Event Title

Truth, Reconciliation and Settler Denial: Specifying the Canada-South Africa Analogy

Start Date

13-1-2012 9:00 AM

End Date

13-1-2012 10:30 AM

Description

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is tasked with facing the hundred year history of Indian Residential Schools. The South African Truth and Reconciliation (SATRC) is frequently invoked in popular discourse and academic literature as an example in relation to the Canadian TRC, perhaps because this is one of the few TRCs worldwide that Canadians know. However, I argue that this loose analogizing is often more emotive than concise. While much indeed can be drawn from the South African experience, it is important to specify the Canada-South Africa analogy. In this paper, I do so by focusing in particular on the institutional approach to truth, and how this relates to issues of settler denial and intergenerational memory in both countries. By settler denial, I mean the refusal or inability of whites (in South Africa) or non-Aboriginals (in Canada) to acknowledge or accept responsibility for systemic violence. I use the term intergenerational memory to convey the challenge of guiding beneficiaries to understand injustice and violence not as a “thing of the past” but as an ongoing, lived relationship. Taking up criticisms that the South African TRC relied upon a poor conceptualization of truth and failed to engage apartheid in all its complexity, I examine the conceptual and political challenges and opportunities for truth, responsibility and reconciliation in Canada. I caution against over-enthusiastic analogizing of a South-African style truth and reconciliation for Canada's residential schools.

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Jan 13th, 9:00 AM Jan 13th, 10:30 AM

Truth, Reconciliation and Settler Denial: Specifying the Canada-South Africa Analogy

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is tasked with facing the hundred year history of Indian Residential Schools. The South African Truth and Reconciliation (SATRC) is frequently invoked in popular discourse and academic literature as an example in relation to the Canadian TRC, perhaps because this is one of the few TRCs worldwide that Canadians know. However, I argue that this loose analogizing is often more emotive than concise. While much indeed can be drawn from the South African experience, it is important to specify the Canada-South Africa analogy. In this paper, I do so by focusing in particular on the institutional approach to truth, and how this relates to issues of settler denial and intergenerational memory in both countries. By settler denial, I mean the refusal or inability of whites (in South Africa) or non-Aboriginals (in Canada) to acknowledge or accept responsibility for systemic violence. I use the term intergenerational memory to convey the challenge of guiding beneficiaries to understand injustice and violence not as a “thing of the past” but as an ongoing, lived relationship. Taking up criticisms that the South African TRC relied upon a poor conceptualization of truth and failed to engage apartheid in all its complexity, I examine the conceptual and political challenges and opportunities for truth, responsibility and reconciliation in Canada. I caution against over-enthusiastic analogizing of a South-African style truth and reconciliation for Canada's residential schools.