Readers write: August 17, 2015 issue

August 12, 2015 | Viewpoints | Volume 19 Issue 16

TRC not a road map forward

Re: “What do we take away from the TRC?” editorial, June 22, page 2.

What do we take from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission? Not much, I am afraid. The Canadian TRC has documented a sordid chapter in Canada’s history, a chapter that has left many scarred. That injustice took place, and that injury continues to damage people’s lives is a fact.

Unfortunately, the way forward seems much more confused. No country should affirm the UN statement on Aboriginal Rights, because it calls into question national sovereignty. It is folly for Canada’s government to give one statement pre-eminence over the founding law of our land.

Our prime minister has apologized. There is no benefit to Canada or to residential school survivors in having the Canadian government approach the pope to apologize. Would it not render the previous apologies insincere?

By calling non-aboriginal persons “settlers,” we fall into the trap of defining persons by an obscure, malleable definition that diffuses responsibility. To say all settlers are guilty because they belong to this group, not because of their actions, is the philosophical basis for racism. It is nonsense to argue that we are guilty of the sins of government policy created generations ago, because in some way we benefited.

The injustices of the past continue to haunt us. The solutions and strategies offered here will do little more than alienate Mennonite lay believers and continue the narrative that has left aboriginal communities dependent on tax dollars and kept aboriginal communities in a semi-permanent state of infantilism.

The TRC gave us a window into a truth. It has not given us a road map forward. Not one that all Canadians can navigate, and in that the TRC will be judged in years to come as a failure.

Walter Bergen, Chilliwack, B.C.


Thank you for resources for survivors of abuse

Thank you for your willingness to print material which is shedding light on a very dark and secretive part of our Mennonite history. In particular, I thank you for publishing information regarding the Fund for Survivors of Abuse established by Mennonite Church USA, along with the formation of the Anabaptist/Mennonite chapter of SNAP—The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. It is a sad commentary on religious communities when networks such as these are required because of inappropriate behaviour by ordained leaders and others in positions of power.

May God have mercy on all the offenders, may all those who have been wounded find healing, and may we have courage to work toward justice for all.

Martha Smith Good, New Hamburg, Ont.

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I have to concur with Walter Bergen's concise evaluation of the TRC process. The six paragraph's Mr. Bergen composed are eloquent and succinct requiring no small modicum of bravery, on a subject that does not illicit open minded discussion.

Stephen Kennel
RR#3 Bright

Prior to attending the TRC in Vancouver and most recently in Ottawa, I’ll admit, I shared Walter’s ambivalence about the TRC project. My perspectives on Canadian history and identity, however, have drastically changed since attending these events and getting to know my aboriginal neighbours better.

One of my biggest lessons in attending the TRC was learning that from an Aboriginal perspective, reconciliation is not a destination one arrives at, but a journey you join others on. Reconciliation is verb – our work of reconciliation is never complete. Apologies and support of UN statements are intended to reflect this journey, not signal the end of discussion.

In terms of the “settlers” terminology, it’s not about guilt, but responsibility. As a Mennonite in the Fraser Valley, to not recognize that my well-being comes in part from our settler history of this region, gives me an incomplete picture of who I am. Sure, I’m not guilty of my forebears’ decisions to settle here, but I am responsible to acknowledge that history and ensure the dark sides of the settler-narrative are not repeated.

Overall, I view the TRC recommendations as important steps to ensure reconciliation continues in our country.

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