B.C. author challenges Canadians to sign up for TRC reading challenge

A B.C. author wants 1,000 people to take up the challenge to read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) summary report.

Jennifer Manuel wants 1,000 people to pledge by National Aboriginal Day

Jennifer Manuel, from Duncan, B.C., launched an online campaign to get people to read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) summary report (Darryl Dyck/CP)

A B.C. author wants 1,000 people to take up the challenge to read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) summary report.

Jennifer Manuel, from Duncan, B.C., launched an online campaign, the TRC Reading Challenge, and aims to reach her goal by National Aboriginal Day on June 21.

"It's one thing to say you're listening and it's another to actually try and show that you're listening," said Manuel, who has worked as a treaty archivist and school teacher.

Manuel said within a couple days of the challenge's launch on April 5, she had more than a 100 people sign on and it picked up more steam over the weekend. 

"Every time that somebody pledges I get an email alert and I've had to turn that off," she said.

Manuel says she'll be publishing the names of the people who make the pledge and they will be able to self-report their reading progress as a way to show they're taking part.  

The TRC summary report was released in June 2015. It's nearly 400 pages long and documents the history and legacy of Canada's residential school system, which the report says is "best described as 'cultural genocide."

Jennifer Manuel lives in Duncan, BC. She is a former treaty archivist for the Ktunaxa Nation in the Kootenays and is also a former teacher.

The report also includes 94 calls to action with the aim of repairing the harm of residential schools while also moving forward with reconciliation.  

The idea for a reading challenge came to Manuel recently as she published her first novel, The Heaviness of Things That Float. The story explores the relationship between small, remote First Nations and professional outsiders from a non-Indigenous perspective.

"Cree author Darrel McLeod, who is also a former First Nations delegate to the UN, read the book and called it a valuable resource in our national discussion on reconciliation," said Manuel.

And that statement got her thinking.

"I thought, shouldn't people actually read the TRC report first? And how can I in good conscience go around, as authors do, promoting my book first and foremost. I should be saying, 'No, read the TRC report first.'

"If we care about our country, if we care about our fellow citizens, we should all be putting down whatever we're reading and read the TRC report before we continue reading anything else."

There are three underlying principles behind the TRC Challenge and they feature prominently on the challenge website:

  • You care genuinely about the relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in Canada.

  • You believe that improving this relationship requires meaningful, respectful, mutual dialogue, and that you cannot contribute to this dialogue unless you have first listened to the truths expressed by First Nations people.

  • You prefer to read the TRC Report yourself, rather than letting others interpret it for you, especially since they may not have actually read it themselves.

Manuel admits she hasn't read the entire TRC summary report. She'll be participating in the challenge alongside everyone else who pledges.

"My experience with reading the report is very similar to what I've heard a few other people say to me when they pledge, which is, I've read snippets, I've read parts here and there but I've not read the whole thing."

with files from CBC news