Resolution adopted by the Central Committee, Communist Party of Canada, June 13-14, 2015, Toronto
The report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission chaired by Justice Murray Sinclair is an important milestone in the struggle to achieve reconciliation and to overcome the legacy of racist colonial policies imposed upon Aboriginal peoples by the European imperialist powers and later by the Canadian capitalist state. The Communist Party of Canada welcomes the TRC report and pledges our support for its 94 recommendations, which would be a significant step towards full equality, and social justice for Aboriginal peoples. We also express full support for demands to extend the truth and reconciliation process to include the impact of the “day schools” attended by thousands of Metis and First Nations children.
As the summary report of the TRC states:
For over a century, the central goals of Canada’s Aboriginal policy were to eliminate Aboriginal governments; ignore Aboriginal rights; terminate the Treaties; and, through a process of assimilation, cause Aboriginal peoples to cease to exist as distinct legal, social, cultural, religious, and racial entities in Canada. The establishment and operation of residential schools were a central element of this policy, which can best be described as “cultural genocide.”
This conclusion is firmly based on the facts and on international law, which recognizes several categories of genocide, including the mass killing of members of a targeted group (physical genocide); and destruction of structures and practices that allow the group to continue as a group (cultural genocide).
During the TRC’s six year journey across the country, thousands of courageous witnesses came forward, including many Indian residential school survivors, whose legal and political struggles forced the federal government to establish the Commission. Their testimonies and other findings showed that the residential school system, operated by the churches and funded by the government, was a major element of the colonialist strategy to create a “white man’s country” by eliminating and/or forcibly assimilating indigenous peoples. Of the 150,000 students who were forced to attend these schools, an estimated 6,000 (and probably more) died from disease, malnutrition, appalling housing conditions and violence. Thousands of students were the victims of physical and sexual abuse, and they were prevented from speaking indigenous languages or practising their cultural and spiritual traditions..
To be truly meaningful, the reconciliation process must include acknowledgement by the federal government of the core findings of the TRC, and concerted action to implement its recommendations. Instead, the Harper Conservative government has showed its lack of respect for Aboriginal peoples by ignoring the TRC’s conclusions regarding cultural genocide, and by dismissing key recommendations, such as unqualified acceptance of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and a national inquiry into the 1200-plus murdered and missing Aboriginal women and girls. The federal government’s true priorities are shown by its treatment of indigenous land defenders and opponents of corporate energy and resource extraction projects as potential terrorist threats to Canada’s economic security. This is one of the many reasons why the Harper Conservatives – the most viciously anti-working class and racist party of big business – must be defeated in the October 2015 federal election.
The Communist Party of Canada was the first political party in this country to condemn the genocidal racist oppression of Aboriginal peoples, and to fight for their full rights of self-determination, including just and prompt settlement of land claims. We give unconditional support for the TRC’s condemnation of cultural genocide, and for its calls to adopt the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and to establish a national inquiry into the tragedy of murdered and missing Aboriginal women and girls. We will continue to advocate for an equal and voluntary partnership of Aboriginal peoples, Quebec and English-speaking Canada, including a new constitutional arrangement which guarantees the full participation of Aboriginal peoples, protecting and extending their inherent national rights. We demand immediate action to close the gap in education, employment, housing, access to clean drinking water, and other indicators of living standards. Not least, we express full solidarity with all Aboriginal peoples engaged in resistance against the expansion of fracking, extraction and export of the tar sands, and other forms of corporate exploitation of natural resources.
Finally, we note that the TRC report is not the first expression of the need for fundament change to overcome the racist legacy of colonialism within Canada. The historic 1996 report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples made many significant recommendations, only to be largely ignored by Liberal and Conservative governments over the past two decades.
This must not be the fate of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We welcome the expressions of support for the TRC report and recommendations coming from many labour and people’s movements, and we will continue to call for a powerful movement to place this issue at the centre of the federal election and beyond.