RECONCILIATION

 

 

 


 

INTRODUCTION: RIEL AND RECONCILIATION

The time has come for Canadians to begin to complete the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. One concrete step in this work is to introduce in our Parliament legislation exonerating Louis Riel. This would begin the process of implementing justice for Metis and non-status Indigenous people. Following the final official gathering of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Justice Murray Sinclair was asked about reconciliation for the Metis people by Rosemary Barton, host of CBC’s "Power and Politics" (Dec.9, 2015). His response: "Métis children were not included in the Settlement Agreement. It is hard to have reconciliation in that case".

In 1964 when I moved to Toronto I joined the Indian-Eskimo Association (IEA), one of the first organizations in modern times to advocate for justice for the Indigenous peoples of this land. In most of our activities, press releases, resolutions, etc., we identified Indigenous people as Indians, Eskimos and Métis. In 1968 I was engaged by the national office of the Anglican Church of Canada as a consultant to obtain feedback from Indigenous people, dioceses and government on the Hendry Report. "Beyond Traplines" contained recommendations on major policy changes for the Church’s programs with Indigenous people. In December 2015, I reread my final report from 1971 and observed that I had been unable to make any progress with policies for Métis people. I had, however, urged the national office to engage someone to follow up in that area.

To this day, most resolutions by churches and government institutions continue to list Innuit, First Nations and Métis as the Indigenous people of Canada. Since 1964 First Nations have made much progress. The Inuit have their own province. In contrast, the Métis and non-status people have generally been ignored. The Federal Government of Canada has tried its best to kill any recognition of Métis rights to land, culture, and self- government. While the Truth and Reconciliation Commission dealt with the genocidal policy of assimilation which characterized the residential schools, there has been no similar commission to expose the same policies which characterized the public school system which most Métis children attended. So Justice Sinclair asks the right question – how can there be reconciliation?

The newly formed society, Friends of Louis Riel, proposes that Canadians must begin the reconciliation process for Métis by first removing a terrible blight in Canadian history and exonerating Louis Riel. This is first and foremost a Canadian issue and one which gets in the way of reconciliation with all Indigenous peoples. For all of us Riel’s unjust execution symbolizes the inevitability of ongoing injustice by Canadians toward Indigenous people. Exoneration of Riel opens the door to real reconciliation. It must then be followed by recognizing and removing past and continuing injustices to the Métis peoples. Real reconciliation will lead to the recognition of Louis Riel's proper place in Canada's history so all Canadians will celebrate him as the Indigenous Father of Confederation.

John A. (Ian) MacKenzie, 2016.

 

 

Copyright 2016 Friends of Louis Riel Society All rights reserved. Updated April, 2017