AAA/CASCA Executive Program Committee
Executive Session - Oral Presentation Session
This paper examines the historical trajectory of the use of reconciliation in legal and political discourse concerning Indigenous peoples and the state in Canada. In 2015 the Canadian Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its final report, marking perhaps the culmination of reconciliation talk in the national public sphere. Reconciliation is, however, a problematic and often unsatisfactory concept in the ongoing political struggles of Indigenous peoples for a revitalization of their nation-to-nation, treaty-based relationship with the state. This paper critically examines the historical development and overuse of the term reconciliation in Canadian politics, law and public discourse. Truth and Reconciliation Commissions are a mechanism of transitional justice more commonly employed in periods of political transition. As we know, the truth and justice that they offer in those circumstances is often imperfect. Canada is distinct is using a transitional justice mechanism in the absence of any actual political transition. This lack of structural change is a significant barrier to the realization of Indigenous peoples’ goals of resurgence and renewal.