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Decolonization and Diversity

How does Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) speak to the work of historians, and more particularly, the Canadian Historical Association (CHA)?  The CHA/SHC is an organization that represents teachers, researchers, and writers of history who work in a range of contexts, including post-secondary institutions, public history, and archives and libraries.  The TRC was struck in 2008 to investigate the history of Indian Residential Schools in Canada, state-funded institutions that separated Indigenous children and youth from their families and communities from the 1880s to the 1990s.

In some respects, the TRC mirrored national inquiries into injustice and violence elsewhere in the world, including the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, established in 1996, and the Argentine National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons, established in 1983.  But the TRC was particular to Canada and its past and present of colonialism.   The Final Report was issued in 2015, and with it ninety-four Calls to Action, which called for specific responses from Canadian society and institutions.

Scholarly societies have responded to the TRC and its calls in a range of ways.  The Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, of which the CHA is a member, announced its “commitment to contribute to reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples,” with a particular focus on post-secondary education in the humanities and social sciences.[1]  The Canadian Political Science Association struck a Reconciliation Committee, which has organized sessions and issued publications.[2]

In 2016, the CHA’s Annual Meeting included a roundtable of Indigenous historians discussing Teaching and Researching History After the TRC.  A year later, the CHA stuck a working group, made up of Sarah Nickel,  Alison Norman, Jo-Anne McCutcheon, and Adele Perry.  The working group surveyed Indigenous historians, and inaugurated a fund for TRC related projects that ran in 2017, 2018, and 2019.  In the summer of 2019, the working group issued a Syllabus for History After the TRC, which we hope to add to in the future.

In this section, you will find information about the CHA’s work in response to the TRC, and related work that addresses representation, equity, and diversity in the historical profession and Canadian society as a whole.

[1] See http://www.ideas-idees.ca/issues/reconciliation, accessed 20 September 2019.
[2] See https://www.cpsa-acsp.ca/committee.php, accessed 20 September 2019.