On September 29, 2021, I hosted and facilitated a special session of the Diversity and Cross-Cultural Sharing Circle to mark the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada. The topic I designed for the session was: “Truth and Reconciliation – what is its relationship to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion? When, where, and how does it fit into your organization’s goals, plans, and priorities?” After sharing the appropriate land acknowledgment, introductions, and the guidelines for participation, I posed the following questions to the participants and shared these responses with them:
Photo credit: cemetery and designated provincial heritage property at the former Regina Indian Industrial School (1891 to 1910), Angeline Chia, September 30, 2021.
1. What do you know about Truth & Reconciliation? What do you understand?
I first heard of the terms Truth and Reconciliation when they were used to describe the court proceedings that took place in South Africa in the 1990s after Nelson Mandela was released from prison and the apartheid system of government ended. I heard it used in the Canadian context when a Commission was struck, under the chairmanship of Justice Murray Sinclair, to examine the effects of the residential school system on Indigenous peoples in Canada. Then, in 2015, the Commission published its report and the 94 calls to action. When I started my consulting practice in 2016, I discovered a happy coincidence, namely, that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to action number 57 called for intercultural competence training to be provided to public service employees.
That same year, I attended Justice Murray Sinclair’s presentation (the Woodrow Lloyd lecture at the University of Regina) about the investigative work that led to the publication of the TRC’s report and calls to action. On another occasion, I attended a talk and watched a film by a Regina-based filmmaker who had been involved in transcribing survivors’ accounts of their residential school experiences. Her film was about an interview with a prominent local elder who was a residential school survivor. I have since attended other educational and arts events, such as the Witness Blanket, that focus on the painful history and legacy of residential schools.
Today, I understand that the legacy of residential schools in Canada for Indigenous peoples is traumatic, far-reaching, deep-seated, and inter-generational, and that it is a dominant fact and reality of their daily lives. I am also aware that much of the truth is still hidden in records that have been stored, but not shared by Catholic and Christian organizations. As such, as a society, we are still at the stage of learning about the truth, and have yet to take action on reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
2. What is the current status of Truth & Reconciliation in your organization? How is it being recognized? How is it supported by Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion or other leadership and organizational development initiatives? What has been achieved so far?
In my work as a consultant, I have realized that it is necessary to bring Truth and Reconciliation into the picture and discussion as an important and relevant aspect of intercultural competence development in Canadian professional contexts. For this reason, I thought it would be pertinent and meaningful to host a session of the Diversity and Cross-Cultural Sharing Circle on this topic following the announcement of the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. I was also deeply affected, this past summer, by the news that hundreds of unmarked graves had been discovered near former residential schools. I have since learned that this fact was included and predicted in the TRC’s report.
There is a clear and close connection between intercultural competence development and anti-racism. Since residential schools were established because of racist policies against Indigenous peoples, I believe that intercultural development for leaders and leadership teams will help to address racism and bridge the gap between diversity on one hand, and inclusion and equity for everyone, on the other hand, including and especially Indigenous peoples.
3. How do you intend to contribute and move Truth and Reconciliation forward in your organization or community? Do you have a plan for learning and a plan for action?
I intend to continue learning about Truth and Reconciliation and support Indigenous-led and other viable initiatives that highlight the importance of learning and taking action. For example, I intend to learn more about other calls to action and to learn more about related topics such as the treaties. I attended a presentation on Reconciliation in June this year and learned that Reconciliation refers to honouring the treaties. As I learn and discover more about the related issues, I hope to incorporate the learning into my consulting work. Since there is a lot to learn, my plan is that it will be an ongoing project that supports and informs my consulting practice.
In the meantime, one way that I can take action is to continue to forward donations from the Diversity and Cross-Cultural Sharing Circle to Indigenous community-based organizations. These organizations help the survivors and their descendants heal from the devastating and long-lasting effects of the residential school system. Of course, I also believe that providing intercultural development consulting and coaching is a significant and appropriate way for me to respond to the TRC’s calls to action. In addition to helping to attain social justice, intercultural competence development is integral to strengthening organizations. It can help to empower leaders to navigate cultural differences or differences in values, effectively, because it is about increasing knowledge, shifting attitudes and mindsets, and building skills that can lead to understanding, empathy, and reconciliation.
Is your organization looking into how to move forward with Truth and Reconciliation? Contact Angeline Chia to set up a free consultation appointment about how the IDI® approach to intercultural competence development can help. Email: [email protected] .