels and across all sectors of Canadian society.

First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples, as the original peoples of this country and as self-determining peoples, have Treaty, constitutional, and human rights that must be recognized and respected.

Reconciliation is a process of healing of relationships that requires public truth sharing, apology, and commemoration that acknowledge and redress past harms.

Reconciliation requires constructive action on addressing the ongoing legacies of colonialism that have had destructive impacts on Aboriginal peoples’ education, cultures and languages, health, child welfare, the administration of justice, and economic opportunities and prosperity.

Reconciliation must create a more equitable and inclusive society by closing the gaps in social, health, and economic outcomes that exist between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.

All Canadians, as Treaty peoples, share responsibility for establishing and maintaining mutually respectful relationships.

The perspectives and understandings of Aboriginal Elders and Traditional Knowledge Keepers of the ethics, concepts, and practices of reconciliation are vital to long-term reconciliation.

Supporting Aboriginal peoples’ cultural revitalization and integrating Indigenous knowledge systems, oral histories, laws, protocols, and connections to the land into the reconciliation process are essential.

Reconciliation requires political will, joint leadership, trust building, accountability, and transparency, as well as a substantial investment of resources.

Reconciliation requires sustained public education and dialogue, including youth engagement, about the history and legacy of residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal rights, as well as the historical and contemporary contributions of Aboriginal peoples to Canadian society.


See what Reconciliation means to some of the young people Monique Gray Smith interviewed for Speaking Our Truth. Click image to expand.

Aboriginal children need to know about the history of their families, and non-Aboriginal Canadians need to know about the history of our country. What the Truth and Reconciliation Commission made clear is that the process is only just begun in Canada.

Rupert Ross, retired Ontario Crown attorney, Indigenous Healing: Exploring Traditional Paths

Older Voices

It means acknowledging the role and responsibility that the Anglo community has historically in the injustices that took place. Reconciliation is acknowledging we have to respect that things need to be done differently and that there is a price to that, and it’s a price we should be willing to pay.

Craig Knight Grandfather, retired public servant

Reconciliation means helping our communities heal from the negative impacts of residential schools, colonialism and all of the things that have hurt us as Aboriginal people. Reconciliation means acknowledging the negative history. We (First Nations) have a responsibility too: not to be victims.

Keith Matthew Businessperson

For me, reconciliation would be normalization of respectful relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples of Canada.

Dr. Marie Wilson TRC Commissioner

Reconciliation is asking myself who my Ancestors were the day before they went to residential school, then doing everything I can to return to that.

Ryan McMahon Creator of the Red Man Laughing podcast

At the very basis it's an agreement of a shared hope to move forward, but that can’t happen unless there’s an agreement and understanding of the past and what has actually happened in the past. That is the heart of reconciliation.

Jennifer Manuel Author, founder of the TRC Reading Challenge

We are all one. We are all connected. The good parts in me are the good parts in you and the bad parts in you are the bad parts in me. We have things to learn from each other, and when we can do that, we can make huge changes.

Chastity Davis Entrepreneur

Reconciliation can be emotional, spiritual, cognitive, but for me it boils down to a power issue. It is about positioning our people in our own homeland in an equitable place of power and decision-making.

Elder Kahontakwas (Diane Longboat) Turtle Clan, Kanienkehaka Nation

Reconciliation means action, not words, and trust building. Reconciliation is a learning and healing journey, and on this journey we—those who are visitors here—take our guidance from you, those whose lands we are visitors upon.

Lisa Helps Mayor of Victoria, BC

94 Calls to action

The "how to" part of reconciliation flowed from the commissioners' listening to 6,750 individuals who gave statements at national and regional gatherings, which resulted in 94 Calls to Action. These are outlined in the TRC's summary of the final report, released in June 2015. The TRC's mandate had originally said it would create recommendations, but the commissioners intentionally decided to call them calls to action. This change in wording is important—the TRC thought the word recommendations sounded optional, and they did not want the steps forward to be seen as optional.

Use the links below to read the 94 Calls to Action or go to YouTube (#94daysforreconciliation) and watch young people share the Calls to Action and how they understand them in their lives.

Read the 94 Calls to Action
Watch the #94daysforreconciliation YouTube playlist