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It is difficult to achieve unity without confronting past injustices. Some people, though, make the mistake of seeking the facts at the cost of healing. The paper discusses the points made in Marc A. Flisfeder's essay "A Bridge to Reconciliation: A Critique of the Indian Residential School Truth Commission." The author states in the essay that it is critical to address historical injustices in the pursuit of fact. Such endeavors, however, would be futile unless attempts at reconciliation were made. The paper equally looks at the submission of Justice Murray Sinclair to the Canadian Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples and gives the author’s definition of reconciliation.
Key Words: reconciliation, truth, historical injustices, destination
Part 1: Summary of the Article
In the article, "A Bridge to Reconciliation: A Critique of the Indian Residential School Truth Commission," Flisfeder (2010) observes that the government of Canada has made a positive step in establishing the Indian Residential Schools (IRS) Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The author acknowledges that the effort is a step in the right direction. However, he decries the lack of sincerity on the work of the commission because he argues it falls well below the expectations. For example, he argues that the Commission is interested in unearthing the truth but not addressing the core concern, which is to bring reconciliation. In essence, the author argues that finding the truth without addressing the historical injustices and seeking effective reconciliation is meaningless.
The author traces the route taken by the establishment of the TRC and observes it differs fundamentally from courtroom adjudication. In this regard, he observes the TRC has a unique opportunity to act as an arbitrator in conflicts; essentially, the TRC is an effective alternative to dispute resolution. Understandably, some people might regard the TRC as a quasi-judicial setup because the head is a judge. However, the author observes that the TRC is unique because it gives emphasis to reconciliation and not the conviction of people that might have been involved in perpetrating injustices. Hence, it is imperative for the TRC to go beyond finding the truth and ensure it reconciles those involved in the conflicts. The victims ought to feel that justice has been served while the perpetrators should acknowledge their role and seek genuine forgiveness for the transgressions. The failure to ensure justice on both parts amounts to the abdication of duty on the part of the TRC.
The author underscores the mandate of the TRC. He observes it includes recommendations to the Canadian government regarding the IRS system. Furthermore, the mandate encompasses the experiences, history, purpose, functioning, and supervision of the IRS system (Flisfeder, 2010). Furthermore, the author observes the TRC has to analyze the consequences of the IRS system by examining the harms, the effects on the subsequent generations, and the impact it had on human dignity. Ultimately, the TRC has to explore the ongoing legacy of the schools. Hence, it is evident that the mandate of the TRC is broad and has far-reaching implications. It goes beyond the need to find the truth about the system; rather, it requires the TRC to seek ways to effective reconciliation. Finally, the author observes that the mindset that led to the perpetration of the injustices is still evident in the current Canadian society and so calls for a paradigm shift concerning the atrocities. Hence, he observes the TRC lost an opportunity to reconcile the Canadian society because it did not take the option of restorative justice.
Part 2: Response to Justice Murray Sinclair
Justice Murray Sinclair makes a sobering observation when he observes that the road to reconciliation requires the active participation of all segments of the society. However, it is imperative for Justice Sinclair to understand that reconciliation can only manifest when the aggrieved and the aggressor reach consensus on the way forward, and then follow their resolution with meaningful steps to reach the required destination (Malley-Morrison, Mercurio, & Twose, 2013). Nearly all societies have disagreed in the course of time. In essence, there is the need to ensure that all people that feel ostracized or disenfranchised in any way to have a platform to address their concerns to the relevant authorities and the people that aggrieved them. However, it is important for the aggressor to have an equal chance at defending his or her actions. After unearthing the truth, it is imperative for all parties to the conflict to show genuine concern for reconciliation based on mutual respect for each other. In this regard, Justice Sinclair’s observation is pertinent given the state of the world, where those in positions of power and authority have historically abused people systematically. Reaching the envisioned destination requires the active participation of all members of the society. The failure to include the views and opinions of all stakeholders renders the efforts at reconciliation ineffective.
Part 3: Personal Definition of Reconciliation
I believe reconciliation implies a situation where people come together to address some of the salient issues that cause division among them and then decide on active ways of addressing them. For reconciliation to occur, I believe the environment must be favorable and that those involved should feel free to air their views and opinions without the fear of retribution. Most importantly, there should be the genuine attempt to reach reconciliation based on truth. In this regard, no party should attempt to conceal the truth will falsehoods because that defeats the essence of reaching an agreement. In essence, I believe reconciliation entails building bridges by destroying all barriers that hinder agreement. However, all parties to the conflict should admit the grievances and injustices were committed and then decide on the way forward for the sake of permanent peace.
Flisfeder, M. A. (2010). A Bridge to Reconciliation: A Critique of the Indian Residential School Truth Commission. The International Indigenous Policy Journal, vol. 1(1): 1-21
Malley-Morrison, K., Mercurio, A., & Twose, G. (2013). International handbook of peace and reconciliation. New York, NY: Springer.
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