CJCCJ/Volume 63.3 (2021)
Our Shared Future: Windows into Canada’s Reconciliation Journey
By Laura E. Reimer and Robert Chrismas (Eds).
Forward by David Barnard.
Lexington Books. 2021. 248 p.
Our Shared Future is an edited collection that captures the many facets of our collective journey to advance reconciliation in Canada. As I read this book in May of 2021, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Chief Rosanne Casimir confirmed that the remains of 215 children who had been students at the Kamloops Indian Residential School had been found. The burials had “been spoken about but never documented” (Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, 2021). The Kamloops Indian Residential School, which operated from 1890 to 1978, was the country’s largest, with over 500 students attending every year. Although located in Kamloops, the school housed students from over 30 surrounding communities. The tragic disclosure of the graves affirms the immediate need to fully implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions (TRC) Calls to Action. According to the 2020 Yellowhead Institute status update on reconciliation, only eight of the 94 calls to action have been completed. The authors concluded, “Canada is failing residential school Survivors and their families” (Jewell & Mosby, 2020). We can and must do better. The book Our Shared Future comprehensively discusses how we can collectively walk the many paths of reconciliation together in a good way.
As a criminologist, my work in support of reconciliation has often focused exclusively on our legal system. This book opened my eyes to the many and diverse paths of reconciliation that we can follow at the individual, community, and societal levels.
Following a foreword authored by former President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manitoba Dr. David Barnard, chapter one, penned by Dr. Laura E. Reimer, provides readers with a historical overview of Indigenous relations in Canada. This chapter starts with the historical significance of the Two Row Wampum Treaty (captured in the book jacket art) right up to current-day government efforts at reconciliation. For readers unfamiliar with historical relationships between Indigenous Peoples and Canada, the chapter provides context for the balance of the book. Loretta Ross (member of the Hollow Water First Nation) extends the discussion and deepens our understanding about Ago’widiwinan (Principles of Treaties) in chapter seven. Ross is a lawyer with over twenty-five years of experience in providing legal counsel to numerous Indigenous people, governments, and organizations. Ross helps readers understand our shared history through the eyes of First Nations people, not through the settler-colonial lens that is too often used. Dr. Joseph Garcea broadens the scope of our understanding of Indigenous peoples and government policy in Canada through First Nations satellite urban reserves in chapter eight by sharing two major perspectives, the conventional and the critical. He shows how those perspectives align with reconciliation.
Chapter two, authored by Paul E. Vogt (the newly appointed President of the College of the Rockies), asks what leadership looks like in the context of reconciliation. Vogt believes this work should be rooted in a “collaborative form of action, aimed at establishing a network in which a myriad of actors work across numerous policy domains toward one broad goal” (p.44). Those in leadership roles need to maintain and leverage connections in a way consistent with the “principles and themes invoked by the TRC” (p.44). Dr. Ronald G. Evans (Ayisiniwok and Nehiyawok from Kinosao Sipi) echoes this sentiment in chapter nine as he explores the potential of Call to Action #92. The Call to Action calls upon “the corporate sector in Canada to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a reconciliation framework” (TRC p.10). Plainly put, reconciliation is good for business, as it empowers Indigenous people to become economically self-sufficient and develop meaningful partnerships rooted in corporate social responsibility.
Chapters three and four are introspective as the authors share their stories of personal and professional reconciliation. Starting with chapter three, Dr. Brian Rice takes readers on the part of his intimate walking journey of the Iroquois Five Nations, collectively known as Rotinonshonni (Longhouse of One Family). This personal odyssey of reconciliation, written as part of a doctorate in Traditional Aboriginal knowledge, illuminates the many conversations and discoveries Rice made on his ancestral walk. This chapter is grounding. It affirms the need to privilege Indigenous ways of knowing and doing.
In chapter four, Roman Catholic Priest Dr. Peter Bisson locates his work and that of the Jesuits. The Jesuits, a religious order of priests and brothers in the Roman Catholic Church, operated the Spanish Indian Residential Schools as part of the broader Indian residential school system. In his role representing the Jesuits with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Bisson shares autobiographical stories as “a participant-observer, a religious leader, and a practitioner of reconciliation” (p.69). Bisson recognizes that reconciliation work is neither linear nor complete. (In related recent events, Pope Francis has expressed his sorrow following the disclosure of the graves in Kamloops but defies calls for an apology. According to former Senator Murray Sinclair, who chaired the TRC, a formal apology from the Catholic Church is first needed to make meaningful reconciliation to occur (Paas-Lang, 2021).
Chapters five and six focus on the role of reconciliation through education. In Chapter five specifically, Christa Yeates and Laura E. Reimer describe their work with Indigenous adult learners. Yeates began teaching in 1997 and discusses the importance of teaching through a trauma-informed lens. Although the chapter is written in the context of supporting Indigenous adult learners, all educators can benefit from finding strategies and helps to provide person-centered support for individuals who have experienced any form of trauma. In Chapter 6 Dr. Annette Trimbee (who has since become the President and vice-chancellor of MacEwan University) walks readers through Indigenization in Canadian postsecondary institutions. She focuses on the steps the University of Winnipeg has taken in its strategic directions to respond to the TRC Calls to Action. Dr. Annette Trimbee. Dr. Trimbee concludes her chapter by highlighting the fact that many Indigenous students currently experience “racism, isolation, and marginalization on campus” and that Indigenization requires “funding, time, and attention” (p.135).
Chapter ten, written by Edmonton police chief Dale McFee and Dr. Robert Chrismas contextualizes the evolution of Canadian policing and its alignment with the goals of reconciliation. With a combined 65 years of policing experience, the co-authors highlight the need for collaborative multi-sectoral approaches to address the root causes of involvement with the justice system. They focus further on community needs that fall outside of policing mandates. Many calls to police address non-criminal matters and are beyond the training and expertise of officers. The conversations in the chapter are both timely and necessary and give insight into the defund of the policing movements and calls for justice reform.
I am encouraged by the fact that Indigenous scholars authored many chapters. To borrow the slogan from the disability rights movement “nothing about us without us” also pertains to the need to amplify the voices of First Peoples.
As a final observation, I appreciate the reflexive nature of writing in this edited collection. In sharing practical wisdom and stories, the authors help the reader understand the iterative nature of reconciliation in different contexts to foster meaningful and sustainable change. I believe this book would be best suited for a junior-level university course that invites learners to engage in the process of advancing reconciliation in the Canadian context, guided by the TRC Calls to Action. Because each chapter represents a different facet of reconciliation across many different areas, it would, unfortunately, be ill-suited as required reading for a course in a specific discipline. I welcomed the opportunity to read this book and learn more about the varied perspectives of reconciliation.
UNIVERSITY OF CALGARY
Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre. (n.d.). Kamloops, B.C.
Jewell, E., Mosby, I. (2020, December 18). Executive Summary: Calls to Action Accountability: A 2020 Status Update on Reconciliation?” Yellowhead Institute.
Paas-Lang. (2021, June 6). Papal apology for church’s role in residential schools may not be“way forward”: archbishop. CBC.
Reimer, L.E., & Chrismas, R. (Eds.). (2020). Our Shared Future: Windows into Canada’s Reconciliation Journey. Rowan and Littlefield.
Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc. (2021, May 27, 2021). Remains of Children of Kamloops Residential School Discovered [Press Release].