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Instructive Past: Lessons from the Royal , Commission on Aboriginal Peoples for the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Indian Residential Schools

Hughes, Jula
June 4, 2015

Source: (2012) Canadian Journal of Law and Society. 27(1):101-127.

This article looks back at the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) for some instruction on the early stages of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Indian Residential Schools (TRC). RCAP was established in 1991. It responded to an acute crisis in Aboriginal- settler society relations precipitated by a land dispute between the Mohawk nation at Kanasetake and the Quebec town of Oka, which became known as the Oka crisis. By the time RCAP issued its final report in 1996, the com- mission had grown into an extensive constitutional and historical review of Aboriginal- settler society relations and produced copious and wide- ranging recommendations, many of which were never implemented. I argue here that important lessons can be learned from the successes and failures of the RCAP process. To a certain extent, history has already repeated itself in the appointment, resignation, and reappointment stories of RCAP and the TRC. An analysis of all aspects of RCAP’s implications for the TRC would far exceed the scope of this article; it would also be premature. Instead, I propose to look at two important early procedural phases: (1) estab- lishing the mandate and terms of reference2 and (2) appointing the personnel of RCAP3 and the TRC. I consider some of the issues facing the TRC as it enters the crucial phase of hearing from those affected by the residential- school system, with a view to determining how to make best use of RCAP’s experience to avoid some of its pitfalls.(Excerpt)


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