ABORIGINAL JUSTICE: Team, CPT Ontario proffer ‘reconciliation on the ground’

10 September 2012
ABORIGINAL JUSTICE: Team, CPT Ontario proffer ‘reconciliation on the ground’

Old wounds heal better in the absence of new injuries. Members of Christian Peacemaker Teams’ Aboriginal Justice Team developed this theme at a Truth and Reconciliation event in Toronto this spring.


Hosted by local communities of indigenous and non-indigenous peoples, and supported by churches and Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, The Meeting Place: Truth and Reconciliation was billed as an intergenerational gathering to promote respect, education and engagement on Canada’s Indian Residential School system (see background). Members of CPT from throughout Ontario attended the event, held 31 May-2 June, as a part of their regular regional meeting.

The Aboriginal Justice Team contributed to hearings and workshops and provided live streaming of the event. The team partners with Aboriginal communities to resist the continuing violence of colonisation through blockades, protests, organising and public programmes. It also seeks to educate and advocate about colonialism, linking colonial history with ongoing struggles of Aboriginal communities to maintain their traditional ways and treaty rights.

Team members Chris Sabas and Peter Haresnape hosted a workshop titled ‘Reconciliation on the Ground.’ Its objective was to show the historic aims of the Residential School system continuing in current government policy and social trends designed to abolish Aboriginal claim to the land, making it available for unhindered resource extraction.

Growing recognition of the abuse inflicted on generations of Aboriginal children and its causative role in increasing rates of poverty, domestic violence, abuse, alcoholism, poor education and unemployment in many communities has led people to speak out. Survivors and families of former students are taking the courageous step of testifying about their experiences. Churches and educational institutions involved in government programmes have issued apologies and acknowledged the wrongness of the system's aims, assumptions and methods.

These apologies are essential steps on the reconciliation journey, but true reconciliation requires restorative action in solidarity with Aboriginal communities and against colonisation’s ongoing permanent, physical damage. This means resisting mining and logging that do not have the consent of indigenous land users, the pollution of waterways with nuclear or chemical waste, and projects like the pipelines and coastal tankers that threaten to devastate lands and waters that have sustained Aboriginal peoples way of life for millennia.