At the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, symbols abound. Progress? Not so much


National Post, 13 September 2018

Sixty-six of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 'calls to action' are either not started or just at the proposed action stage

Public discussion about the “calls to action” from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) have moved from distraction to distraction. In the spring it was about whether Pope Francis should visit to repeat, in Canada, the apology made by Pope Benedict in the Vatican in 2009. This fall it is about whether there should be a statutory holiday to mark a “National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.”

Both are called for by the TRC. The federal government has committed itself to work to implement all 94 “calls to action.”

Now the pressing issue is when the statutory holiday should be, and whether it will be specifically about residential schools, or to honour Indigenous peoples, or to promote reconciliation. Then there is the issue of whether paid time off achieves those goals.

(I oppose Remembrance Day being a day off from work and school precisely because it seems more likely that our fallen will be honoured communally if we interrupt the day to do so, rather than take it as holiday.)

But however worthy another papal apology or a statutory holiday might be, they are distractions from the more urgent recommendations from the TRC. And one suspects that the attention given to them reflects a preference from the government for symbols over substance. Symbols are important too, but when more substantive matters are neglected, the symbols ring hollow.

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