UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

My View

Living up to our apology

By Margaret Sagar

Last October, I attended the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) national event in Halifax. Over four days, courageous survivors of residential schools told their stories before several hundred people gathered in a large conference room. The abiding pain of loss was palpable: loss of childhood, family, language, culture, self-esteem, loss of trust in anyone or anything. The intergenerational impact was clear: such losses resulted in an inability to live as whole persons, leading to addictions, neglect of children, and a deep sense of helplessness.

I also heard positive stories: teachers who loved the children; students who looked after each other; resilient individuals and communities. There was laughter as well as tears, profound silences and vigorous applause for achievements. Commissioners listened carefully, treating everyone with dignity and compassion.

I departed humbly, hopeful for future reconciliation. Yet the same week as the Halifax event, KAIROS released a report exposing Canada’s failure to live up to the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child with respect to First Nations children. According to the report, children in these communities consistently receive less funding for health, welfare and education than other children.

Later in October, the Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario declared a state of emergency because of deplorable living conditions on the reserve. The government treated this call with total indifference until media attention drew a public outcry, shaming the minister of Aboriginal Affairs into action.

The current situation makes a mockery of the TRC’s work and all hopes for reconciliation. How can indigenous peoples have trust in Canadians unless Canadians, through their governments, make genuine, substantial efforts to rectify the present? Will Canada need another apology and commission 20 years hence because we have failed to change our ways?

Governments on all levels must stop the oppression. They must work together for radical change, upholding the standards of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Canada signed on to in 2010. They must dust off the 1996 Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and draw on the wisdom of those recommendations.

The road to true reconciliation will be long and arduous. The journey calls for respect, humility and an end to the racism that underlies the Indian Act and the attitudes of many Canadians. Reconciliation requires heartfelt, committed action by everyone. Will United Church people lead the way in urging change?

Rev. Margaret Sagar is a retired United Church minister in Terence Bay, N.S.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image


David Wilson%


by David Wilson

If statues could talk

Promotional Image


ObserverDocs: Stolen Mother

by Observer Staff

The daughter and adoptive mother of one of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women share their story

Promotional Image


July 2017

From far and wide

by Various Writers

Meet 11 immigrants who are putting down new roots


June 2017

A suitcase for Cuba

by Christopher Levan

You’ll find more than giveaway toiletries and hand-me-downs in the writer's luggage. Each carefully chosen gift offers a glimpse into the lives of Cubans today.


June 2017


by Kristy Woudstra

Up to half a million people are living in Canada without official status. The ‘sanctuary city’ movement is growing, but the fear of deportation persists.


June 2017

Resisting genocide

by Sally Armstrong

In August 2014, ISIS attacked Iraq’s Yazidis, slaughtering thousands and forcing women and girls into sexual slavery. Today, the survivors are fighting for their ancient way of life.


April 2017

Dear Grandkids

by Various Writers

Six acclaimed Canadian authors write letters from the heart


March 2017

Called to resist

by Paul Wilson

Liberal Christians in the United States test their faith against a demagogue

Promotional Image