The Truth About Reconciliation
Two words that—when we hear them—should inspire hope and goodwill have come to bring forth other feelings in today’s troubled and confused society. Last Friday marked Canada’s second official National Truth and Reconciliation Day; events across the country were held to remind Canadians of some of our country’s darker events of the past and to highlight efforts to renew and restore trust between indigenous Canadians and those of other ethnic backgrounds.
Both truth and reconciliation are powerful words in their own right and express noble concepts. The Bible says, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” Jesus himself claimed to be the Truth. When being questioned by Pilate, Jesus made this statement: “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.” Truth is important. When truth is hidden by lies, people and the government officials who represent them are not able to make good decisions. Those violated in the past can never really feel understood until the truth of the injustice they experienced is publicly acknowledged.
Reconciliation is also a biblical concept. Jesus’s death on the cross—according to God’s Word—is able to “reconcile us to God.” The separation between sinful man and Holy God is abolished by the sacrifice of the Son of God. We also are told in the same passage that God is reconciling two people groups (Jews and Gentiles) to each other and to God. To be reconciled is to have a friendly relationship restored, to achieve peace. The Apostle Paul says that we have been given a “ministry of reconciliation.” Having taken away the wall that separated us from God and the wall that separated us from our fellow man, God calls us—we who are made in His image—to also remove walls and barriers for others.
Unfortunately, the way these terms have been applied in Canada in recent years has had the opposite effect. In attempting to uncover truth, an atmosphere of shaming and blaming has become commonplace. Like the rhetoric surrounding other contentious societal issues—such as abortion, gender, homelessness, environmental policy, climate change, etc.—claims of abuse and cover-ups far outweigh any real attempts to come to grips with “the whole truth” and to arrive at a comprehensive and permanent reconciliation between those of different backgrounds.
As Canadians, it should be the earnest and sincere desire of every one of us to come to a place of full appreciation of the value of our fellow citizens, regardless of their ethnic heritage and genetic origins. The events of recent centuries and decades have impacted each of us in different ways. Yet today, we have the opportunity and the challenge of reaching out our hands to those who were impacted differently . . . or to different degrees. Many have lost loved ones because of government decisions. That is not only as a result of the residential schools of the past centuries; it is still taking place today. Policies enacted in response to COVID—whether deliberately deceptive or due to inadequate and misleading information—have caused the unjust loss of lives, livelihoods, homes and relationships. The killing of the innocent in abortion clinics, the ending of innocent lives by assisted suicide, the trampling of parental rights and the innocence of children in today’s public schools . . . all of these call for truth, justice and, ultimately, reconciliation.
When it comes to the loss of or damage to property, once the truth has been established, justice can be applied in the form of restitution and reconciliation can be achieved so that the perpetrator and the victim can have their relationship restored. Sadly, when human life is lost, there is no way to restore the loved one to his or her family. In those cases, recognition and acknowledgment of the wrong done is still important. The truth of what took place needs to be established. Sincere apologies must be made and forgiveness sought. Reconciliation is the process of accepting one another again. Revenge cannot be a motive. Only a sincere desire to establish peaceful and friendly relationships as equals.
In our politically-correct urgency to address the wrongs of the past, we must be careful not to commit new injustices that cause new harms to Canadians living today. The discovery of disturbed soil in Kamloops and other places said to be the unmarked graves of indigenous children being housed at residential schools was announced and trumpeted by the government and media in such a way that some vented their anger and frustration by burning or vandalizing at least 68 churches in various communities. Whether or not the soil disturbances turn out to be graves (to date there have been no exhumations to confirm that assertion), one thing is clear: the burning of churches brings nobody back from the dead. Even if the worst accusations are true (evidence is far from conclusive), an act of revenge against people living today does not even bring justice to a perpetrator of yesteryear. It does nothing but deepen the divide between Canadians based on race and ethnicity.
In recent years, it has become common to discriminate against non-indigenous foster parents, some of whom have been—for years—providing loving quality care for children of indigenous backgrounds. Children, some of whom have been living in warm and loving family homes where the parents happen to be non-indigenous, have been removed to be placed in indigenous homes, regardless of the disruption to their young lives. In a society where we are supposed to be “colour-blind” and to be treated equally as fellow-Canadians, this race-based discrimination is not the path of reconciliation but a path of racial separation.
I don’t doubt that most Canadians—both indigenous and non-indigenous—and government officials at all levels, have good intentions when it comes to commemorating Truth and Reconciliation Day. We join with them in calling for both. As we reflect on the past, let’s ensure we are embracing the whole truth and seeking deep and meaningful reconciliation.
The CHP seeks to establish a society where every Canadian can achieve his or her full potential and where justice is done and seen to be done for all. Join us in our quest to make Canada a better place.
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Other Commentary by Rod Taylor:
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- Trust: A Commodity in Short Supply
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- Foreign Funding of 11 Federal Candidates Raises Doubts About Election Integrity in Canada
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