Issue: 2016-11-09, PHOTO: by David Hatherly
The mayor and council of Haines Junction, pictured here with Kari Johnston, completed the FN101 course offered by Yukon College. Thus, they are the first municipality in the Yukon to meet one of the TRC’s Calls to Action
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Calls to Action task all sectors of Canadian society to make changes that will affect “the way things are done” between First Nations people and non-First Nation Canadians. The TRC came about as a way to address the legacy of residential schools, and to help to reconcile relations between non-First Nation Canadians and First Nations people. The TRC recommended 94 calls to action.
Kari Johnston, a Haines Junction resident, is aware of the TRC, and she acted on some of the recommendations. Johnston challenged the local mayor and members of council. Specifically, Johnston identified Article 57, that calls upon all levels of government to, “provide education to public servants on the history of aboriginal peoples.”
In response, Mayor Michael Riseborough and the four council members completed the Yukon First Nations 101 online course offered by Yukon College. It is the first municipal government in the Yukon to do so. And they completed the course by September 30, Orange Shirt Day, a day to remember children who went to residential school.
Mayor Riseborough and the councillors intend for all of the village’s administrative staff to take the course which takes six hours to complete. Effectively, this will mean that the Village of Haines Junction will have begun to address Article 57 in a timely manner.
In December 2015 the TRC office closed. Responsibilities were transferred to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba. It was there that the Commission formulated the 94 items in the Call to Action document which tasked Canadians to make apologies, educate, make changes and repair the damage to the First Nations. The damages were sustained from the impact of residential schools over the last few hundred years.
“I want the Yukon to take a national lead in TRC implementation,” said Kari Johnston, when she was asked where she would like things to go from here.
“I think First Nation initiatives being made at Yukon College are already leading the way with the programming that they have developed. And now it is our turn, as members of a civil society, to take up our responsibility to Truth and Reconciliation. The TRC is one of our most important plans since confederation and it clearly charts a pathway forward for us as a nation. Implementation won't happen if we wait for government to do it for us. It is our shared responsibility.”
“I think every single Yukoner should take FN101. And the good news is that we all can because it is easy to register and you can do the course online. Or you can contact the FNI department and learn more about all of the amazing training opportunities that they have available.”
Acknowledging that the Yukon government, and particularly the Department of Education, has taken steps to educate about the impact of residential schools, there is still room for action. The challenge has been made to Yukoners, private and public sector employers and the general public.
The TRC Calls to Action is available as a PDF online. Go to www.trc.ca to find it.