Symbols will not meet Trudeau’s goal of Indigenous reconciliation – by Tim Harper (Toronto Star – July 5, 2017)

When Indigenous activists symbolically reoccupied traditional Algonquin land by erecting a teepee on Parliament Hill last week, Justin Trudeau paid a visit and spoke with them for about 40 minutes.

When Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence began a six-week hunger strike on Victoria Island in the shadow of Parliament Hill in late 2012, the prime minister of the day, Stephen Harper, never met with her and was loathe to utter her name.

Weeks after his cabinet was sworn in, the Trudeau government announced a national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women. “Inaction” on a national tragedy “ends today,” said Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett. Harper, of course, rejected the idea, telling the CBC in a year-end interview in 2014, he saw no point in spending millions of dollars “to get the same report for the 41st or 42nd time.”

Harper, in 2008, apologized to generations of Indigenous peoples affected by the residential schools shame then moved on. Trudeau pledged to implement all 94 recommendations in Justice (now Senator) Murray Sinclair’s Truth and Reconciliation report in 2015.

On any government’s most vexing file, two very different styles. Two very different messages. Harper usually appeared churlish and distant, Trudeau respectful and accommodating.

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