By Kimberly Taylor, October 1 2023—
On Sept. 28, the 94 calls to action issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 were read aloud for three hours on the Taylor Family Digital Library (TFDL) quad. It was a solemn event and as students hurried past on their way to classes or work, many stopped and listened. Some people read sections of the calls out loud with the microphone provided.
Melanie Kloetzel was one of the organizers of the event, and in an interview with the Gauntlet she explained the six-month process of creating this event and finding the best time and place by working with the Office of Indigenous Engagement to hold the event the day before Truth and Reconciliation when a tipi would be set up on the TFDL, with the calls preparing for the day because the calls are critical to Truth and Reconciliation.
“I was thinking about the TRC calls, the fact that they’re calls. It sounds like they should have an element of vocalization to them. I had been involved in a decolonization process in my research, but I hadn’t dug into the calls that much, and I got a sense from talking to people that they didn’t have a sense of what was in them at all. So the aim was to make a space, carve out time and space really specifically for people to engage with the calls,” said Kloetzel.
“I wanted the calls to become physically and audibly embodied by people who were in the space. You couldn’t avoid them. The calls were just constant and ongoing. The fact that it became durational over the three-hour period, it’s an ongoing call.”
Participants at the event spoke about the importance of awareness of the calls to action.
“I think it’s important that they’re reading the calls to action as it brings awareness to them. Some people don’t even know what they are. Some of the calls haven’t been honoured or respected. Reading them gets awareness out and people can act on it in their communities,” said participant Holly Anghel.
According to the Yellowhead Institute and Beyond 94, 12 of the calls to action have been completed. Of those in progress, 38 have projects proposed, while 24 have projects underway. 20 of the calls have not been started.
During the TRC Calls Read Aloud event, participants and organizers read the entire text of the 94 calls to action, with individuals volunteering to read a section at a time.
“It’s up to settlers to learn the calls to action and do our bit to implement them, including pushing [the] government to implement them. Public readings feel like a good place to start,” said Sarah Flynn.
Participants also spoke about the importance of the event and the importance of the calls to action themselves. Amy Thompson spoke about taking little steps to bring awareness to the topic of truth and reconciliation.
“I think it’s really important that people actually read the 94 calls to action. And I think within them there’s something anyone can do, even moving forward something small. It’s something you can do,” said Thompson.
The calls to action were proposed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission formed to reckon with the devastations of the Residential School System. From 2008 to 2014, the commission listened to thousands of survivors and then issued the calls to action in 2015. These calls are meant to move Canada and Canadians into truth and reconciliation.
“Everyone still needs to know the truth about residential school survivors and their families. We are nothing without truth,” said participant Henri Giroux. “I wanted to read because there should be nothing about us without us.”
The truth of residential schools can be difficult to witness. More than 130 schools operated all over Canada, with more than 150,000 children torn from their families and abused in a system designed to destroy their Indigenous identities.
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights hosts an art installation called The Witness Blanket. It was first exhibited in 2015 and then toured around Canada. It can now be viewed online. Witnessing the truth of residential school survivors and their families is a vital action anyone can take toward Truth and Reconciliation.
“Reconciliation demands that every Canadian from every walk of life must take serious actions in the complete elimination of all socio-economic and cultural injustices still imposed under the many centuries of settler-colonial tyranny against Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island,” said Johnny Nega.
“We must never forget the fact that oppressive genocide is still ongoing across Canada coast-to-coast. We are way too far from achieving complete reconciliation because of this perpetual circumstance faced by many Indigenous communities. That’s why I have chosen to partake in preaching out loud the 94 Calls of Action on stolen land,” Nega continued.
More information can be found at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation’s website.