Harper Lays the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to Rest

From time to time, Humans vs Harper will shift gears to speak seriously to Harper’s response to critical Canadian issues. This post on Harper’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is one of those times.

REST-IN-PEACE180Reconciliation requires genuine trust and an abiding commitment to healing and progressive change even as it is fraught with complexity and nuance. So, we come to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report and recommendations.

We know Aboriginal peoples support many, if not all, of the TRC’s recommendations, so we can trust that they will back reconciliation efforts. We know that most non-First Nations Canadians—we settlers—have responded to the report with great attention and respect, so we have reason to hope that we settlers will embrace reconciliation efforts. But what of Stephen Harper—how has he responded, what actions will he take?

Harper first demonstrated his intention to cast off the TRC report when he deliberately failed to comment on its release. He had nothing to say to us about a $50 million report that over six years heard the shattering testimonies of thousands of survivors of the residential school system. A system that as the TRC reported, led to the deaths of over 6,000 residential school students.

While Harper replied to Opposition questions in Question Period, he responded in his typical fashion with repetitive, formulaic responses and attacks against the Opposition. He was deliberately signaling that it was just another day in the House of Commons.

Especially insulting was his response to the recommendation that Canada implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Harper declared it to be aspirational. In other words, something we can wish for but can never hope to achieve.

On that day and as always, Harper did point to his 2008 apology to First Nations for the horrendous abuses they suffered through the residential schools system, which our governments established and operated for over 100 years. But, apologies are not actions. Perry Bellegarde, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, tells us that if the government doesn’t act on the TRC report then Harper’s words from 2008 will end up being an “empty, meaningless apology.”

Harper held no news conference. At a news conference, good reporters ask the questions we ourselves would want to ask. Harper doesn’t want anyone asking him questions about the TRC’s findings. He will deny all such questions through the upcoming election campaign.


Harper silenced his Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Bernard Valcourt. He prohibited Valcourt from speaking to the report and appearing in the House of Commons on the day the report was released. Harper prohibited Valcourt from standing at the closing ceremonies upon the call for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls.

Harper attended the TRC closing ceremonies bringing nothing but his silence.

Over the entire time Stephen Harper has governed Canada, we cannot point to a single government initiative where he has demonstrated that he has, let alone values, the qualities necessary to lead a reconciliation process. In truth, we’re still waiting for him to show us that he can dialogue with others.

Throughout Canada’s history, Aboriginal peoples have battled on a host of issues and most especially for their foundational land and self-government rights. Since 2006, they have fought Harper’s concerted and profoundly arrogant attempts to extinguish their rights and control their communities. As they have demonstrated time and again, they will never give up this honorable struggle. If the promise of the TRC bears fruit, it will be because of the leadership of Aboriginal peoples.

Meanwhile, in the face of the TRC’s momentous report, Harper brings distain to himself, his government and our country. No matter the potential for inclusion and renewal, Harper gives nothing—no energy, not even a gesture.

Our country only goes backward with Stephen Harper.


10 thoughts on “Harper Lays the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to Rest

  1. Totally agree Arlene – ashamed of him, yes for sure, but he is also such an embarrassment to Canada!! I hate to think how foolish we must appear to the rest of the world – having such a blustering sociopath – the worst being that we can’t even get rid of him!! I truly hope that is one of the first things that is changed with the new government – there needs to be some sort of recall option, past Michael Chong’s Reform Act; although good, it isn’t inclusive of enough Canadians….


    • We can get rid of him – the key is people going out and voting. Spread the word any way you can – it’s time to vote not just wish for a change. Sorry – a real trigger point of mine. Anyone embarrassed by him needs to act i.e. vote.


  2. many thanks for this article. we are all so furious, so ashamed of Harper; it’s so outrageous that he is still in office. Arleen

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Exploring the historical record may offer an indication of what the future holds. Some people with a superiority complex hold Sir John A. Macdonald in high esteem as a Father of Confederation. Actually, he was a colonial racist who exploited and subjugated those whom he deemed inferior to his Aryan roots.

    “….Racisms are central to the creation of Canada through European dominance over the vast territories of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis people. A case in point is provided by John Alexander Macdonald and his enactment of Asian exclusion and the genocide of the people of the southern plains.[1]….”


    Because John A. Macdonald was responsible for residential schools and the enduring Indian Act in Canada, it follows that the current conservative PM is loathe to right the wrongs inflicted on First Nations and other indigenous groups. Nothing appears to be “high” on his radar.

    It is a fact, according to written history, that Sir John A. was responsible for much of the continuing misery inflicted on First Nations, Inuit, and Metis people. Successive governments over a period of more than a century have done nothing to redress the inflicted wrongs. The Royal Proclamation of 1763, penned by King George lll, was supposed to be the deciding framework for resolving issues pertaining to First Nations, and other indigenous people across North America. The Proclamation is rooted in section 25 of the Canadian Constitution of 1982, but seems to be overlooked in decisions by the Supreme Court of Canada.



    • Hello Don, we wholeheartedly agree with your views on MacDonald and fully concur that racism and colonialism are the founding cornerstone of our country. Nothing at all to be proud of. Your point about Royal Proclamation as a framework for deciding issues is one that some, and perhaps many, First Nations people agree with, while we know of others who are interested in focusing more on valuing traditional Aboriginal law to govern relations within their communities and with the state. Thank you for the information on MacDonald – it’s always important to be reminded of that history.


  4. Wow – How did you decide that this one would be serious. That may be a rhetorical question – how does one decide which outrage is the worst.? This outrage is at list 200 years old – is it a matter of time? I’m curious to hear your answer. Thanks for the blog!


    • Hi Battelle2013, That’s a really interesting question. However, as we think you might agree, choosing to respond seriously to a particular issue within a long history of, in this case government racism and abuse, is not the same as deciding whether that issue is the worst example of that racism. What most struck us about TRC issue is that history of our governments’ long and appalling behaviour across today’s genuine hope of serious change. A change that Harper deliberately denies when he treats the report and Aboriginal peoples in the shameful way that he does here. And while we only mention it in this post, his motivation here is most certainly to sideline Aboriginal peoples issues, including the issue of a national inquiry into the ongoing missing and murdered women tragedy, over the election campaign. Regardless of the significance of an issue, and this is truly the most important issue in Canada, Harper’s first and only concern will always goes to how it does or does not increase his power. This is why we need to get rid of him.

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