[Canada Aboriginal Issues] Truth and reconciliation: This is just the beginning – by Perry Bellegarde (Globe and Mail – June 1, 2015)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

Perry Bellegarde is National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

The closing events of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are under way this week in Ottawa. The Commission has played an important role in shining a light on the Indian residential schools, the darkest chapter in our shared history. The issue facing all of us now is our shared future. What is required for real reconciliation between First Nations and Canada?

I believe reconciliation is about closing the gap – the gap in understanding between First Nations and Canadians and the gap in the quality of life between us. Closing the gap in understanding starts with confronting the purpose of the residential schools, which was nothing less than the eradication of First Nations identity from Canada. The intent was to kill our cultures and our languages. Once you lose those, you lose everything – your pride, self-image and self-worth.

First Nations identities are central to Canada’s identity. We must support and promote indigenous languages and cultures in the school system and in Canadian society as a proud part of our heritage.

The residential schools are the strongest, starkest argument for First Nations control of their education. We must commit to this goal now. No parent in their right mind would ever treat their children the way First Nations children were treated in residential schools – beaten for speaking their languages, made to feel ashamed and inferior, victims of experiments and assaults.

Our future belongs to the youth and we are the guardians. We must ensure they have access to an education that meets the highest standards and provides expertise in modern technologies combined with the wisdom of the ancestors so they walk confidently in both worlds.

For the rest of this column, click here: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/truth-and-reconciliation-this-is-just-the-beginning/article24705066/