Substantial media coverage of the Fifth National Event of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which took place in Montreal 24-27 April, was instrumental in attracting public attention to the history of Native residential schools. Representatives from the Baha’i community attended the event to support the process of reconciliation. The Baha’i community, which views with concern the diverse manifestations of social fragmentation affecting our country, salutes the important work of the Commission, which seeks to promote unity and reconciliation by bringing uncomfortable facts to light.
One aspect of the Commission’s mandate is to inform the public of the history of the Indian Residential Schools, which were in operation from 1870 to 1996. During this period, Native children were placed in the schools with the admitted goal of forcing them to forsake their language, culture, and identity. In addition to being separated from their family and community, these children were often victims of physical and sexual abuse. It is a history steeped in injustice and suffering, but also marked by courage and resilience. Listening to the testimonies of the residential school survivors is very painful, but this is part of the process of reconciliation and healing — a process that concerns us all.
In Montreal, several witnesses and speakers emphasized our common humanity, a concept fundamental to the Baha’i principle of unity. This unity, however, must be realized in the context of diversity and mutual respect. The road to reconciliation in Canada should enable us to find ways to view diversity as a treasure and not as a source of conflict and discord. Denying minorities their rights deprives a nation of the benefits of a much richer intellectual, social, and moral life.
The Indian residential school system, which was based on the institutionalization of prejudice, has left profound marks on the Canadian social fabric, searing the hearts and souls of entire generations. The unjust treatment of Natives in residential schools was an attack on human dignity that has had devastating consequences.
The work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is a step in the right direction, assisting us to move towards a more equitable future based on mutual respect and equality. In support of the process of reconciliation, several Quebec Baha’is have participated in circles of trust organized by the Citizen’s Project. These are meetings in which people of all backgrounds are invited to engage in dialogue with the objective of creating unity that will promote reconciliation.
The Baha’i Community will also be represented at the next national event of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which will take place in Vancouver 18-21 September. Following that event, it will present the paper it has been invited to submit to the Commission.
Click here to read the Baha’i Community of Canada’s submission to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.