To some, reconciliation is the revitalization of the relationship between Indigenous peoples and all Canadians. To others, a respectful relationship never existed, and must be established and maintained for the first time. Consensus on what reconciliation means, and how it can be achieved, is not easy to find. What is clear, however, is that reconciliation requires self-education and transformative action on the part of both individuals and organizations alike. Without it, a nation to nation relationship between Indigenous peoples and Canada cannot move forward.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission
The current movement and public discussions about what reconciliation is and how it may be advanced were precipitated by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The TRC was a component of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. Its mandate was to inform all Canadians about what happened in Indian Residential Schools. The Commission documented the truth of survivors, families, communities and anyone personally affected by the Indian Residential School experience. This includes First Nations, Inuit and Métis former Indian Residential School students, their families, communities, churches, former school employees, government and other Canadians. The Report produced by the TRC included 94 Calls to Action that called on individuals, governments and organizations to take action to address the legacy of Indian Residential Schools and advance the process of reconciliation. But the call for action on reconciliation expands far beyond the important issues addressed in the TRC. It requires Canadians to engage openly with the entirety of Canada’s history, unlearn much of what we have been taught about Canada and our identity as Canadians, and learn the truth about the history, cultures, laws and lives of Indigenous peoples and communities. This includes the difficult truth about the harm done to Indigenous people by Canada’s colonial interests. It will require action to ensure ongoing harms are stopped and past harms are repaired, and a willingness to do things in a different way so that new harms are not created.
What JFK is doing
JFK was founded by a group of lawyers who strongly believe in using the Canadian justice system as a means of fighting for justice and promoting reconciliation. This mandate continues to motivate and shape the work we do. While JFK is committed to using the justice system as a tool to advance justice and reconciliation for Indigenous people, we are also committed to advancing reconciliation in other ways. In September 2016, JFK adopted a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) to reflect our deep commitment to the important and pressing goal of reconciliation. The RAP was developed in light of the Calls to Action set out in the TRC Report. The lesson from the TRC Report, which JFK takes very seriously, is that reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people must inform every aspect of our relationship with each other. Reconciliation requires transformative action on the part of all Canadians, including the private sector. The primary areas JFK has committed to advancing in our RAP are:
- Building cultural capacity in our firm
- Committing to pro bono work to support the development of Aboriginal communities
- Promoting Indigenous legal systems
- Creating employment and educational opportunities for Aboriginal people
- Supporting the development of Aboriginal owned businesses
- Advocating for reconciliation in the legal profession
Please review our RAP for a full description of the actions to be taken in these areas.
Links and Resources
Please see the following links for further reconciliation resources, and to see what other steps the legal community is taking to move forward with reconciliation: Truth and Reconciliation Commission
- Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
- Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
- National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation
- United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- Law Society of BC Response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action
- ReconciliationSyllabus – A TRC-Inspired Gathering of Materials for Teaching Law
- Notice of Application – Nunatukavut Community Council
Other Reconciliation Action Plans
- Reconciliation Canada Back Pocket Reconciliation Action Plan
- University of Manitoba Faculty of Health Sciences – Reconciliation Action Plan
- City of Ottawa – Reconciliation Action Plan
- Reconciliation Australia – What is a RAP?
- Google Australia – Reconciliation Action Plan