Mike DeGagné and Jonathan Dewar


It is not without irony that we contemplate the title of this volume’s and the series’ proverbial final word as a “conclusion.” Even pairing that matter-of-fact title with a subtitle such as “the way forward” results in at least two meanings, and hopefully many more. The first, reflected at the outset of this volume by Georges Erasmus, is the fact that the Aboriginal Healing Foundation (AHF) is winding down toward its end date of 31 March 2012, when its mandate under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement comes to an end. This wind-down is a formal, necessary, and responsible process wherein the AHF Board of Directors and staff work to ensure that the AHF meets these final obligations with the same high level of professionalism and accountability as all other operational responsibilities since 1998.

The second meaning is found in the deliberate juxtaposition of a sense of finality and forward movement. It is an acknowledgement that the Aboriginal Healing Foundation was but one part of the larger healing movement(s), spanning decades and truly with no end in sight. The latter is not said to strike a note of pessimism; rather, it is a simple, frank statement of fact. We, and others over the years, have reported that there is still much work to do. But there has always been hopefulness.

There were many contributing factors to the various successes within the movements of which the AHF was a part—along with many contributors. We certainly took note of that in the days and weeks following the release of Budget 2010, on 4 March 2010, when the Government of Canada confirmed that there would be no additional funds allocated to the AHF to address the recommendation within the Indian and Northern Affairs Canada report Evaluation of Community-Based Healing Initiatives Supported Through the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, which called for the “Government of Canada [to] consider continued support for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, at least until the Settlement Agreement compensation processes and commemorative initiatives are completed.”1 We took note of the vocal support the AHF received as the emergency debate in the House of Commons post-Budget on 30 March 2010 and its aftermath played out. This was followed in June 2010 by the Study and Recommendations of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Concerning the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, which reiterated on 17 June 2010 the recommendation to extend funding to the AHF for program funding set to lapse 31 March 2010 for three additional years.

But it was not to be.

There was an air of finality to the government’s response to that report, despite continued vocal support from the many parties engaged in efforts to address the legacy of residential schools. Regardless, the Aboriginal Healing Foundation turned to the business at hand. This included the completion of activities within our communications and research capacities and a concerted focus on that portion of our mission to “provide resources which will promote reconciliation and encourage and support Aboriginal people and their communities in building and reinforcing sustainable healing processes that address the legacy of physical, sexual, mental, cultural, and spiritual abuses in the residential school system, including intergenerational impacts.”2

This third and final volume in the Truth and Reconciliation series speaks to that commitment. It, like the first two volumes, is in no way a final word or conclusion. Its strength and promise lies in the wisdom and experience of the contributors. We were honoured to feature these perspectives in all three volumes in the hopes that discussion and dialogue—a key feature of this third volume—would engender more discussion and dialogue that would, in turn, “help create, reinforce and sustain conditions conducive to healing, reconciliation, and self-determination.”3

We are confident that these efforts, as the efforts that came before and continue to inspire us, will be of use to grassroots initiatives and formal processes, including, of course, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). As with the first volume that was positioned as an opportunity for a variety of voices to speak into the unknown to a yet-to-be constituted TRC and the second volume that followed the Prime Minister’s apology on 11 June 2008, this volume presents challenges and opportunities. It is not our intent with this closing section to reiterate those ideas and perspectives. However, if there is one message to highlight it is the fact that several of the pieces featured within are themselves evidence that people—individuals and collectives—are already doing as well as talking. What is clear is that there is a current of dialogue and action across cultures, something the TRC and its many partners can, will, and must tap into.

As the Aboriginal Healing Foundation prepares to sunset, there remain many horizons ahead of us and the soil is rich and fertile because many have worked tirelessly to till that soil. We wish each reader and each community that these words reach a healthy and prosperous future, one in which our hard work respectively and collectively over many years benefits all of Canada.



Biography

Mike DeGagné is Executive Director of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, a national Aboriginal organization dedicated to addressing the legacy of Canada’s Indian residential school system. He has worked in the field of addiction and mental health for the past twenty-five years, first as a community worker on reserve in northern Ontario and later with the Addiction Research Foundation, the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, and the National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program. Mike lectures nationally and internationally on issues of Aboriginal health, residential schools, reconciliation, and governance. He serves on a number of boards, including Champlain Local Health Integration Network. He is currently Chairman of the Child Welfare League of Canada and was past chairman of Ottawa’s Queensway Carleton Hospital. His Ph.D. focuses on Aboriginal post-secondary education.

Jonathan Dewar has served as Director of Research at the Aboriginal Healing Foundation since 2007 and is a past director of the Métis Centre at the National Aboriginal Health Organization. He was the founding executive director of the Qaggiq Theatre Company in Iqaluit, Nunavut—a youth, culture, and social-issues-focused arts organization—and served in that capacity for four years. During that time he also worked with the Office of the Languages Commissioner of Nunavut and the Inter-governmental Affairs and Inuit Relations unit within Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Nunavut Region. Jonathan has several years of policy and research experience in a variety of areas in both government and non-government organizations specific to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis, including the arts, health and wellness, language legislation and promotion, justice and crime prevention, social issues, land claims, and education. Jonathan self-identifies as a person of mixed heritage, descended from Huron–Wendat, Scottish, and French Canadian grandparents and is completing a doctorate in Canadian Studies, specializing in Aboriginal art and reconciliation.


Notes
  1. This document can be found on the Aboriginal Healing Foundation’s website for download at www.ahf.ca
  2. AHF’s Mission, Vision, Values can be found at www.ahf.ca/about-us/mission
  3. AHF’s Mission, Vision, Values.