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Looking forward, looking back: The Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry.

Stanton, Kim
June 4, 2015

Source: (2012) Canadian Journal of Law and Society. 27(1): 81-99.

When we talk about truth and reconciliation commissions, we are accustomed to speaking of “transitional
justice” mechanisms used in emerging democracies addressing histories of grave injustices. Public inquiries are
usually the state response to past injustice in the Canadian context. The Canadian Truth and Reconciliation
Commission (TRC) is the result of a legal settlement agreement involving the government, representatives of indigenous
peoples who attended residential schools for a period lasting more than a century, and the churches
that operated those schools. Residential schools have been addressed in a series of public inquiries in Canada,
culminating in the TRC. I argue that some of Canada’s previous public inquiries, particularly with respect to indigenous
issues, have strongly resembled truth commissions, yet this is the first time that an established democracy
has called a body investigating past human-rights violations a “truth commission.” This article considers
some of the reasons for seeking a truth commission in an established democracy and looks to a previous public
inquiry led by Thomas Berger, the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry, for some useful strategies for the TRC as
it *99 pursues its mandate. In particular, I suggest that a commission can perform a social function by using its
process to educate the broader public about the issue before it. (author’s abstract)


AbstractCourtsNorth America and CaribbeanPolicePost-Conflict ReconciliationRJ in SchoolsStatutes and Legislation
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