This week I attended a powerful presentation marking the release of the report Indigenous Resilience, Connectedness and Reunification – from Root Causes to Root Solutions, by Grand Chief Ed John, Special Advisor on Aboriginal Child Welfare. Removing children from their culture remains a root cause of many of the issues identified in the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The 85 recommendations in Grand Chief Ed John’s report point the way toward healing the cultural alienation suffered by this province’s, and Canada’s, First Nations.
In a moving ceremony, a traditional First Nations blanket was cut into eight pieces, and a copy of the report wrapped in each piece. Each bundle was presented to a representative of a sector with a role to play in healing the scars borne by Indigenous youth. Representatives of the provincial and federal governments, First Nations leadership and youth in care were each given a piece. They were told they have work to do, and when that work is done they will reunite and the pieces will be rejoined. It was a powerful symbol of the real work that remains to be done, while also offering hope of tangible results once that work is completed.
The report is probably the most significant examination of this justice issue that has been released in this province in decades. In it, Grand Chief Ed John notes that “the justice system is not serving the best interests of Indigenous children and youth, parents, and families.” He concludes that “improving access to justice for Indigenous people must be something we all work together on” if we are to see meaningful improvements in the child welfare system.
The Law Society has committed to improving access to justice, and to ensuring that all lawyers in the province are properly trained in cultural competence. We are extremely fortunate that Grand Chief Ed John co-chairs our Truth and Reconciliation Advisory Committee. Our work has barely begun, but this impressive work done by Grand Chief Ed John gives me hope that with his assistance we will play a part in making the blanket whole again.