Truth and reconciliation: More guidance is needed on legal reform

By Yves Faguy May 18, 201818 May 2018

Truth and reconciliation: More guidance is needed on legal reform


The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s work and report may have achieved a lot in terms of raising awareness about past efforts in Canada to assimilate Indigenous individuals and erase their cultures. Unfortunately, Michael Coyle argues, it doesn’t focus enough on the specific ways Canada’s legal framework should be reformed to restructure Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples. In a recent article published in the Canadian Bar Review, Coyle offers the following comparison with other similar works:

The abstraction of the TRC’s recommendations for restructuring Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples may have rendered them easier for governments to embrace. Although Canada’s then Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, declined even to attend the ceremony accompanying the TRC’s final report, the current government indicated almost immediately that it would fully implement the TRC Calls to Action, including using the UNDRIP as the framework for reconciliation.

It is not clear at this time what systemic changes, if any, the Canadian government intends to implement in relation to their relationship with Indigenous peoples. It is clear, however, that some degree of support from the Canadian public will be required if the relationship is to be transformed. The failure of the TRC’s report to communicate more forcefully to the public the link between past government policies subordinating Indigenous peoples and the current legal regime will not assist efforts in this regard. It is worth noting that the TRC report follows the work of two other Canadian commissions, the six-volume Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples published in 1996, and the four-volume Report of the Ipperwash Inquiry published 11 years later. Both of those reports recommended significant legal reform to recognize the principles of treaty partnership with Indigenous peoples. Neither of these earlier reports provoked such reform. It will be worthwhile to reflect on at least one of the possible impediments to fundamental change.

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