Saskatchewan

More education, change to come: TRC commissioner Marie Wilson on 2nd anniversary of calls to action

Former Truth and Reconciliation commissioner Marie Wilson says educating people about residential schools and their impact on Indigenous people continues to be a "huge task."

'If we keep doing everything the way we've always done, that change will not happen'

Marie Wilson, a former CBC broadcaster and commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, is speaking at a Regina Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday.

It's been two years since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its 94 calls to action, but former commissioner Marie Wilson says educating people about residential schools and their impact on Indigenous people continues to be a "huge task."

"There are still many, many people in this country that don't even know we had a Truth and Reconciliation Commission," she said.

As one of three members of the commission, she estimated she heard roughly 1,500 statements from former residential school students. Wilson is speaking Tuesday afternoon at a luncheon held by the Regina and District Chamber of Commerce. 

Wilson said she's not frustrated when people don't know about the commission, but "when people learn and resist and try to turn it into something other than it was, that becomes frustrating."

'You have one because something terribly wrong has happened'

She told CBC Radio's The Morning Edition that people who make glib comments about residential schools like 'it couldn't have been all bad' fail to understand why countries hold truth and reconciliation commissions.

"You don't have a truth and reconciliation commission when everything is going well," she said.

"You have one because something terribly wrong has happened."

They're not all about what the government should do.- Marie Wilson

She said that doesn't mean "good and kind and indeed beautiful things may not have also occurred in the context of that" but the commission's purpose was to get to the bottom of the terrible wrong.

Moving toward reconciliation requires education as the first step as "most of us didn't grow up knowing [about] these things," she said. 

"I try really hard to take people where they are at, to bring a sense of belief in the goodness of people, that once people do know, they will respond in positive ways."

Calls to action for individuals, too

As for those positive responses, she urges everyone to read the 94 calls to action.

"They're not all about what the government should do. There are things in there about what individuals can contribute through their professional lives, through their personal lives."

Wilson said reconciliation means many things, but overall it means change.

"If we keep doing everything the way we've always done, that change will not happen."

She hopes that if Canadians put their hearts and hands into reconciliation, someday "we would stop saying we are a country of immigrants … we would begin proudly to say we are an Indigenous country.

"We would recognize with pride, rather than as a problem to be solved, the fact that we are on the homelands of some of the oldest peoples on the planet, and that we would feel enriched and blessed by that, and that we would all find ways to hold each other up in a good way."

with files from CBC Radio's The Morning Edition

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