I recently read the abridged version of the “Truth and Reconciliation Report” on the tragic circumstances surrounding the Residential School era in the 19th and 20th centuries. This handy guide highlights some of the anecdotal evidence given by First Nations Survivors during the cross-country inquiry, and outlines where First Nations would like to go in turning the page on this awful chapter in their history. On the truth side of the ledger, the stories of abuse, neglect, and wanton cruelty are painful to read. Young children, virtually abducted by authorities and forced to live in white-run schools, hundreds of miles away, all in the name of cultural assimilation with the blessing of the churches of the day. We can dismiss this record of systemic and systematic cruelty, which, in many cases, amounted to judicial ¬†murder, as symptomatic of another time and leave it at that but that doesn’t address the awful reality that its victims still live in our midst and cry out for justice that goes beyond a mere apology and monetary compensation. So what do these aboriginal people want to make things better? ¬†Rapprochement or reconciliation means establishing a new basis on which to ensure respect, dignity, and equality for all native peoples of Canada. From what this version of the original report suggests, it won’t come cheap. The petition of demands is lengthy and costly because the Survivors seem to be telling the authors of the report that only when these demands are met will First Nations feel like they are true Canadians. Items like improved educational funding, better housing, more adequate healthcare, and a more responsive and responsible social welfare system represent only a starting position. Promotion of language, compulsory First Nations history courses in university curricula, job training, and resource sharing follow. Try as I might, I couldn’t find any demand for greater self-government and the dismantling of the Indian Act, that legislative cudgel used to keep ‘Indians’ in their place. I rather suspect that politically keeping this law intact forces a white government to acknowledge that it has a serious obligation to make sure that issues are fully addressed within the context of the original problem. The act will disappear only when the underlying conditions and causes of endemic poverty and cultural genocide have been finally wrestled to the ground, and even then the hurts of the past will remain as a reminder that we can always do better when it comes to correcting wrongs. Kudos to those First Nations people who are not waiting for this process to start but are already endeavoring to make new lives for themselves.