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Unsettling cures: Exploring the limits of the Indian Residential school settlement agreement

Green, Robyn
June 4, 2015

Source: (2012) Canadian Journal of Law and Society. 27:129-148.

Narratives of trauma, suffering, and loss are central to reconciliation processes.’
These narratives are often “applied in the context of the ethos of compassion
that is characteristic of our era” and are “a tool used in the demand
for justice.”2 At the same time, scholars have suggested that therapeutic mechanisms
are problematically imposed on international reconciliation processes3
and that Canada’s reparation strategies are not immune to the charge of
redress as therapy.4 While the grammar of reconciliation is often deployed
during critical moments of political transition in post-conflict spaces, the
settler society remains a site of non-transition5 where the liberal democratic
system-understood as an idealized endpoint for the reconciled state-is
already intact. Drawing on the distinction between settler discourses of cure
and Indigenous approaches to healing, I argue that reconciliation as cure
functions as a means to foreclose on the colonial past without investing in
structural and epistemological “transition” to a decolonized relationship
between Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people. Thus, this article explores the discrete and overlapping functions of therapy and justice in assessing
the implementation and efficacy of the Indian Residential Schools
Settlement Agreement (IRSSA). To address this, I ask the following questions:
What are the pitfalls of using discourses of cure or settlement to situate
Indigenous- settler reconciliation in Canada? How might reconciliation be
used as a strategy to strengthen state power and authority? In what ways
does the reconciliation process in Canada reflect Eurocentric conceptualizations
of therapy and justice which thereby resist the potential for
Indigenous knowledges to enact redress?


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