Recommended Readings

Recommended Readings


The Truth and Reconciliation Commission Final Report
Did you know? Each  of the seven flames in the circle of the TRC’s logo represents one of  the Seven Sacred Teachings –  Truth, Humility, Honesty, Wisdom, Respect, Courage, and Love.
94 Calls to Action from the TRC
In order to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission makes the following calls to action.

Gathering Theme: Canadian Public Opinion on Aboriginal Peoples


Canadian Public Opinion on Aboriginal Peoples

1. Opening common to all gatherings.

2. Introduction of the theme by facilitator.

In June, 2016, Environics Institute published the Final Report of its 2016 national survey of non-Aboriginals in Canada on their attitudes toward Aboriginal peoples. The survey includes many comparisons to a survey they conducted called the Urban Aboriginal Peoples Study in 2008. One of many sponsors of the survey was the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

Here are some of the key findings of the 2016 survey with comparative findings with 2008.

  1. One quarter (26%) of the non-Aboriginal respondents say that their views of Aboriginal peoples have improved over the last few years.  (61% “stayed the same”, 10% gotten worse).
  2. “Personal contact with Aboriginal peoples” has not changed much since 2009; “Often” (26%), occasionally, (30%)
  3. A majority (56%) agreed more needs to be done to educate school children about abuse and discrimination faced by Aboriginals, and 75% said funding for reserve schools should match was is paid in the rest of Canada.
  4. The biggest challenge faced by Aboriginals, when asked unprompted, is “stigma, inequality, discrimination.”  It topped the list (18%, up from 6% in 2008) of about ten issues.
  5. There is little optimism among Non-Aboriginals that progress is being made in narrowing the gap in living standards (“getting bigger” 22%; “Not really changing” 54 %).
  6. Nine out of ten say Aboriginal  people are “often” (46%) or “sometimes” the subject of discrimination. This perception has increased by 13% since 2004 and 2006 surveys.
  7. There is an increase in agreement that Canadians have a role in reconciliation; 84% up from 67% in 2008.


Connected Advocates (18%) High level of contact and strong belief that Aboriginal peoples often experience discrimination.

Young Idealists (23%) Idealistic and optimistic, Close to Connected Advocates but they do not have as much knowledge of history and current challenges and not the same level of personal engagement. They may be the next group of Connected Advocates. Female and urban, concentrated in Toronto and Montreal, immigrants, often students.

Informed Critics (23%) Knowledgeable like the Advocates, but not especially sympathetic to challenges and aspirations of Aboriginals. Oldest and most affluent of all five groups, and most urban, concentrated in the West.

Disconnected Skeptics (21%) Uninformed and unaware, they typically think Aboriginal peoples are no different from other Canadians. Like the Dismissive naysayers, but without the emotional negativity. Simply don’t know and don’t care. More of a male-dominated group, often young and foreign born. Found in Quebec and rural regions.

Dismissive Naysayers (14%), tend to view Aboriginal peoples and communities negatively, i.e., entitled and isolated from Canadian society. Opposite end of spectrum from Advocates.  Most likely to be male, somewhat older, higher than average incomes but not higher than average education. Least urban and concentrated on the prairies.

3. Sharing Circle

4. Determination of the theme for the next meeting and the reader.

5. Resources:

i. Readings
ii. Videos
iii. Organizations
iv. Actions

6. Closing common to all gatherings.

Gathering Theme: Reconciliation

Download a printable pdf file of the theme from this link.

Revised April 2020



Author: This theme is comprised of four readings: two from the TRC final report, a comment by Murray Sinclair, and a reflection on reconciliation particularly directed to Indigenous people from an article by Maggie Hodgson

(Facilitator reads)

1. Reconciliation at the Crossroads 

“To some people, reconciliation is the re-establishment of a conciliatory state. However, this is a state that many Aboriginal people assert never has existed between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. To others, reconciliation, in the context of Indian residential schools, is similar to dealing with a situation of family violence. It’s about coming to terms with events of the past in a manner that overcomes conflict and establishes a respectful and healthy relationship among people, going forward. It is in the latter context that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has approached the question of reconciliation.

To the Commission, reconciliation is about establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in this country. In order for that to happen, there has to be awareness of the past acknowledgement of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes, and action to change behaviour.

We are not there yet. The relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples is not a mutually respectful one. But, we believe we can get there, and we believe we can maintain it.”

“Reconciliation must support Aboriginal peoples as they heal from the destructive legacies of colonization that have wreaked such havoc in their lives. But it must do even more. Reconciliation must inspire Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples to transform Canadian society so that our children and grandchildren can live together in dignity, peace, and prosperity on these lands we now share.

Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Honouring the Truth, page 6, 7 and 8.

(Participant 1 reads)

2. Commission Activities

“Until the Commission was established, the voices of those who were most directly affected by the residential school experience, particularly the former students, had largely been missing from the historical record. The Commission made a commitment to offer everyone involved with the residential school system the opportunity to speak about their experience. The Commission received over 6,750 statements from Survivors of residential schools, members of their families, and other individuals who wished to share their knowledge of the residential school system and its legacy.”

“In an effort to understand all aspects of the residential school experience, the Commission also made a concerted effort to gather statements from former staff of residential schools. With the assistance of the church parties to the Settlement Agreement, the Commission conducted ninety-six separate interviews with former staff and the children of former staff. In addition, the Commission received statements from former staff and their family members at its National and Regional Events and Community Hearings. The statements gathered will form part of a permanent collection of documents relating to residential schools.”

Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Honouring the Truth, pages 25 and 26.

(Participant 2 reads)

3. Reconciliation Nation

“Many people came to the conversation without really thinking about reconciliation was. They kept focusing on what reconciliation wasn’t. It wasn’t about forgiveness. It wasn’t about sovereignty. It wasn’t about title to the land. It wasn’t about government control. So they came with a bunch of negative perspectives. Once we came to terms with understanding that reconciliation is establishing a balanced and respectful relationship between two or more sovereign and existing entities, and in a way that allows them to function in a partnership going forward, I think that idea gelled very quickly for us.”

Murray Sinclair in Reconciliation Nation, by Ruth Shead, UM Today, The Magazine, Fall, 2015, p. 27

(Participant 3 reads)

4. Reconciliation: A Spiritual Process

“It is up to you!” Elder Abe Burnstick

“Reconciliation is a Western concept that describes a process of bringing one’s spirit to a place of peace. The long-term goal of reconciliation is to prepare ourselves for the time we go to the other side in peace. Peace is a state of spirit. We get there through hard work on our part or a willingness to ask the Creator to help us find peace in our hearts. The process of reconciliation is embodied in our mind, flesh, spirit, and attitude. We either choose to stay in pain and in anger or we are willing to do the work to effect change for ourselves. This does not necessarily mean the person or the government or the church that hurt us has to be sorry before we come to a place of peace. Coming to a place of peace and setting our spirits free from pain is a long term process for most people and communities. Finding that place in our spirits is a lifelong journey. The reward for doing our work is being a people of hope, spirit, and commitment. We do this to ensure that our grandchildren will not have to live with our spiritual, emotional pain.

Many former residential school students experienced trauma from being disconnected from their family. Those who have moved forward understand that in order to heal from our pain we have to speak our truth and take responsibility for change. We have chosen to reverse the central pillars of the intent of residential schools and surrounding legislation that drove a spike into the hearts of First Nation, Métis, and Inuit peoples. The chilling language surrounding the “Indian question” clearly defined the legislators’ intent, which was to assimilate Aboriginal peoples by outlawing traditional ceremonies, removing children from families, and cutting off access to language and sense of identity. In 1920, Deputy Superintendent General of Indian Affairs Duncan Campbell Scott told Parliament that the object of assimilation was to continue “until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question.” One cannot separate residential schools from those policies because they decreed that our children should not live with their parents and should not have access to ceremony while they were being trained to believe our cultural beliefs and ceremonies were of the devil.”

“Reconciliation: A Spiritual Process”by Maggie Hodgson. Hodgson is a member of the Nadleh Whuten Carrier First Nation, works locally, nationally, and internationally on justice and healing initiatives. She was the founder and host for the first “Healing Our Spirit Worldwide” gathering held in Edmonton, Alberta, in 1992.
The full article can be found on “from Truth to Reconciliation: Transforming the Legacy of Residential Schools” on page 636. A link to this reading:


First Gathering: Getting to Know You


 Getting to Know You

Documents and Materials to bring (Facilitator’s checklist)

  • Opening statement
  • Seven Sacred Teachings of the Anishinabe (choose a participant each week to read)
  • 6 copies of the closing protocol (choose six participants)
  • Talking stick
  • (If desired) smudging tobacco, etc., or invocation
  • Refreshments
  • Small pads of paper and pencils for participants (if necessary)
  • Other items unique to your group
  • Materials on the Theme of the meeting

1. Opening for all gatherings.
2. Introductory comments by the Facilitator for 1st gathering.

“In this first gathering we want to establish a climate of “mutual recognition and mutual respect” to use the words of the Truth and Reconciliation Report. No matter what your background and life experiences we want to respect you, by listening to you and by recognizing the value of you as a person and what you have to bring to our gathering.

Over the course of our gatherings we will tackle a number of issues. For example:

What is reconciliation? What does it mean to me and why is it meaningful to me.

The history and impact of residential schools.

Inter-generational trauma caused by residential schools.

Perceptions of Indigenous people by non-Indigenous people.

The meaning of land for Indigenous People.

The role of artistic expression in creating a sense of belonging.

The sixties scoop and its ongoing reality.

The justice system and Aboriginal People including FASD.

The Métis Nation.

Missing and murdered Aboriginal People.

As well as other possible themes.

Each of our meetings will end with a closing protocol.  I will bring the meeting to a close in an hour and 15 minutes. In that way those who wish to leave can do so without feeling they are disrupting anything. If others want to stay and discuss a bit longer, that is possible (as long as the facility does not have to be locked up) So we ask you to be very conscious of your sharing time. Because we will be meeting many times, you will have many opportunities to share your thoughts and feelings.

3. Sharing Circle

We are calling this first session, a “getting to know you” session, where each of us can tell a bit about ourselves.
Facilitators can google “Icebreakers for groups” and be free to choose the one best suited for their group. There are many choices. An example is the following:

a) Ask each person to find out five things about the person sitting to their right. The last of these five things might be what the person feels they know about the current move toward reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
b) Allow three to five minutes for questions and then have each person introduce the person to their right to the rest of the group, telling what they know about them.
c) An index card and a pencil could help participants briefly record reminders of the conversations.

An alternative would be for the facilitator to begin by suggesting the following;

I suggest that we go around the group and in about 3-4 minutes each, share the following: a) Our name, b) where we from,  c) our cultural identity/background,  d) why we decided to take part in these gatherings, e) what we hope to bring to our life from these gatherings.  Let me begin…” 

The facilitator would begin by taking about 4 or 5 minutes to share so that participants would have a sense of the expectations.

4. Setting the tone (Facilitator)

I would like to ask you how you think we can set a “tone” for our discussions so that they are respectful of one another as persons and in our use of time. Are there any thoughts you have on setting a respectful tone? We don’t have to have rules as such, but it would be helpful if we agreed on how we will conduct ourselves. (Pass the talking stick)

5. Feedback from participants

I would like to share with you some of the feedback we have received from our participants. While most of it has been very positive, there have been several concerns raised.

Our non-Indigenous participants have sometimes been frustrated when Indigenous participants have not continued in the group after the first few meetings.

Our Indigenous participants also have some concerns. Some feel that too much burden has been placed upon them to share difficult moments of their past, while the non-Indigenous participants have not felt that same obligation. We need to respect each other’s stories. We cannot ask Indigenous participants to share if the non-Indigenous partners are not also willing to share.

A second concern Indigenous people have expressed is in the form of a question: “Why should we have to educate settlers about things they should have learnt in school or elsewhere? It is not our job to educate them”. The answer to that question is both simple and complicated. The simple answer is that settlers did not learn it in school. Period. But now there are plenty of books, T.V. programs and media reports that are telling the stories. Non-Indigenous participants cannot be blamed if they did not learn it in school, but there is no longer an excuse to be ignorant. Now that we know a little more, we can do something about it. Let’s not put all the responsibility on Indigenous participants to inform the group. Let’s all take some responsibility to learn more and do something about it. The personal stories of our Indigenous participants can be a very important part of this education of everyone in the circle.

Our circles give us a wonderful opportunity to meet one another, to get to know one another, to hear the stories of one another and to build that mutual respect that the TRC states is the foundation of reconciliation. Knowledge has to add empathy to bring about change.

There is another reason we encourage our Indigenous participants to be partners in our in our circles. This is the most important reason. We hope your children and your grandchildren will not have to experience the racism, the ignorance of your culture that has been part of our Canadian history. You can help end that with your participation. We hope you will grace us with your presence and participation. We need you!

To our non-Indigenous participants, we want to ask you to share some of your own history. How does it relate or does it not relate to Indigenous people in Canada? Together, our sharing can lead us to honour and to live by the treaties that our forefathers signed in our name.

6. Resources

i. Readings
ii. Videos
iii. Organizations
iv. Actions

7. Closing for all gatherings.

Five of the participants will each read one sentence from the “Closing Remarks for All Gatherings” and all will join the 6th person in reading the last sentence of the closing.

TRC Reading Challenge

The TRC Reading Challenge, this started out as a simple idea. I can’t believe it. We’ve passed 3000!! Let’s keep going. This is hope.

Step 1: Sign up on the Pledge to Read page.

Step 2: Challenge another person by email, Facebook, Twitter, in person.

Step 3: Start reading the TRC report now, or START ON JUNE 21st.
**The actual reading and progress reports don’t have to start until June 21st**

Step 4: Share your progress starting on June 21st. Take as long as you need to read it. It’s not a race. It’s a commitment.

A Survivor

“A Survivor is not just someone who “made it through” the schools, or “got by” or was “making do.”

A Survivor is a person who persevered against and overcame adversity. The word came to mean someone who emerged victorious, though not unscathed, whose head was “bloody but unbowed.” It referred to someone who had taken all that could be thrown at them and remained standing at the end. It came to mean someone who could legitimately say “I am still here!”

For that achievement, Survivors deserve our highest respect. But, for that achievement, we also owe them the debt of doing the right thing. Reconciliation is the – thing to do, coming out of this history.

In this volume, Survivors speak of their pain, loneliness, and suffering, and of their accomplishments. While this is a difficult story, it is also a story of courage and endurance. The first step in any process of national reconciliation requires us all to attend to these voices, have been silenced for far too long. We encourage all Canadians to do so.

The Survivors Speak, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Page XIII.

Themes for Discussion

Themes for Discussion

What is reconciliation? What does it mean to me and why is it meaningful to me.

The history and impact of residential schools.

Inter-generational trauma caused by residential schools.

Perceptions of Indigenous people by non-Indigenous people and the perceptions of non-Indigenous peoples by Indigenous peoples, based on surveys conducted in Winnipeg and across Canada.

The meaning of land for indigenous peoples.

Barriers Indigenous people face.

The role of artistic expression in creating a sense of belonging.

Planning for the future of reconciliation.

Chief Joseph on Reconciliation

Healing a Nation Through Truth and Reconciliation | Chief Dr Robert Joseph | TEDxEastVan

Published on May 24, 2016

Canada’s past held some dark and terrible secrets on the treatment of it’s First Nations peoples. Chief Robert Joseph experienced these destructive forces firsthand in the Residential School System and he now explains how sharing these truths was the first step to reconciling a nation. Helping to heal this racism and intolerance is to recognize ‘we are all one’.