'Reconciliation is a lifelong experience': Gov. Gen. Mary Simon reflects on Truth and Reconciliation
On the third annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Gov. Gen. Mary Simon says that while she acknowledges the time it takes to fulfill calls to action, she also understands the frustrations that progress is too slow, and she feels “we should speed things up.”
According to a December, 2022 report from the Yellowhead Institute — an Indigenous-led research and education centre at the Toronto Metropolitan University — only 13 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action have been implemented since they were issued nearly eight years ago.
Simon — Canada’s first Indigenous Governor General — told CTV’s Question Period host Vassy Kapelos in an interview airing Sunday she’s read the calls to action several times, and they involve “very complex issues” that require many actors and partners to implement, so she understands progress can be slow.
“I've been in this work for almost 50 years,” Simon said. “And when I look back 20 years, I can see a lot of changes taking place.”
She added she’s not personally involved in the implementation of Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations, so she can’t say with any specificity how much is left to do on each one.
“But Indigenous people say it's too slow,” she said. “And I can understand that, because the living conditions that people are living in across the country are pretty severe, and of course they're going to be anxious and perhaps frustrated that things aren't moving very quickly.
“I'm not trying to say that things should have changed by now,” she added. “Because having gone through the political evolution of this country, I can see how slow things can be, but I can also understand from an Indigenous perspective, that we want things to change more quickly.”
The Governor General said that although her current position is apolitical, she has worked in politics outside of government for decades, and she understands the time it takes to make meaningful progress.
She listed the examples of land claim agreements, which took years, and the Pope’s apology for the devastation and trauma of residential schools, which took decades. And Simon said while some calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission may seem simple or like they “could be done right away,” they involve the cooperation and coordination of several partners, which can take time.
“You have to, I think, really think about the process,” she said. “I feel we should speed things up, but it’s not up to me.”
“But if we want to speed things up, we have to be very focused and talk about all the different difficulties surrounding any issue, whether it be a call to action or dealing with a community that needs fresh drinking water,” she added.
When asked whether she believes the political will to implement the dozens of outstanding calls to action exists, Simon says she does.
“As far as I'm concerned, the prime minister, when he got elected, made a lot of commitments, and he continues to keep those commitments,” she said, adding Trudeau is working with a “large bureaucracy,” in which it can take a long time to enact change.
The Governor General is spending the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation with Indigenous leaders, residential school survivors and dignitaries at a commemorative gathering.
She told Kapelos that “reconciliation is a lifelong experience,” and should not just be reflected on during a particular day or occasion, but rather something that “we should work on every day.”
With files from CTV’s Question Period Senior Producer Stephanie Ha