A First Nations millennial's perspective on what Truth and Reconciliation means

Despite the efforts from public officials, the relationship between First Nations and the rest of Canada remains a work in progress and true reconciliation will take time, believes a First Nations millennial.

Time for Canadians to take responsibility, Kitchener resident tells CBC

Commissioner Justice Murray Sinclair embraces Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday after the final Truth and Reconciliation report was released. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

"It's taken hundreds of years to get to this point and I think it's going to take a while to get out of where we are at," said Kandice Baptiste in conversation with CBC Radio's The Morning Edition host Craig Norris. 

The First Nations woman living in Kitchener says despite the efforts from public officials, the relationship between First Nations and the rest of Canada remains a work in progress and true reconciliation will take time. 

The 27-year-old resides in Waterloo Region and hails from Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte First Nation, which is located near Belleville, Ont. 

On Tuesday, the final report from the Truth and Reconcilliation Commission (TRC) was released by Justice Murray Sinclair. The commission travelled across Canada for six years to acquire first-hand accounts from First Nations survivors of residential schools. 

And although the majority of residential school survivors are either seniors or very near that in age, the commission's report has relevance beyond their personal experience, believes Baptiste.

Baptiste recalled her response to the commission's launch when she was just a second-year university student.

"I remember watching the apology live and really feeling a sense of relief that it was acknowledged but at the same time, almost a sense of anxiety thinking 'what now?'"

Baptiste acknowledged she was skeptical about the outcome and worried about the survivors, who now had to rehash their often painful experiences in residential schools in a way that could be more harmful than beneficial. 

"It was going to bring up a lot of hurt for them and that was going to be tough but at the same time, it's important for Canadians to hear these stories," she said.

Sinclair: 'We would hold our children and grandchildren closer'

6 years ago
Chair Justice Murray Sinclair speaks about how the stories of residential schools survivors touched the commissioners of the TRC and Canadians. 1:53

After the stories were told and the final report was released, public officials such as Sinclair and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau claimed the end of the commission would mark a new chapter in Canadian history. But Baptiste says she isn't completely buying it.

"It's constantly been a promise to do better and a promise to be new," she noted. "I think that it's just a continuation of the same era."

While Trudeau's decision to adopt all 94 recommendations made in the report is a positive, the 27-year-old says there's much more work to do.

"From that perspective, the TRC's mandate is complete," she said. "What needs to happen now is that those institutions of learning need to take responsibility to teach Canadian children the truth of what happened without sugar coating it."

The Kitchener resident added that informing Canadians of the relationship with First Nations when they're young will open their eyes to the realities our country faces and should be a topic of conversation that is taken seriously instead of one that is glossed over by educators.

"I think that reconciliation is something that Canadians need to take responsibility for. I think that the burden has been on indigenous peoples for far too long," she remarked.

"I think that reconciliation is going to happen on a daily basis" in order to build better relationships in Canada.

Trudeau on the promise made with the TRC

6 years ago
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses the TRC as the commission submits its final report on residential schools. 2:00