What Does Reconciliation Look Like in Ontario?
Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Reconciliation in Canada Not Only About Legacy of Residential Schools
Reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada is not just about the legacy of residential schools. It is a multi-faceted process that restores lands, economic self-sufficiency, and political jurisdiction to First Nations, and develops respectful and just relationships between First Nations and Canada.
Although a history of colonization has deeply impacted all Indigenous peoples across Canada, and decolonization requires significant change at the federal level, the process of reconciliation is also unique to each region. This is because of cultural and historical differences among the more than 630 First Nations in Canada, varying settler populations, different ecosystems and economies. And there are different legal regimes in each province because of the jurisdictional separation of provincial and federal powers. The questions can then be asked: What does reconciliation look like in Ontario? What are the concrete ways it is being realized?
The University of Toronto and the National Centre for First Nations Governance brought together representatives from Ontario First Nations, the federal and Ontario governments, industry, and the university for an intergenerational exploration of these questions at a two-day symposium in February 2011.
Satsan (Herb George), President of the National Centre for First Nations Governance, emphasizes the importance of addressing reconciliation considering the current reality for First Nations in Ontario and the rest of Canada. “It is time for government, industry and educators to build a new relationship with First Nations based on respect and recognition of their aboriginal and treaty rights,” says Satsan. “A relationship that can bring economic and social benefits to our people and to all people in Ontario.”
The symposium explored the practical issues, challenges, and solutions that Ontario First Nations, business and industry, federal and provincial governments and the education sector are encountering as they try to work together to further reconciliation. Speakers at this event included Honourable Justice Ian Binnie, Supreme Court of Canada, Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Honourable David Peterson, Former Premier of Ontario and Chancellor, University of Toronto and Ogichidaakwe Diane Kelly, Grand Council of Treaty Three.
As a joint project of the University of Toronto and the National Centre for First Nations Governance, this symposium is the fruit of a multi-faceted partnership focused on Indigenous governance that was inaugurated in October 2009.