Ontario’s moment of truth, message of reconciliation – by Martin Regg Cohn (Toronto Star – May 31, 2016)


One public pledge stands out as the easiest to uphold: The promise to recognize and remember the history of residential school survivors by retelling their stories to all our schoolchildren through a revised curriculum.

For most of its existence, Ontario’s legislature has not been an especially welcoming place to the indigenous people who predate it.

The hallways at Queen’s Park are a pantheon of portraits showing stolid leaders of European descent — generals, politicians, fathers of Confederation — their stern visages looking down upon visitors. Today, that whitewashed view of the province’s history looks a little less cloistered.

After a sunrise reconciliation ceremony on the front lawn of Queen’s Park, hundreds of indigenous Ontarians were invited inside Monday to see its new public face. And to hear history being made, or at least modernized, by taking account of long hidden truths catalogued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

But they were not all relegated to the public galleries above. On the floor of the legislature below, indigenous elders and leaders took their places — not merely as honoured guests of the elected assembly, but as participants and protagonists in an unprecedented ceremony of reconciliation.

And truth.

Representing Ontario’s First Nations, Métis and Inuit people, they first listened to formal apologies from Premier Kathleen Wynne, echoed by the opposition PC and NDP leaders. The public regret expressed by Wynne — offered no less than 11 times — was to be expected, given what we now know and have long felt.

For the rest of this column, click here: https://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2016/05/31/ontarios-moment-of-truth-message-of-reconciliation-cohn.html