Education for Reconciliation: Confronting the Challenge of Residential Schooling and Its Intergenerational Impact in Canada

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 10:45
Oral Presentation
Terry WOTHERSPOON, University of Saskatchewan, Canada
Emily MILNE, MacEwan University, Canada
Canada’s national Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which highlighted the impact of residential schooling on Indigenous survivors of those schools, has also drawn attention to the intergenerational consequences of residential schooling and what it signifies for relationships between Indigenous people and other Canadians. In seeking to acknowledge and move beyond the “cultural genocide” represented in the policy, the commission’s final report included a series of calls for action to mobilize movement towards reconciliation, many of which involve educational mandates; as emphasized by the declaration by the commission’s chair, Murray Sinclair, “Education is what got us into this mess…but education is the key to reconciliation” (Watters, 2015).

This paper explores the dynamics and prospects for effective change associated with reforms in elementary and secondary education systems in Canada since the release of the calls for action. School boards and educational organizations across the nation have engaged in a flurry of activity in the two years since the report’s release in an overwhelming show of support for the reconciliation process but important questions remain concerning the nature and consequences of these activities. The analysis highlights these reforms, including a critical assessment of their potential for effective change and the limitations associated with their implementation, based on analysis of policy guidelines, action plans and public discourses on relations between Indigenous people and other Canadians. The paper addresses key questions: to what extent are all of these initiatives a matter of performativity and good faith rather than a movement towards foundational change? To what extent is effective reconciliation possible and how can it be accomplished in the context of institutional structures and discourses framed within the context of a white settler colonial society?